Mishmeres HaSholom: Ask the Rav

Q: My teenage sister is going through a difficult rebellious stage and my parents are obviously tense and upset about it. My mother often calls to share her woes with me. There is no practical constructive purpose involved in these phone conversations because I cannot influence my sister, and I’m not sure how much better my mother really feels after sharing her stories with me. I have to add that when my sister heard that they told me about her problems she was very angry, and that is another reason I’m concerned about the lashon hara involved.

I do not feel comfortable stopping my mother in the middle of a conversation, and I’m also afraid of reproaching her, lest she be offended, especially during this difficult period.

What could I do?

A: You write that you don’t think your listening ear is easing your mother’s pain. It does, however, seem that continuing these conversations would help your mother calm down somewhat and give her the energy to continue coping with her problem.

It is possible that an additional constructive purpose can be gained from these discussions if you do offer some advice here and there, or try to calm down your rebellious sister — even a little bit — so that she will act slightly more respectful.

Therefore, if there is no choice, your mother may share with you the problems she’s having with your sister during her rebellious stage. You must, however, not believe what you hear, and only listen to be cautious. It is preferable to keep in mind that you are listening for the constructive purpose of trying to help your mother and sister.

At the same time, it is proper to daven to Hashem that this tough period passes quickly, and that peace should reign once again.