Parenting with the Parsha – Vayigash

You wouldn’t believe it, neither did I before I attended a workshop last year, but actually, wine tastes different depending on the glass you use to drink it. Using a taller or wider glass for the same wine can affect the aroma. It is dependent on the size, the shape and the opening of the glass. Incredibly, the shape of the wine glass shapes the way we taste the wine.

This is not just true of glassware. Hanging a picture in a different frame can also totally change how it looks. So too, the same events in our life can be reframed and perceived differently.

In this week’s parsha of Vayigash we see Yosef doing just this. His life was lonely and difficult. He was separated from his family for twenty-two years, sold by his brothers, enslaved and jailed. It is no wonder that Yosef’s brothers are fearful when he reveals himself to them, expecting resentment and revenge. But rather than blaming his brothers and holding a grudge Yosef tells them, “it was not you who sent me, but God” (Genesis 45.8).

Yosef reframes the situation. The facts haven’t changed but his perception has. Rather than dwelling on the negativity of the past, he sees it as an opportunity from God to help him save Egypt from famine and to look after his family.

Alexander & Sandahl write in The Danish Way of Parenting, that one of the things Danes do from a young age is to teach their kids the invaluable skill of reframing. That is not to say that they sugar-coat things or eliminate the negative events in their lives. Rather, they choose to focus more on the positive aspects. They are realistic optimists, in touch with reality but focused on the more positive angles.

Ask a Dane what they think about the weather when it is freezing, grey and raining outside and you’re likely to be met with one of the following responses (p.52):

“Well, it’s a good thing I am at work!”

“Glad I am not on holiday!”

“I am looking forward to cozying at home inside tonight with the family.”

“There isn’t bad weather, only bad clothing!”

I love that last one! They also refer to reframing as reauthoring, which is so empowering. We are in charge of our own stories and we determine how they are told, and what outcome we want to create.

So, the next time you feel rising panic as you sleep through your alarm, or there is no milk in the house for breakfast or everyone is unwell and has to stay home for the day. Instead of that negative spin, let us take a lesson from Yosef and the Danes and reframe. Then, we can be the guides to point out a more positive and loving storyline for our children too.

Shabbat Shalom

About the Author
Ilana Harris is a teacher, educator, writer and blogger. She lives in Jerusalem with her husband and four kids.
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