As the father of a blended family,
it’s especially fulfilling, when I can use an occurrence in my
own life to bring out a strong and warm point. My 12 year old
son lives with his mother overseas. One Lag B’Omer, when he was
10½ years old, I took him to a bonfire at a Yeshiva near my
home. I was watching him as he started crying tears of joy - of
belonging. It then occurred to me, that yes, even though I am
his father one of my responsibilities is to be a role model.
Now that we’re approaching Chanukah, it’s an opportune time to
find a role model for children who unfortunately have none at
home. Yom Tov is family time and to children without a father at
home, this is when they feel the void the most.
Children don’t like feeling different; a boy needs an adult to
replace the on-site role modeling of an absent parent. A
designated adult – a role model – is the perfect answer. A role
model doesn’t replace a father; however, he will make it
comfortable for your child to join in activities which a father
does with his son. What I sometimes see are boys who end up with
a different neighbor/different shul every week. That kind of set
up can be confusing to a child and usually doesn’t work.
What is the exact function of a role model? What do we expect
from them? How can we find one?
role model is NOT a mentor or a private tutor. A mentor takes
children/teens out and does activities with them. This can run
into a big chunk of time and a considerable amount of money. A
private tutor is for learning.
role model will do the things that any father does for his sons,
therefore he doesn’t need lots of extra time or money. He can
just include your son in the activities he’s doing with his own
know that it’s difficult to find a competent role model, but
these guidelines can help make it easier.
to find a competent role model:
*It’s best to have a Rov give a Haskamah on the person you are
considering as a role model for your child and to answer
questions that may come up.
*The person who you consider should be accessible. Be it a
neighbor or someone from the family like a grandparent or an
uncle or cousin.
*If you can’t think of someone on your own ask around. Ask your
Rov, Rebbe, local Askan, neighbor, or family member.
*There are Kollel Yungerleit who have some extra time. Ask in
the local Kollel.
Give your son’s role model an official title (Moishe’s Role
Model), because it defines his mission and spells out his
responsibility to your child.
is very important in our lives. Try to find someone who is
committed and who will be there as he says he will.
Spell out – on a paper – exactly what you want the role model to
help you with. A list will show the potential role model that
you’re not asking for a major commitment which will make it
easier to find someone.
a role model can do with your son:
*Learn with your son on Shabbos
*Take him to community events
*Pack boxes at Tomchei Shabbos
*Attend a Hachnosas Sefer Torah
*Invite a child to join the Shabbos Seudah in his home
*Take your child to watch the lighting of Chanukah Lecht by the
Rebbe or Rosh Hayeshiva.
*He can take your son to shul for one Tefillah on Shabbos
*He can talk to your son in learning.
These things will forge a basic connection between your son and
his role model.
Protect your child:
We’d like to hope that all people who offer to help children
only have their best interests in mind. Needless to say this
isn’t always so. Not everyone models the behavior we want.
Also, many times children from single parent families are more
vulnerable to predators. Feel comfortable establishing
guidelines for any interaction between the mentor and your own
son. For example, all activities should be arranged in public
place or in your own home, not in a private or secluded set up.
As strange as it may sound, a role model should be following the
equivalent of Hilchos Yichud when they are with your son.
Keep your eyes and mind open so you can properly protect your
child and if need be, you can blame your request for public
learning on your Rov, Askan, organization or therapist.
Characteristics of a Role Model:
can have a positive effect on the lives of others. A positive
minded person who is loaded with enthusiasm can surely prove to
be the best role model one can have in life!
*Role models should always have a sense of
Respect How a role
model treats others speaks volumes about who they are. A good
role model listens to others and also considers opposing points
of view. He treats others how he would want to be treated and is
considerate of others. When making mistakes, a role model does
not place the blame on others; he owns up to his own
is something that cannot be measured merely by grades but how
the person uses his intellect to succeed in life and help others
*Good Middos help
to make a person better in life. Your role model should be
having exemplary Middos that should inspire your son to improve.
role model is self-assured and happy with who he is. If a role
model is confident, those who look up to him, will too. A role
model displays a streak of independence showing he does not need
to follow current trends.
*Handles Stress Positively
Being human means having to
constantly deal with stress and overcome obstacles. A role model
sets a good example on how to handle pressure. And when they
fail, they attempt to learn from their mistakes.
*Role Models Are Trustworthy
A good role model also does what he
says. A good role model delivers on his promises and can always
be counted on even when he is overwhelmed.
*Perseverance is a
key trait. Role models demonstrate that if they work hard to
attain something, then others can, too.
have a pamphlet that can be given to a role model to read.
Please feel free to contact me for copies.
Rabbi Shlome Ehrlich; has a
degree in CBT/DBT, is founder /director
Ohr Layesharim (teen enrichment services) and works
privately with preteens and teens struggling with behavioral
issues. He specializes in children that display BPD (Borderline
Personality Disorder) tendencies. Rabbi Ehrlich is the father of
a blended family. He can be reached at