Trusting Adult Children

Q: Our twenty-one-year-old daughter was offered a job teaching high school at an out-of-town Bais Yaakov. She has the prestige of being a high-school teacher, and her salary is much higher than she could possibly earn in town. But what makes us uncomfortable is that she is living in an apartment with two other single teachers. While our daughter did “discuss” the offer with us before she accepted it, she made it clear that her mind was made up regardless of how we felt.

This daughter is the youngest of our five children. She has been away now for a few weeks, and we are considering asking her to give up the job and move back home for a few reasons. We suspect her roommates’ standards of Yiddishkeit are lower than hers. We are not able to supervise her activities after work and on weekends. And we are especially concerned about how this will affect her shidduchim since single girls in our circles never move out of their parents’ homes before getting married.

What would you say about this?

A: Although you did not say so, you do not trust your daughter. You are concerned that she may not be making the right choices in life. And you want to bring her home so that you can monitor her activities more closely.

There is no indication in your letter, however, that your daughter would listen to you even if you asked her to quit her job and return home. Since she took the job in the first place without giving much weight to your opinion, what makes you think she would give it up now just because you ask her to do so?

It is always preferable to withhold advice that will not be followed. As Chazal have taught, “Just as it is a mitzvah to speak when your words will be heeded, so too is it a mitzvah to refrain from speaking when no one will listen” (Yevamos 65b).

“Even if she won’t listen,” you may be thinking, “shouldn’t we be voicing our concerns anyway so that she is clear about our feelings?”

I suspect she is already clear about your position. And that may even be one of the reasons she chose to accept the out-of-town job. In other words, she may be seeking more independence than she felt she could have at home.

“Is there nothing we can do,” you may be wondering, “to prevent our daughter from lowering her standards of Yiddishkeit?”

With a twenty-one-year-old daughter who is supporting herself and living away from home, you do not have too many options.

What I recommend is that you do whatever it takes to maintain a positive relationship with her. More specifically, you should call her often and keep the conversations focused on areas of interest to her. What you cannot accomplish with monitoring and supervision, you may be able to accomplish by building and maintaining a warm, loving relationship.

Many years ago, I worked with a family in which the parent–child relationships were severely strained. One child was off the derech for a few years, well before that term was even coined. And another single adult child, a daughter, moved out of state with a friend who had a horrendous influence on her Yiddishkeit. The parents felt totally defeated and hopeless. In addition, they were embarrassed and envious of their friends whose children were all marrying and raising families.

When these parents turned to me, I gave them the same advice I am giving you. They grabbed my recommendation like a life raft and followed it as closely as possible. I did not hear from them for almost three years. Then one day, the father phoned.

“I’m calling for two reasons,” he began. “First, my wife and I must thank you for the advice you gave us. We did exactly what you said and we davened very hard. Last month, our daughter asked if we would accept her back. We did so with outstretched arms. I did not call you then because I wanted to wait and see where this was headed. After two weeks, she asked me to arrange for her to attend a seminary in Eretz Yisrael for returnees, which I did. We just saw her off at the airport today.

“The second reason I’m calling is to ask you to share our story with others to give them chizuk. We never gave up hope. And perhaps our story will help other parents in similar situations maintain their bitachon.”

It is now almost ten years since I received that call. I recently met those parents and learned that their daughter has since married and is raising a frum family of her own, baruch Hashem.


 

The opinions expressed in this article reflect the view of the author. In all matters of halachah and hashkafah, readers should consult their Rav.