Value Your Children for Who They Are, Not Who You Need Them to Be

— by Marta Fuchs, MLS, MFT

I got everything I wanted except what I needed.

It was a breakthrough moment. A therapy client suddenly discovered what he always knew and now could finally identify. By being able to name it, he became a witness to his experience, and could finally begin to feel compassion for himself. No wonder there were tears, in his eyes and mine.

Countless other successful people I’ve counseled have had that same sorrowful feeling that something basic was missing. They got everything they wanted from their parents except what they needed the most: to be seen and valued.

That is the essence of parenting — to see and value your children for who they are, rather than as an extension of yourself or as the means to fulfill your own needs.

More after the jump.
I remember as a teenager practicing late one night one of my favorite Mozart sonatas when Dad came into the room and quietly sat down. He had just come home from another long day making screens. As I glanced at him from the piano, I saw how peaceful and happy he looked. When I finished, he turned to me with a twinkle in his eyes and said, “What a good return I’m getting on my investment!” We laughed and I continued playing. It wasn’t what I was playing or how, though because I was fortunate to have lessons since I was four years old, I was admittedly pretty good. It was the way he was beaming that I could tell that he was enjoying me, and it meant the world to me.

In contrast, a colleague told me about a significant dream she had about her mother. Early one morning she awoke to hearing her mother’s distress looking at a stack of photos. “Why aren’t you in any of them?!” My colleague knew that her mother was talking about her. As her mother continued complaining, she finally got out of bed to try to comfort her. “How come you’re not in any of these pictures?!” her mother kept demanding. My colleague gently took the stack and began to look at each photo. She was in every single one. “Look, Mom, there I am! And here! I’m in this one, too!” It was to no avail as her mother kept complaining and blaming her, unable to see her daughter in the images.

When she woke up, my colleague instantly knew what her dream meant. “It encapsulated the essence of my relationship with my mother,” she told me. “She’s never been able to see me. And I’ve always tried to comfort her.”

To be seen by those we love and those we’re dependent on — be they parents, grandparents, teachers, caregivers, officials with power over us — is essential to our sense of self and self-worth.

Despite losing his entire family during the Holocaust, or perhaps because of it, my father was a master at seeing people, listening to them wholeheartedly, making each of them feel special and loved.

My brother’s daughter Miriam fondly remembers early mornings they spent together:

Every time we would visit, I would try to wake up before Nagypapa (grandpa). Yet every single morning, when I tiptoed out into the kitchen, he would be sitting in his white leather armchair, reading the paper. He would just smile and hand me the comics. After reading, we would walk out into the orchard and pick the best-looking oranges and tangerines in order to make freshly squeezed juice for the family. I loved spending mornings with Nagypapa, reading and making orange juice, because they were our special time together.

My daughter Sophie proudly states that her favorite memory is the “four kisses story”:

Grandpa would pick us up at the airport and the minute he saw us, he smiled and gave each of us hugs and kisses. ‘Mártika! How wonderful it is to see you!’ he would say to my mom, wrapping his arms around her. ‘Jacobka! How are you? I’ve missed you!’ And finally he would turn to me. ‘Sophieka! How many kisses?’ ‘Four!’ I answered enthusiastically, and Grandpa would kiss me on my cheeks, two on one, two on the other. Each visit he would ask the same question and I always replied with the same answer, four. Then one day when Grandpa asked, ‘Sophieka, how many kisses today?’ I thought for a moment and replied, ‘Three!’ Grandpa looked at me with his warm twinkle in the eye, smiled and said, ‘That’s not enough!’ as he began to give me lots more. Every time I relive that story I smile. My Grandpa was a good Grandpa who loved everyone so much and wasn’t afraid to show it.

Marta Fuchs, a marriage & family therapist and librarian, is the author of Legacy of Rescue : A Daughter’s Tribute and co-author with her brother Henry of the multi-generational extended family memoir, Fragments of a Family: Remembering Hungary, the Holocaust, and Emigration to a New World.

Never Forget: Help Pennsylvanians Remember the Holocaust

— by Ed Snyder

A bill was introduced by State Representative Brendan Boyle. The bill would amend the Public School Code of 1949 to require all public and nonpublic schools in Pennsylvania to include in their existing curriculum age-appropriate education for grades 6-12 on the Holocaust and other
modern genocides.

The bill in the Education Committee and is coming up for a vote on April 8. We are urging everyone to contact Mr. Paul Clymer (chair of the Education Committee) He can be contacted by calling tel. 717-783-3154. Please leave a message indicating you support the bill. Also have your friends and relatives do likewise.

Summer With The School of Rock

— by Ronit Treatman

As the daughter of a classically trained pianist, I was extremely skeptical when my children told me they wanted to learn to play musical instruments at the Philadelphia School of Rock. I could just hear my grandmother snorting, “Feh, what kind of teaching is that?”

Much to my surprise, the system is outstanding. At the School of Rock, the students immediately begin to learn to play whatever they want. The instructors break down the songs, and the kids learn how to play them. No time is spent on tedious tasks like practicing scales.

More after the jump.
My son has been learning at the School of Rock for the past three years. He has learned how to play both electric and acoustic guitars. He has written and performed his own songs, and started a band. He  loves the way he connects with his teachers: “They have become my friends,” he told me. Many young people are enrolled at the School of Rock. Those who join the School of Rock’s bands have the opportunity to make meaningful new friendships.  

A great way to get a taste of the School of Rock is by enrolling in a summer camp session. It lasts long enough to understand what the School of Rock is all about. One of the coolest things about the School of Rock is that the professional bands on tour in Philadelphia drop in. When they do, they jam with the School of Rock’s students.  

List College Launches Precollege Program In Jewish Social Justice

— by Aliyah Vinikoor

This summer List College will be launching JustCity, a new precollege program in Jewish social justice. In collaboration with Avodah, Ramah and USY, JustCity will offer rising high-school juniors and seniors the opportunity to deepen their Jewish identity while working on community-building projects with organizations such as Hazon, Kids Creative, and Hurricane Sandy relief agencies. Participants will live in the JTS residence halls and engage in Jewish text study with JTS faculty in the mornings. Afternoons will be devoted to service learning in the field, and evenings and weekends will be spent further exploring New York City and developing the skills necessary to transform their passion for Jewish social justice in to action.  Please visit The JustCity website for more information.

Unification: Saligman Middle School of the Barrack Hebrew Academy

Standing to the right: Cecily Carel, Ira Schwartz, and Elliot Norry

The Greater Philadelphia community is witnessing the unification of two of its Jewish middle schools: the Perelman Jewish Day School’s Robert M. Saligman Middle School with the Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy’s (JBHA) middle school.  

This morning, Cecily Carel and Elliot Norry, the presidents of the Barrack and Perelman Boards of Directors, notified the community of the unification:

Pleased to share the news that Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy and Perelman Jewish Day School Boards of Directors voted, during their respective meetings, to unify their two middle schools.

In September 2013, The Schwartz Campus in Bryn Mawr will welcome students and parents to the new Robert M. Saligman Middle School of the Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy.

Working in partnership with the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, both Boards agreed that a unified middle school would not only maximize community resources, but also provide exciting and expanded opportunities for students — educationally, socially and financially.”

The terms of the unification follow the jump.
According to a letter released by PJDS, “a unified middle school will allow for greater class sizes, more effective use of community resources, and will expand educational opportunities for our students.

Here are some important details about the upcoming unification, based on commitments made by JBHA:

Location and Timetable

  • Robert M. Saligman Middle School of the Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy will open its doors to students at the beginning of the 2013-14 school year.
  • The school will be located on the Schwartz campus in Radnor, home of the JBHA, in a newly renovated Athletic building, maintaining our philosophy to keep our middle school in a separate facility. A Bet Knesset will be added by August 2014.

Staffing and Curriculum

  • Susan Friedman will remain Principal of the unified middle school, with the majority of her faculty also remaining at Saligman.
  • The middle school will continue to adhere to a student-centered curriculum focused on the educational and social needs of early adolescents.
  • The school will be pluralistic, offering students the opportunity for a Conservative-based religious practice track which includes daily prayer, along with the religious tracks currently followed at JBHA. The 8th grade Israel trip will be offered for at least the next two years.
  • The middle school will continue to offer programs for a wide spectrum of learning abilities, including special needs programs (such as the OROT program).

Financial Information and Transportation

  • Tuition and fees will be set at the same amount currently charged by Saligman, with increases limited to 2% or CPI until the end of the 2017-18 school year.
  • JBHA will provide equivalent financial aid packages, unless a family has experienced a material financial improvement.
  • The middle school will offer free transportation to those affected by the move for the next five years.

Governance and Collaboration

  • While the middle school will operate under the sole ownership of JBHA, Perelman representatives will sit on the JBHA Board, numbering 20% of the voting members. JBHA representatives will likewise sit on Perelman’s Board, numbering 15% of the voting members.
  • A Middle School Management Committee (MSC) will provide board level oversight of the middle school. The MSC will consist of two members of from among the PJDS-designated JBHA Board members, and two members from among existing JBHA Board members.  The fifth member of the MSC will be chosen by the PJDS-designated members and will act as Chair of the MSC.
  • Perelman will be paid $2.5 million over five years to enhance K-5 enrollment.
  • Perelman and JBHA will work together to advance a K-12 system that helps bolster the Jewish identity of our students and ensure our community’s future”.

The official public announcement was made this afternoon at 4:00 PM, in front of the future home of the unified middle school, the Barrack Mitchell Building (Athletic Building).   Working in partnership with the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, both Boards agreed that a unified middle school would not only maximize community resources, but also provide exciting and expanded opportunities for students — educationally, socially and financially.

Best of Both Worlds: Center City Living & Affordable Jewish Education

I love Philadelphia! It is such an exciting and dynamic place to live and raise a family. Many young couples assume that as soon as their children reach school age, they should resign themselves to their fate and move to the suburbs.  This assumption, however, is no longer valid.


Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy (JBHA) is making it possible for families that reach this juncture to make a different choice. With its outstanding academics, international student body, commitment to making private school affordable for middle income families, and convenient accessibility by Philadelphia bus and public transportation, JBHA provides the best of both worlds: Center City living and a stellar college preparatory private school education infused with timeless Jewish values and learning.

  • Originally founded in 1946 as Akiba Hebrew Academy, Barrack is an independent college preparatory day school for students in grades 6-12.
  • Located on a 35-acre campus in Bryn Mawr, PA, Barrack provides a rigorous dual curriculum of College preparatory and Jewish studies in modern facilities to students from all Jewish backgrounds.
  • The Barrack educational experience is diverse and international. Students from five continents are enrolled at JBHA, and English is often not their mother tongue.
  • Students who do not have a Jewish day school background thrive at Barrack. Hebrew is taught on all levels.
  • Barrack’s stellar academic program is complemented by timeless Jewish traditions and values. Commitments to repair the world and work for social justice are hallmarks of a Barrack education.
  • Barrack Middle School students enjoy a warm, welcoming nurturing environment and are inspired by talented and involved teachers to develop the intellectual and emotional skills that prepare them for a seamless transition to high school and for continued success.
  • Barrack 11th graders have a unique opportunity to study abroad for a trimester in Israel on the Alexander Muss Campus, strengthening their identity and forging strong ties with the land, language, people and culture.
  • Barrack students earn high SAT scores, and Barrack seniors are traditionally accepted to their first choice, top-tier colleges and universities.
  • Barrack offers a wide array of extracurricular programs, including award-winning art, drama and music programs; over 54 Clubs; student publications, science, robotics and engineering electives, and student government/leadership opportunities.
  • Barrack fields 18 sports teams, including squash, lacrosse, tennis, baseball, basketball, softball, soccer, swimming and track and field. This year the Girls’ lacrosse, tennis and soccer teams won championships.
  • Over 2, 600 Akiba-Barrack alumni play leading roles in all walks of life at home and around the world.

Affordability: Barrack is committed to middle income affordability, and has generous scholarship funds available for this purpose. The application process is welcoming and respectful.

Convenient Transportation: It is very convenient to commute from Center City Philadelphia to JBHA.

  • Students may travel to Barrack via bus, provided by the school. This bus is free for middle school students, and is subsidized for high school students.
  • Barrack is also easily accessible via the SEPTA rail system. Students living in Philadelphia are eligible for a voucher for public transportation from the city. A round-trip shuttle bus is provided from the Bryn Mawr train station to the school. Alternatively, it is only a 15 minute walk from the station to the school.

Starting a family does not mean that you have to give up the life you lead in the city. With the educational opportunities offered by Barrack Hebrew Academy, you can have the best of both worlds. You can continue to enjoy your exciting urban life, and your children can benefit from an outstanding, affordable private school education. My children do! For more information about JBHA, please feel free to contact Jennifer Groen, JBHA’s Director of Admission and Strategic Engagement: [email protected] or 610-922-2350. She looks forward to hearing from you!

PA Jewish Teens Campaign In Ohio For Romney, Obama

Pennsylvania teens too young to vote are voicing their opinions
Nearly 100 Jewish teens go to Ohio to participate in the Election

— by Carly Lundy Schacknies

They can’t yet cast a ballot, but that isn’t stopping Claire Akers, Jessica Cohen, Rachel Ellis, Hannah Frank, Kassidy Garcia, Emily Gorby, Micah Rabin, Danielle Salisbury, and Jeremy Witchel from Pittsburgh, Jack Mangurten from New Kensington, Marissa Snyder from Upper Saint Clair, Ellie Sullum from Clark Summit, and Johanna Ure from Wyomissing and the nearly 100 Jewish teen leaders from across the country from getting involved in the political process on November 5 – 7, 2012.  They are attending BBYO, Inc’s program, Voice Your Vote: An Issue Summit on the 2012 Election and Civic Responsibility, in Cleveland, Ohio.

On Election Day, the teens will choose their preferred candidate and will hit the campaign trail to advocate.  BBYO has worked with the Romney Ryan and Obama Biden campaigns to assign the teens to some of Cleveland’s busiest polling locations.  

More after the jump.
The Summit participants are members of BBYO’s high school leadership programs AZA (for young men) and BBG (for young women) and the Bukharian Teen Lounge in New York.  In Cleveland, the teens will learn about the issues being debated in this election cycle through a series of bipartisan learning sessions.  They will hear from guest speaker Frankie Goldberg, a Cleveland Juvenile Court Judge Candidate and BBYO alumna, and BBYO’s Jewish educators about how they can continue to be involved in the political process while maintaining their Jewish values.

“It’s so important that today’s young people understand how to approach the political landscape and the responsibility to do advocacy while staying true to their Jewish values,” said Aleeza Lubin, BBYO’s Director of Jewish Enrichment for the Midwest states.

As the results come in, the teens will watch and tally towards 270 at their own Election Night Watch Party.  They will also connect live with their peers at BBYO’s other community watch parties in Washington, DC, Denver, Kansas City, Miami, Pittsburgh and Westchester, NY.  The community events are all open to the entire community and feature partnerships with local youth movements NCSY, NFTY, USY, as well as HEA Youth Programs, Jewish Student Connection, and CAJE.

BBYO’s programming is teen inspired and led, and the summit is no different.  Sofie Jacobs, 16 years old, from Rockville, MD, Sierra Lash,16 years old, from Oakland, CA , Brad Honigberg, 17 years old, from Mequon, WI, and Gary Levine, 16 years old, from Dallas, TX, AZA and BBG members who are serving as program coordinators will facilitate, with staff support, a variety of sessions during the Summit.  

“People think that teens don’t care about politics, but they’re wrong.  We care about having an active role in our future and this is a great opportunity to not only witness, but also shape history,” said Sofie Jacobs.

Before returning home, teens will learn how they can continue to stay involved in the civic and political process.

Book Review: The Rabbi Rami Guides

— by Rabbi Goldie Milgram

Each of the four Rabbi Rami’s Guides from Spirituality & Health Books is a keeper. Rich in refreshing touchstones for meaningful daily living, each pocketsize volume of the Rabbi Rami’s Guide series offers a roughly 120 page essay. His contemporary theologies are liberating and inclusive and he offers us specific actions that make the world a better place in sometimes subtle and delightfully surprising ways. The first three titles are Parenting; Forgiveness; and God, and the fourth begins with a commentary on Psalm 23 which then informs the author’s understanding of two of our best know mitzvot, in fact the two cited by Jesus as most important, which Rabbi Shapiro uses as a starting point for creating a lovely interfaith learning opportunity booklet. (See Mark 12:28-34, then Deut. 6:4-5 and also Lev. 18:19)

More after the jump.

Who am I? Where did I come from? Where am I going? What am I here to do? Why? For those who wonder, or raise children who wonder, the Rabbi Rami Parenting Guide offers lively and livable parental approaches to these five primary questions. He also offers a powerful critique of the range of stories available for reading for children:

An unhealthy story is a story that leaves your children feeling superior to others, or frightened of others who are different from themselves. An unhealthy story is one that excuses violence, exploitation, the dehumanization of people, or inhumane treatment of animals. An unhealthy story is one that places your children in a world of perpetual conflict where friendship is rare if not impossible, where love is limited, where race, religion, creed and ethnicity determine the value of a person rather than what she does, where collaboration is dismissed as starry-eyed idealism…..”

Rabbi Shapiro then contrasts two Shel Silverstein stories The Giving Tree and The Missing Piece to show how even a great author’s work bears reflection and screening.  The second half of the volume weaves his clear-eyed parenting philosophy with specific stories from a variety of traditions, as well as of his own construction, that he recommends as holy and healthy. Each is brief and affords great opportunity for meaningful family discussion.


Rabbi Shapiro has a long and distinguished career in the pulpit, founding innovative Jewish organizations that teach meaning, spirituality and menschlichkeit (Yiddish the state of being an honorable, ethical person), as perhaps the first rabbi to have a website when the Internet was founded, and more recently he both teaches Bible at Middle Tennessee State University and directs Wisdom House, a center for interfaith study and contemplative practice in Nashville, TN. So it is not surprising that the Rabbi Rami series also pilots a fourth, dual volume of essays, Psalm 23 & Jesus’ Two Great Commandments. While I see great interfaith study and dialogue potential in this volume, this is his expected audience for this book:

I suspect that most readers of Matthew and Mark, and most readers of this Guide, are neither rabbis nor even Jews. And because I think this is true, I fear you may overlook some of the deeper insights Jesus meant to teach when he chose these two mitzvot as the chief commandments of the Torah and his touchstone texts. It is my wish to make plain the deeper meaning of his teaching by placing it in the Jewish context in which it was spoken by Jesus and heard by his fellow Jews, and in this way enhance your understanding of Jesus’ message.

I can only begin to imagine what an eye-opener study with Rabbi Rami must be for students of all faiths. For example, his explication of a verse in Psalm 23, “I shall not want”:

…does not mean, “I shall not desire,” but rather, “I shall not lack.” The Hebrew verb echsar (Lack) is in the future tense, suggesting that freedom from want comes only when you realize that God is your shepherd. Why? Because it is then that you realize your desires, endless and endlessly satisfied, are a distraction seducing you from your true calling and trapping you in the narrow and lifeless worship of the next big thing.

With God as your shepherd, the chains of idolatry are severed. You are now free to be what God is calling you to be: a source of blessing and liberation for the world… will have everything you need to fulfill God’s desire-that you will have everything you need to become a blessing to others by liberating yourself and them from narrowness.

Rabbi Rami channels the Good Shepherd in ways healthy and holy; he appreciates that spiritual development is a process of awareness and personal growth. In his commentary on the Psalm 23 verse “He maketh me to lie down in green pastures,” Rabbi Rami Shapiro takes to where we may not all have gone before: “The first step is to rest, to lie down, because the way to blessing and liberation isn’t simply an outer journey, but an inner one as well.”

For “He restoreth my soul”, Rabbi Rami transduces the text to reveal another of its infinite possibilities for the non-dogmatic reader:

What does it mean to be a breath-bearer? It means to breathe life into the world as God breathed life into you. This is what the Torah reveals when she tells us, “The ineffable One placed the earthling in the Garden of Eden to till it and protect it’ (Genesis 2:15). The garden is the original state of creation but without you, the earth grows hard and lifeless, incapable of birthing plants or herbs (Genesis 2:5)…

And in regard to “He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His names sake…”:

David…is not saying that God acts for self-aggrandizement, but that God acts on behalf of all reality, for God is all reality….A path is righteous if walking it breathes life into life, if it blesses and benefits creation, and if it fosters love, justice and compassion.

Teshuvah and Forgiveness

In the Rabbi Rami Guide to Forgiveness, the term takes on an expanded meaning grounded in the author’s training in Buddhism, life experience and psychology. Pratityasamutpada is “co-origination. It means that everything is connected to everything else and happens altogether.” Although he doesn’t cite it, those who study Kabbalah recognize the related teaching of the Hebrew term for stone, ehven.  “If a soul is like a ben (ven), son/child, cleaved from the av (ehv), father/parent…can you picture that God would separate a part from God’s essence?” No, I can’t.  Can you? This is why the Budda’s conceptualization rings helpful on this topic.

Deftly wielding the language of living at the level of soul, Rabbi Rami doesn’t have us wait for others to confess how they’ve hurt us. He shows us how to heal ourselves through specific questions that restore us to living in the moment. This approach to removing toxic encounter hangovers is useful, and in my opinion, sufficiently only as a complement to the Jewish practice of teshuvah. Teshuvah, in brief, is where we return to those we’ve hurt, own up, are received with respectful listening and the necessary time is taken to process and restore relationships to good health. What do when teshuvah takes quite a long time? Rami’s volumes are subtitled “Roadside Assistance for the Spiritual Traveler,” let him show you the way.  

Texas Republican Party Platform Opposes Critical Thinking

The Republican Party of Texas’ recently adopted 2012 platform contains a plank that opposes the teaching of “critical thinking skills” in schools.

We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.

The “American Dream” video on the right from George Carlin might explain why…

Is Your Child Suffering From Hearing Loss?

— by Melissa K. Rodriguez, BC-HIS

A parent’s responsibility while raising children is a never-ending task. From their health to their education from their social skills to providing a nurturing and safe environment, there is so much to do!

One issue that is so often overlooked is how our children hear. Our hearing connects us to the world around us and it is only through the ears of a child that they learn how to speak and how to listen, develop social skills, and build relationships. At school, what they hear and what they listen to can propel them to a brilliant career or a life of manual labor.

More after the jump.
The earlier hearing loss is diagnosed and treated the more chance the child has of successfully adapting to amplification and developing good speech and language skills as well as having healthy social relationships.

Some warning signs of hearing loss that parents can look out for are:

Birth – 2 years old

  • Chronic ear infections
  • Constant pulling or tugging at the ears
  • Not responding to loud noises around them

2 – 5 years old

  • Delayed speech development
  • Speech that is mushy and unclear
  • No response to being called by name
  • Excessively loud speech

5 – 12 years old

  • Slurring of speech
  • Excessive volume on TV or radio
  • Difficulty hearing in the car
  • Declining grades at school


  • Excessive volume levels in TV or speaking
  • Declining grades in school
  • Increased social isolation
  • Aggression

Any of the above red flags or a failed hearing test at school indicates the need for an in depth hearing exam. The hearing exam should include pure tone testing (hear the beep, hit the button) as well as speech testing. These tests can be performed by an audiologist or hearing aid specialist. Children under the age of 5 require specialized equipment and should be seen by a pediatric specialist.

Once a child has been diagnosed with hearing loss there are many questions that need to be answered. First, it is important to understand what type of hearing loss your child has. The two types are conductive and sensorineural.

Conductive hearing loss is a problem with the mechanics of the ear and may be temporary. For example, too much ear wax in the ear canal can block the sound from getting to the eardrum causing some hearing loss. Most conductive losses can be treated through an office procedure, medication or an operation.

Sensorineural hearing loss is permanent and happens in the inner ear in the cochlea. Each cochlea has thousands of hair cells that send the hearing signal to the brain. If these hair cells are damaged or never form, there is no way for the sound waves to be transmitted (in part or in whole) to the brain. A Sensorineural loss will most often be treated with hearing aids. Hearing aids should be worn all waking hours and it will only take a couple of weeks for your child to adapt to this improved hearing. They will need you to cheer them on in their new sense of hearing as it will be different and difficult in the beginning. Once they have adapted to hearing they will appreciate the ease of hearing they receive from their devices.

In the case of deafness (no measure of hearing), cochlear implants and lip reading classes will be top on the list of treatments.

If your child has good hearing, it is important to keep their hearing healthy and to help them develop good listening habits. Ear level devices like I-Pods or MP3 players when used with headphones can be very detrimental to your child’s long-term hearing health. Teach the 60/60 rule: all ear level devices should be used at no more than 60% of the available volume for no more than 60 minutes. Never allow your child to sleep with devices in their ears.

Because of the wide spread use of social media and texting, more children than ever before are not developing good listening and communication skills. Consider having technology blackout periods in your home where communication is achieved verbally. It is unhealthy for all humans, even more so for the developing brain of a child to spend a large amount of time listening to recorded auditory signals. This has become known as schizophonia, it is a dislocation between what we hear and what we see.  This is leading to a culture disconnected from the immediate world around them. Depression, anxiety and poor communication skills can be the result. Model good listening skills to your children and teach them to listen to the world around them.

Finally, teach your children about hearing loss. Currently 5% of teenagers entering college have permanent hearing loss. This number is up significantly in the last decade, meaning that more and more people are wearing hearing aids all the time. Whether it is a classmate, a family member or a future boss, someone wearing hearing aids is invested in communicating with the world around them and should be respected for this effort. Hearing aids don’t restore hearing to perfect so it helps to understand how to best communicate with a hearing aid wearer. Try to talk to them face to face, don’t cover your face with your hand and try to talk distinctly. You don’t have to talk louder; the hearing aid is already amplifying your voice. If a grandparent wears hearing aids, let your children know that as we age our brains ability to process speech slows down so slowing down the rate at which we talk can be helpful.  

Your child’s development both socially and academically is dependent on healthy hearing. Take time today to listen together to the world around you.

Melissa Kay Rodriguez, BC-HIS, literally grew up in the hearing aid business. The daughter of a Beltone dispenser, she obtained her license to fit hearing aids soon after graduating from high school. She earned her National Board Certification in 1995. Currently, she is owner of Hear On Earth Hearing Care Center in El Paso, TX. Rodriguez has been a member of the board of the Texas Hearing Aid Association and served a six-year term on the Texas Governing Board, which regulates the fitting and dispensing of hearing aids in her state. She is an active volunteer with the Starkey Hearing Foundation and has gone on numerous humanitarian missions to fit hearing aids in Juarez and Mexico City, Mexico, and in Peru, among other locations. She is a member of the International Hearing Society, the Texas Hearing Aid Association, and eWomenNetwork. She is the author of the new book, Hear Your Life: Inspiring Stories and Honest Advice for Overcoming Hearing Loss.