As parents, we dream of walking our children down to the chuppah. There is no greater joy in the world than seeing your child set up a home of their own.
Getting married is not the ultimate goal, however. Staying married and building a healthy, thriving, and happy marriage should be the goal.
Here are some essential things to know and think about when navigating the world of shidduchim with your child, divided into four sections: before beginning to date, during the dating process, the engagement period, and shana rishona.
Before Starting to Date:
Is my child ready to get married?
- Remember, dating is the “easy” part. Marriage is where the real work begins. Don’t let society dictate when your son or daughter is ready. If they express that they want to wait, DON’T PUSH! You can revisit the idea every 3 – 6 months. If, however, most of their friends are engaged or married, or they reach an age that in your community is a few years beyond the accepted starting age to begin dating, and they still express that they do not feel ready, I would encourage them to speak with someone, preferably a professional in this field, about what is holding them back.
- No one is 100% ready to get married, but you need to have a certain level of maturity and social skills.
- Address any emotional, psychological, mental, or medical issues before they begin dating. Marriage is not a magic cure. You are just setting them up for failure if you don’t get them the help they need.
- Discuss openly with your child about what THEY want in a spouse. Don’t project YOUR wants and desires onto them. Some parents live vicariously through their children and may push them in a direction that doesn’t align with their child’s needs. They may want something very different than what you imagined for them, but remember that they are the ones who will have to live with that person, NOT you! You can ask your son or daughter a few questions to determine their values, goals, and readiness to date and get married. You may assume you know some or all the answers, but speaking openly will help clarify if there is any discrepancy between what you think or want and what your daughter/son wants.
- What are the most important values in your life? This is by far the most crucial question. Too often, singles, as they begin the shidduch process, do not openly express their actual core values. This is detrimental because it is difficult to connect with someone if you don’t share similar values. Examples of values may include:
- Torah learning
- Successful careers
- Being conscientious in mitzvos
- Luxurious lifestyle
- Love for Eretz Yisrael
- What are your personal goals, and what qualities does your spouse need to have to help you achieve them?
- Are you ready to walk away from a shidduch, even if you are drawn or attracted to them if there are too many concerns and red flags?
- Will it always be “My way or the highway,” or can you tolerate different points of view?
- Are you ready for the responsibilities and challenges of married life?
- Remember – every person is different, and what worked for one or more of your children may not work for all. Don’t try to copy and paste. Treat each time you begin the shidduch process with a child as if it is your first time.
Am I ready for my child to get married?
Marrying off a child is a significant emotional transition for parents. Here are a few things to consider when you begin the process with your child:
- Acceptance that your child is now an adult – you need to feel comfortable with the idea of them making independent decisions and leading their own life.
- Believing they are mature enough to get married and handle the responsibilities and challenges of married life.
- Be ready to let go of control.
- Process your own emotions and be ready to let them go.
- Peace with the ‘empty nest.’
The Dating Stage:
- Delete the image! Never make decisions regarding your child’s future based on image. What will the neighbors think? Who cares?! Think about what your child needs.
- Be realistic. Know your son or daughter well, and don’t aim higher than your child can catch.
- Build up their confidence. Tell them how awesome they are, regardless of their marital status. Their being single doesn’t define them.
- Never share or project your fears or anxieties about the shidduch process onto them. If you need to talk to someone about it, do so. But never let them know how you feel.
- Forget all the rules. Forget time-frames. Everyone dates at their own pace and in their way. There should be no pressure to decide by a specific date. If they need more time – give them more time! (Within an acceptable time frame.)
- Every dater should have a non-related, non-biased person to talk to. Parents love their children but are too emotionally involved to be objective.
- Don’t force your child to tell you everything the minute they come home from the date. They will share when and if they feel ready. Asking them for too many details may only push them away. Focus and really listen when they do share.
- Never ask if the person they are dating is like a specific person. That only leads to unhealthy comparisons.
- Understand that while you are there for guidance and support, your child’s decisions and feelings are theirs alone. Please respect their privacy and choices.
- Create an environment where your child feels comfortable sharing their feelings and experiences with you without judgment.
- Educate your child about recognizing red flags in relationships and the importance of addressing them early.
- Offer emotional support and understanding, especially during challenging times or when facing difficult decisions.
- If you have genuine concerns about someone your child is dating, make discreet inquiries before saying anything to them and see if what you are seeing or sensing is true. If yes, ask a Rav how to handle it.
- Ultimately, it is your child’s decision. Once they decide, show them support and never say anything negative about their partner.
- Let go and let God! Once you did all hishtadlus, now you just daven and give it over to Hashem.
The Engagement Period:
The decision was made, and everyone drank l’chaim. Now what?
- Encourage positive interactions between both families. This can lay the foundation for a strong, extended family network. Teach by example.
- If you have issues with the mechutanim, do not tell your child. They do not have to know everything that is going on behind the scenes.
- While being there for guidance, encourage the couple to make their own decisions regarding their wedding and future life, reinforcing their independence and decision-making abilities.
- Recognize that the engagement period is stressful for everyone, especially for the chosson and kallah. Be gentler and more forgiving for any moodiness.
- Some anxiety during the engagement is normal and to be expected. Suppose the anxiety, however, is severe and taking over their ability to function. In that case, you need to investigate whether something happened or some new information came to light that is causing this level of anxiety.
- Remember that the wedding is for your child. It is their wedding, so as much as possible, let them make decisions, and if they want or do not want something at the wedding, give in to them. You do not have to feel like the wedding is to impress the neighbors.
- If needed, encourage them to go for coaching together before the wedding. Addressing minor issues or conflicts before the wedding is incredibly helpful for after.
This is one of the more difficult stages for parents. You are thrilled that your child is married and setting up a home of their own, but you may not know what is appropriate for you to say or do.
- Understand that the couple may need privacy and time to themselves, especially during the first year. Avoid dropping by unannounced or calling too frequently.
- Encourage the couple to focus on building their relationship, understanding that this year is crucial for setting the foundation of their marriage.
- Be available for your child to talk to, but avoid prying into their marital life. Encourage them to communicate directly with their spouse regarding any issues or concerns.
- If you are approached for advice, focus on listening and offering support rather than giving immediate solutions. Empower them to find their own answers.
- Help them understand that facing challenges and adjustments in the first year of marriage is normal and that these experiences are part of a healthy, growing relationship.
- Remember, every marriage is unique, so avoid comparing your child’s relationship with others, including your own marriage. Each couple has its own dynamics and growth path.
- Be a Role Model: Demonstrate what a healthy and loving relationship is. Being a positive role model can be one of the best supports you can offer.
The journey of shidduchim, from the first date to the first year of marriage, is a path filled with learning, growth, and immense joy for both parents and children. As parents, our role is to guide, support, and empower our children through each stage of this journey, respecting their individuality and decisions. It’s crucial to remember that marriage is not just about the joyous wedding day but about building a lasting, loving relationship. This guide has outlined key considerations for parents at each stage – from assessing readiness for marriage to navigating the dating process, supporting your child during the engagement, and being a pillar of strength during the critical first year of marriage.
Miriam Zeitlin is a devoted dating and relationship coach, shadchan, and kallah teacher who truly understands the challenges and intricacies of relationships. Her compassionate and accessible approach provides personalized guidance for individuals and couples seeking meaningful connections and aspiring to build strong, lasting marital bonds. To learn more or to connect with Miriam, visit her website at miriamzeitlincoaching.com.