For many teens, their close proximity to the independence of adulthood is so exciting that they’d gladly drop all the trappings of childhood and not look back. Slow down, we tell them. You won’t have this kind of freedom again for a LONG time!
We say that, but as parents we’re just as guilty of focusing on the future. We can’t wait until the weekend, the holiday, the game, or even the sale. When we’re not wishing time away, we can be so busy that we don’t even notice it flying by. Suddenly our toddlers are teens and we have no idea how that happened.
Sometimes it takes stepping away from real life to actually experience real life. In a summer program that is designed to be intentional, teens can slow down the clock long enough to enjoy the little moments, then take big memories away from them.
Where we do things matters
At Tel Yehudah, we are so fortunate for our 150 wooded acres on the banks of the Delaware River, that we are careful to use them deliberately to bolster teens’ experiences. On the first morning of camp we go down to the water at 5 a.m. and read the story of Genesis. By rising before dawn, trudging sleepily through the damp grass, all of us new and not yet familiar, and watching the morning rise out of the river as we hear the story of Creation, together we feel its weight and hold onto its meaning in ways we never could in a classroom.
How we do things matters
It seems that no matter how hard we try to hold onto the family meal, once our kids enter high school, sports, homework, play practice, and study sessions team up to squash our dinner plans. Teens eat at the counter, in front of the TV, in their rooms, and on their way to wherever they’re going. At Tel Yehudah we try to slow down the whole process so teens aren’t just gulping down their food. By having a simple prayer before and after each meal, we eat with intention. It builds a space to acknowledge the people who made the food, to enjoy the act of eating it, and to be thankful it’s in front of us.
What we do matters
We believe celebrating Shabbat is so important that we want to make sure it is done with intention. That’s why we offer multiple types of prayer services as well as opportunities for teens to join a meditation group, practice yoga, or participate in a Torah study. This way each teen chooses how he or she wants to experience Shabbat each week.
However large or small each act of intention is, it is one more memorable moment our kids will take with them as they rush to the exciting future ahead of them.