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Tzvi Schectman
BY Tzvi Schectman

Empowering Your Child with Special Needs: A Lesson from the Lubavitcher Rebbe

Do you have a child with special needs? Is everything resting on your shoulders? Do you feel like you can do it all? This article will tell you why you shouldn’t.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe

The Lubavitcher Rebbe

First I would like to talk about the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson of righteous memory. This week marks the 20th anniversary of his passing. The Rebbe, the seventh leader in the Chabad-Lubavitch dynasty, is considered to have been the most phenomenal Jewish personality of modern times.

To hundreds of thousands of followers and millions of sympathizers and admirers around the world, he was — and still is, despite his passing — “the Rebbe,” undoubtedly, the one individual more than any other singularly responsible for stirring the conscience and spiritual awakening of world Jewry.

The Rebbe’s unconditional love to people knew no bounds. To the Rebbe they all belonged. He made them feel at home. The Rebbe’s warm smile would heal every aching heart. The Rebbe was always there, offering counsel and blessings, comfort and hope, and often, material help as well.

It was the Rebbe’s belief that none of us is complete unless all of us are included. That is the very core and essence of what the Rebbe teaches.

So what can we learn from the Rebbe about being a special needs parent?

The Right Type of Leadership

The Rebbe did not have any biological children. He considered his students and followers his children. During his lifetime the rebbe built up an organization of hundreds of institutions dedicated to Jewish education and social service programs. The Rebbe sent out hundreds of emissaries to develop programs, start schools, and much more. Each emissary was given the independence to develop his own programs and institutions based on what he felt was needed in the community.

After the Rebbe passed away many people assumed that the activities that the Rebbe had dedicated his life to would stop and the institutions would slowly fade away. Instead Chabad has tripled and quadrupled in size, scope and reach. Today there are 4,000 chabad representatives in 80 countries around the world.

So what was the rebbe’s secret? Why has Chabad thrived even after the Rebbe passed away? The answer is of course that he empowered his followers, he gave them the confidence and the responsibility to build and grow. And grow they did even after the Rebbe’s passing. Much of what was developed the Rebbe most likely could have done on his own but in order for his legacy and work to continue after his passing you need others to continue the mission.

The Lesson

The lesson for parents of a child with special needs is clear. If we always do things for our children we may do it perfectly, we may do it the way we want it done, but your child will still not know how to do it. While a parent naturally wants to help their child the parent may be doing a disservice to the child. Unfortunately we won’t be by our children’s side forever. What happens when you are not around anymore to do it for them?

In order to truly help your child you need teach your child to help themselves as much as possible. When we empower our children to do things on their own, they may not do it perfectly they may even fail initially, but by teaching them and guiding them you give them a crucial element of independence. Through enabling your child you give them autonomy, something they will need when you are no longer around.

The way to have an influence beyond your physical life is by giving autonomy.This is the lesson we can learn from the Rebbe. By teaching and empowering your child they can continue to grow and develop even after you are gone. While it may be imperfect your legacy will be lasting.


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Tzvi Schectman

Written on June 30, 2014 by:

Tzvi Schectman is the Family Coordinator for the Friendship Circle of Michigan and the Editor of the the Friendship Circle Blog. You can connect with Tzvi on LinkedIn and Google+
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