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The Grand Connection

Michal Eisikowitz

There are myriad influences on the lives of kids at risk — each with the potential to change the trajectories of their lives. One potentially powerful influence on struggling teens is their grandparents. Here’s how they can maximize this role.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Kids-at-risk is an increasingly widespread phenomenon that’s been dissected and rehashed on every plane, with proven solutions remaining frustratingly elusive. Often overlooked in analysis of this excruciating nisayon is the powerful role grandparents can play — in both directions. Thanks to greater affluence, a far narrower cultural divide, and the simple fact that they’re around (unlike the post-Holocaust generation), grandparents today are usually a critical part of their eineklach’s lives. “We’re no longer immigrants,” points out Rabbi Yerachmiel Milstein, mara d’asra of Lakewood’s Kehillas Ishei Yisrael. “We grew up in the same culture as our grandchildren — we get it.” The well-spoken mechanech is vice president emeritus of Project Chazon, an initiative to curb the “off-the-derech” tide through school presentations on Judaism fundamentals. He asserts that “out-of-touch” bubbies and zeidies who blow kisses and dispense lollipops but fail to create soul connections with grandchildren are a dying breed. Today’s grandparents have the headspace, finances, and technological savvy to cultivate ongoing, meaningful communication. In a sometimes life-and-death situation where loving relationships are the only recourse, this reality is a blessed one. “The overwhelming majority of children who maintain relationships with their families ultimately come back,” Rabbi Milstein affirms. “Any parental or grandparental connection that’s warm and nurturing can literally save lives.”

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