Preliminaries and Preparations
Preparations that parents may begin a year or two before they expect their child to date.
Looking for Guides, Mentors
Unless the parents are experienced with Shidduchim, they will probably benefit from having a support system ready when they start. In every community, there are people who have experience with Shidduchim: experienced parents, Bais Medrash Rebbeim/Seminary Moros or mechanchos, shadchanim, dating coaches, chassan/kallah teachers, and the like. Parents may network among their experienced friends to find out whom they have found effective to give advice, guidance, or moral support for themselves and for their children. The recommendations of parents whose children are similar to one’s own child in hashkafa and temperament are likely to be more useful
What Kind of Person is Your Child?
Before parents start looking for dates for their son/daughter, it is helpful to have an objective assessment of his/her personality, strengths, and weaknesses. Parents may overestimate their child’s seriousness, for example, and look only for the “best learner” for their daughter or a “Rebbetzin” for their son. Mistakes in this area may delay their child finding his/her match since the Shidduchim proposed for the child are likely to either not work out or to lead to marriage to the wrong person.. A former principal, teacher, or savvy parent of the child’s friend may be effective at providing this assessment.
Work on Issues Before Dating
Parents may be aware that their child has emotional challenges, or this may emerge from discussing their child with an objective outsider in the context of Shidduchim. Marriage does not cure problems—it amplifies them. If a child has psychological issues, parents should do their best to help him/her resolve them before s/he starts dating. In fact, the Shidduchim process may be a catalyst to encourage the single to tackle longstanding issues. After the year(s) in seminary or Bais Medrash, the child may be mature and motivated enough to respond well to whatever treatment or therapy is needed.
What Does Your Child Want?
An important part of preparing for Shidduchim is to discuss with the son or daughter his/her long term goals and aspirations. Parents need to know what kind of future s/he has in mind; it may take a few long talks until they fully understand their child’s mindset. Since many girls spend their year before Shidduchim in an overseas seminary and start dating as soon as they return, these discussions may need to begin over the phone towards the end of the seminary year. However, parents should not count on getting an accurate idea of what their daughter wants until they have had face to face conversations after she is home for at least a few weeks.
Parents should not assume that their children share the same aspirations that they have or that their children wish to have the same kind of home that they were brought up in. The son of a Rebbe, for example, may prefer to have a career in the secular world and the daughter of a lawyer may be interested in marrying someone who plans to learn forever. Parents are well advised to discuss the matter calmly and to make it clear that they respect their child’s viewpoint even if it’s not what they had planned or expected.
Some children have trouble informing their parents that they want a different kind of future than their parents envision. If parents sense that their child is not responding well to their discussion, it may be useful to suggest that another trusted adult, i.e. grandparent, aunt/uncle, discuss the topic with him/her instead.
The Shidduchim process runs smoother and is more likely to succeed when the parties concerned work out disagreements in advance until everyone is on the same page.
Parents and single may wish to revisit his/her aspirations after a few years since plans may change with time. For example, a boy who starting shidduchim at age 22 aspires to learn for five to seven years post marriage may be afraid to commit to that length of time if he is not yet married at 25 . Similarly, a girl at age 22 may be more idealistic than she'll be at 25. Parents and single need to be open to the possibility of change and ready to discuss how this impacts their shidduchim quest.
How Much Parental Involvement in a Child’s Shidduchim?
The underlying assumption in this website is that the parents direct the Shidduchim process of finding shidduch prospects for their child and guiding their child through dating and getting engaged. This scenario is not always realistic. Parents who are very “out-of-touch” with the contemporary Yeshivish dating scene may have trouble navigating Shidduchim in that community. In this case, the single may need to find someone—an older friend or mentor, perhaps, to take charge of their Shidduchim. The parents should still be involved, since they may understand their child and his/her best interests better than anyone else.
Another potential obstacle arises if parents and children do not have a strong relationship of mutual trust. The Shidduchim parsha is sometimes very stressful and may strain even heathy parent/child relationships. The single may feel that parents are not doing enough to find him/her dates or that parents are pressuring him/her in the wrong direction. If neither parent is able to interact constructively with their child on other matters, the family should seriously consider finding a friend or hiring a shadchan/dating coach to handle Shidduchim.
If the child remains single for a few years, s/he may eventually take a more active role in finding and investigating prospects. By then, s/he is more mature and experienced, and may feel more comfortable fending for him/herself. This may help reduce tension between the parents and their single.
Dor Yesharim (Dor Yeshorim, is the genetic testing organization that many couples in the Yeshiva world use to ascertain whether they are both carriers for Tay Sach’s Disease and other common genetic disorders. The organization administers a blood test to the single and gives him/her a numerical identification code. When couples wish to check their genetic compatibility, they each send their “Dor Yeshorim” number to the organization, which notifies them if there are any potential genetic problems with their match. The underlying idea is to refrain from giving individuals direct access to their genetic information to avoid making people feel stigmatized.
Dor Yeshorim’s testing costs a few hundred dollars as a one time fee; it is not covered by insurance. Testing is cheaper if one does not need to be in their system within the next few months. It may take half a year until one’s identification number enters the Dor Yeshorim database. It is best, therefore, to make sure to have one’s child tested at least six months before entering Shidduchim. Some high schools and other educational institutions give their students the option of being tested while at school.
Once the child is in the system, compatibility can be checked any time, even in the middle of the night, by keying in the two identification numbers. Checking is free. An answer is usually available by the following morning. Parents should not feel stigmatized if a match is rejected by Dor Yeshorim, since this is a regular occurrence. Approximately one child in an average-sized class is Tay Sachs carrier and Dor Yeshorim gives an answer of "genetically incompatible" one in every hundred calls.
Sometimes, a family or their child has a secret that could impede his/her acceptance for a shidduch. Typically, this may be a disease, a chronic condition, family history or an incident in his/her past which might not be discovered by the other party during their shidduch research process. It is ethical to disclose this information at some point during the dating process. Parents or the single may find it useful consult a Rav in advance to decide when the information must be revealed and how much to share. Where relevant, a professional, such as a doctor or psychologist, may be recruited to explain the situation to the dating partner and how much it may affect marriage.
The general thinking is that we want to give a single who has a "skeleton in the closet" a chance to build a relationship with someone who may be persuaded to overlook the "defect" once s/he's gotten a chance to get to know the single. Therefore, a standard approach is to delay the disclosure until the relationship begins to set, typically around the fourth date. However, delaying the disclosure this long may sabotage the shidduch if the dating partner feels betrayed by being told about an important issue that late in the dating process. This is especially relevant if the information that has been withheld may affect the marriage, such as mental or physical health conditions. Much depends on the background and expectations of the dating partner. Singles are advised to use their judgement to determine whether to share their secret earlier in the relationship than they had been initially advised.
Trying to conceal secrets until after marriage may backfire since the marriage partner would be understandably upset and distrustful of the spouse. Partial disclosure may also be counter-productive. On the other hand, the act of sharing a secret problem may help build the singles bond during the dating period.
Getting Your Child “Up to Speed”
Singles need to look well dressed and "put-together" before they enter Shidduchim. Most boys and girls know the correct look for their social circle. If parents suspect that their child is not savvy about clothing, hair style, and/or accessories, they should ask someone experienced to give advice. The object is not necessarily that the daughter should dress according to the latest trends and styles, rather that she should dress appropriately for the social circle that she aspires to marry into.
Singles also need to know how to converse with each other and how to make a good impression when speaking with shadchanim. While boys are expected to initiate conversation, girls need to be able to expand on a topic rather than replying tersely. If parents are concerned about their child’s social skills, they may enlist the services of a coach or a professional who specializes in improving people’s communication skills.
Preparing a Photo
A good photograph of the single is part of the set of materials needed for shidduchim, along with the shidduch resume and a personal description. Since the photograph is becoming more important in the shidduch process, we have a post devoted exclusively to The Shidduch Photo.
Assembling Information Sources
In order to determine whether a prospective shidduch is appropriate for their son/daughter, parents often need to question someone from the Yeshiva/Seminary that the prospect attended. Parents may find it convenient to organize a list of contact people for each of the relevant yeshivas/seminaries to expedite the process of checking out prospective dates for their child. This “go-to” list may be compiled by having the father networking with the men in shul and the mother, with her friends to get names of people who know the students who attend chinuch institutions. Parents who have no connection with the Yeshiva/seminary world may need to enlist the help of someone more connected in order to create this list.
Having this contact list prepared in advance is especially important for girls, because there is much more time pressure on the girl’s family to tell the shadchan whether they accept or reject the proposed match.