Nurturing Our Children’s Growth
A Conversation with JWRP Trip Leader Ruchi Koval
Tu B’Shevat, the Jewish new year for trees, takes place during the winter. Although their branches may be bare, deep down inside, sap begins to rise, readying the trees to produce fruit. With its emphasis on appreciating and nurturing inner potential, Tu B’Shevat can teach us powerful lessons about parenting. In our conversation, JWRP Trip Leader Ruchi Koval shares insights about patiently and effectively nourishing our children’s growth.
What can Tu B’Shevat teach us about parenting?
Just as we can’t see the sap rising in trees during the winter, sometimes we may think that our children aren’t growing or changing. We may ask ourselves, when will they become considerate and compassionate people? When will they show us that they care? But deep down, in a place where only G-d can see, there’s a process happening that can’t be rushed. As parents, we need to nurture our children and have patience. While we may want to see results immediately, we need to continue planting and know that eventually, change will happen and amazing things will sprout.
What are some ways that we can cultivate our children’s inner potential?
1. Role model
If we want to transmit important lessons to our children, we first need to teach ourselves those lessons. We need to ask ourselves, am I living up to my potential? And I trying to be the best that I can possibly be? Am I living a life that I’d want my children to model?
2. Believe in your children
As parents, we need to believe that our children have incredible greatness. How can we be so sure of this? Because every child has a soul, and every soul has the spark of G-d. While each child has the potential for greatness, we need to remember that they may not have the exact flavor of greatness that we hope for. For example, we may want our child to become a doctor, but instead, she’s a wonderful artist. Or, we may want our child to be a leader, but instead, he’s a fantastic implementer. As parents, we need to believe in our children and then be humble and wait to see what kind of greatness emerges from them.
3. Tell your children that you believe in them
Let your children know that you believe that they have incredible greatness and support them in achieving their goals. Also, instead of telling them that they have great potential, compliment them on their present actions. You might say, “What you just did was so kind” or “That was very mature of you.”
How can we nourish our children’s growth?
It’s important to create an atmosphere of safety in our homes. Our children need to know that they can talk to us about anything without us freaking out. It may help to let them know, “There’s nothing you can tell me that will ever make me stop loving you.”
Today, parents spend a lot of time and energy focused on their kids’ weaknesses. For example, if a child is having trouble in math class, the parents may hire a tutor. But while a child who isn’t strong in math can improve their work ethic or gain a better grasp of the material, they probably won’t pursue a math-related profession. What if, instead of spending time and energy on our kids’ weaknesses, we focused our attention on their strengths? What if we nourished their growth in the areas where they truly thrive?
What is one way that we can celebrate Tu B’Shevat with our children?
On Tu B’Shevat, we celebrate the fruit of Israel and eat the seven species mentioned in the Torah: wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives, and dates. I recommend serving some of these foods at dinnertime and discussing their importance in Israel. That’s a wonderful and delicious way to role model your connection to Israel!