Butterflies in the stomach? What to do?
The boy has been preparing for this moment for months, he prepared the Torah portion and prepared for the sermon, his parents spent a lot of money, the whole family is waiting with anticipation, and finally the day has arrived… all the guests have arrived from afar in his honor, all standing around him, waiting for him to speak…he’s in the center of things and he is only 13 years old – is it really surprising he is under pressure???
Every boy is excited on the day of his Bar Mitzvah, it’s only natural. Excitement is a positive factor, especially for a young boy who had never experienced such a fuss about him. But there are those for whom the excitement is so great that it makes it hard for them to function. Over-Excitement can cause pressure and stress which can lead to dysfunction. There are those who get a “Black Out” and forget all the reading, there are those who get nauseous, there are those who get “cold feet” and refuse to read. I attended an event once where the child was so nervous that he almost fainted from a panic attack. He was so nervous he was evacuated by ambulance.
Aliya to the Tora at the Kotel
So what can you do to calm the excited groom down so that he could perform and most importantly, enjoy this special day?
The best suggestion is to prepare in advance for this possibility. Inform the boy and prepare him for the expected excitement ahead of the event, that he may feel pressure in his chest from the excitement, or may feel a kind of paralysis, which is natural and normal. Knowing that this paralysis is normal and that many go through it, calms the boy and allows him to understand what happens to him at the moment of truth.
It’s important to calm during moments of stress. Give the boy time, tell him that everybody enjoys the event even if there is no reading the Torah. Explain him that everyone goes through it and that it’s fine. Tell him that he will slowly calm down and the pressure will drop. It is recommended to keep him slightly away from the center of attention, because when all eyes are turned to you – it creates more stress. The main thing is to relieve the boy of the heavy burden of stress.
It is important to sit the boy down in a shaded, comfortable place, let him drink cold water or eat some candy. You can splash some water on his face. Worst case scenario – lay the boy down on the ground and lift his legs. This will help him come to his senses.
A kiss from the mother
Sometimes the father is the cause of the stress. The son feels that if he is not up to the pressure his father is going to be disappointed in him, the guests start throwing comments and the dad takes it personally, gets stressed himself and urges the boy to come to his senses quickly. The mother also often gets stressed because of the child’s stress. Therefore it is better if another adult from the family, personally detached from all the pressure and unpleasantness, talks with the boy, calms him down, gives him support – an uncle, aunt, grandmother, big brother and so on.
In case of fainting – the Kotel has a medic located at the entrance to the tunnels, call him.
What not to do?
During moments of pressure not to laugh at him, or tell him phrases like: “What kind of a man are you?”, “Are you sure that you have a Bar Mitzvah?!”, “just read whatever you remember”, “after all the money and time we invested” – these are judgmental sentences that tell him that his situation is not positive. This makes him become disappointed with himself and try to recover quickly, something he can’t do now. Such sentences increase the pressure and put him into a vicious cycle that adds more pressure to the boy.
Remember, he’s only 13 years old, it’s not an easy position for him… and you’re only there to support him! If he meets the challenge of this event, it will be remembered as a positive and strengthening experience and not the opposite.