What does your daughter hope to get out of going to seminary?
Probably she would like to improve her learning skills and learn how to tackle a text of in Chumash, Tanya and even Shulchan Oruch. Probably she would want to be inspired by Chassidus and to consolidate and internalize whatever she may have already learned so far.
I should imagine that she would also like to meet girls with similar ideals and work out together with them and her Mashpia the type of future life that she would wish to lead and how best to be a good wife and mother.
What she most definitely is not hoping to achieve, is to become anorexic!
I am a Shliach in a small town, and for almost 30 years my wife and I have had to bring up our children, after a certain age, from a distance. By that I mean that we have had to send them away to out of town schools and become parents over the phone, skype and for the short periods when they came home for Yomim Tovim. The challenges that this kind of parenting presents is perhaps for another article, but now I wish to address anorexia.
Four year ago one of our daughters went to a well-known seminary, offering all the right things. Good curriculum, amazing teachers, exciting trips and a caring and Chassidish faculty. However when she came home for Pesach we were shocked. What she had not told us, and neither did the seminary, was that she was not eating.
We now had to deal with a very sick girl. She had lost so much weight that the doctors wanted her admitted into hospital. It was only because of my wife’s strength and determination and our wish not to place her into that very non-kosher environment, that we persuaded the health authorities to allow us to care for her at home.
With the help of Hashem we succeeded and after a very long time, much Davening, love and patience, we were able to nurse her back to good health and today Boruch Hashem our daughter is well.
Last September another one of our daughters went off to a “good” seminary and to our horror she too has now become anorexic.
The causes of anorexia are complicated and I feel it is neither productive nor helpful to lay blame at anyone’s doorstep.
I do however, have a complaint, against the seminaries concerned and I do believe this goes for most, if not all the other seminaries.
When girls (and for that matter boys in Yeshiva) are put in their care, there is an expectation and an obligation that every aspect of their well-being will be taken care of. Both the Ruchniyus and the Gashmiyus.
I believe that every seminary MUST have at least one dedicated staff member who has been trained to identify at a very early stage, signs of eating disorders. They must be trained how to help the girl and how best to alert the parents. How and when to seek medical help and how to make the situation better and not worse. There is a correct way to deal with anorexia and an incorrect way. People need to be trained.
I urge any parent sending a girl away to seminary to ask, in the same way that you inquire about staff and curriculum, whether they have a dedicated counsellor who is trained in spotting eating disorders and how best to deal with it. If they reply that they don’t have such a person or even if they say they will be training someone in the near future then DON’T send your child to that school! Better keep them at home!
Believe me this is a matter of Pikuch Nefesh.