Decoding Distress: Jewish Parenting for Teen Mental Health Resources

On May 21, Moving Traditions hosted a webinar, Decoding Distress: Jewish Parenting for Teen Mental Health, for parents and educators of Jewish teens. Thank you to our panel of speakers, including:

  • Dr. Jess Shatkin, NYU Child and Adolescent Mental Health Studies
  • Sylvie Simmons, Kol Koleinu Teen Feminist Fellow
  • Rabbi Daniel Brenner, Moving Traditions

Moving Traditions offers you these resources and takeaways from the webinar to use with the teens in your life.

Watch the Recording

Responding to Stress

The following is an excerpt from the “Stressed Out” session from Kulam, a Moving Traditions program for Hebrew High Schools.

  • Do you have any comments or questions about what you just saw and heard?
  • What is your reaction to hearing that humans are the only mammals with a stress response for psychological reasons? 

Say as much or as little of the following as needed to make sure your teen understands the physical stress response: 

Cortisol is meant to help us with short-term stressors, for instance, being in physical danger if we’re being chased by an animal or dodging a car. If we stay in that “stress” response for too long, it causes physical and psychological problems. This is why zebras and other animals don’t get ulcers; they don’t stay in that prolonged stress response, but humans do! In March of 2020 or since October 7 we might have been feeling a lot of stress or a wide variety of feelings. After some time, some of us have gotten kind of used to the situation and now might feel like life is back to normal. For some of us, our bodies have returned to homeostasis. We may not initially even notice that it has happened. For others, the stress is ongoing, and it may be creating a lot of wear on our bodies and emotions.

  • How do we know when we are not in a state of homeostasis? How do we know when we are feeling stressed? Brainstorm a list of physical and emotional signs of stress.
  • Are you more comfortable when you show physical signs or emotional signs of being stressed?

Stress is a natural reaction to pressures that we feel in life. It is even useful at times, like when a zebra needs to get away from a lion or when you need to be careful riding your bike. Everyone feels some level of it. Stress can sometimes be helpful to us, for instance, when it motivates you to spend time studying for a big test. However, long-term stress may have negative effects on your body and your brain. Even if we have unknowingly become “used to” stressful times, there are still parts that can feel difficult or stressful. The good thing is that there are many ways that we can respond to stress. 

  • What do you do to calm yourself down when you are stressed?

Share this handout, “Stress Reducing Activities.”


Grab your paper and pen. Take a look at this list and circle the best three examples of activities that release stress for you. If you have others that aren’t on this list, add those examples.  Rank them in order, #1 being the best, the next best and so on.  It’s okay if there are more than three that work for you, just make sure to go through the whole list.  Think about including at least one that may be new to you, something you’d like to try. 

Resources from Dr. Jess Shatkin

Child & Adolescent Mental Health: A Practical, All-in-One Guide

With the number and type of mental health issues in kids on the rise, and as more and more clinicians and counselors are being pushed to the front lines of defense, now more than ever there is a need for a comprehensive, practical resource that guides professionals through the complexities of child and adolescent mental health. This practical, comprehensive book answers that call.

More from Dr. Jess Shatkin