One of the yearly traditions of this blog, is the Pesach Hints. I’ve modified a few since last year and added some new ones. Before you begin reading, there is one thing that I would like to share. One of the first questions people ask the morning after the Seder, is “When did your Seder end?” Many people consider this a remarkable achievement, finishing at 3:00 in the morning. One fellow told me that his crowning glory was when his teenage son told him “It’s time for Shema of the morning!”
I am completely baffled. Isn’t the Seder about teaching our children about Yetzias Mitzrayim? Many children have shared with me how bored they are during the Seder, and I feel bad for them and their parents. They are completely missing the point. If you disagree with me that’s fine, just ask your Rav for guidance. If you make your children the focal point of the Seder, they will have the most amazing night.
As always, please don’t expect all of these to be helpful. Some might work great for your family, others not so much. If you have any other ideas to share, please email them to me. Thank you!
It’s a great idea to have your younger ones take a nap on Erev Pesach. It won’t work if they’re all hyper, so giving them a book to read, and calling it “relaxing time”, might help. During relaxing time there are no electronic devices and no music. Kids don’t enjoy the Seder as much (and neither will you) when they’re overtired.
If your child has a Haggada from school, take it away from them when they come home. Give it back to them at the Seder so they have something to entertain themselves with.
Many children don’t know about the second Seder. It might be a good idea not to discuss it out loud. May of the younger kids will have a wonderful night for the first Seder, and can sleep through the second one. This will also give you the opportunity to focus on the older children during the second Seder.
While keeping proper Shiurim is very important, it might be a good idea to consult with your Rav before arguing with your 11-year-old about how much Matzah she ate.
Putting on skits with your spouse is always fun. You can even make teams, and see who can act out the story accurately. Sometimes, pairing off an adult with a child can make it more fun. This might be a bad idea if you or your spouse is fiercely competitive.
A good question is better than a good answer. If your children ask a question, you don’t need to answer it right away. Simply say, “That’s a great question – can you come up with an answer yourself?” It makes them feel great, and occupies them as well.
Try and keep everything age appropriate if possible. Four-year-old children will not sit through Maggid, and sixteen-year-olds may not want to sing Dayenu.
You and your spouse can take turns going ahead in Maggid, while the other one engages the kids in fun discussions. This helps keep the Seder moving.
Seating arguments? Who has the better pillow? It’s not worth getting aggravated. This special night only happens twice a year (or once in Eretz Yisrael). Do your very best to keep all the kids happy – even if they’re not being reasonable.
Try and be as prepared as possible to make everything seem more exciting. Having the lettuce already divided into portions in Ziplock bags is a great idea! Once the kids are waiting for the Matzah or Marror to be measured, they start to lose interest.
If you have age discrepancies, for example a fourteen-year-old and a five-year-old, it might be hard to find common ground. In this case, try splitting the table up. You can talk about Pharaoh to the younger one while your spouse listens to the Divrei Torah.
When Yachatz arrives, it’s Afikomen time. Let your children hide it, and you find it. Don’t use the word steal. We don’t want to condone stealing of any sort.
Rewarding the kids for questions and answers is a fantastic idea. Some parents give a small treat after their child has recited the Ma Nishtana. If you’re using food, try to stay away from candies as it hypes up the kids. The end result will be a few overtired and extremely hyperactive kids moving around their chairs at supersonic speeds while asking, “Are we there yet?”
There’s a reason why children should not be drinking alcoholic beverages. It’s not safe. I don’t even think it’s a good idea to pretend to give them alcohol (putting grape juice in the wine bottle). Rather, give them a little bit on the bottom of their cups, and tell them when you they’re older, they can have a bit more.
This one is for the dads. Most of the women I know are frantically preparing for Yom Tov by shopping, cooking, cleaning, shopping, cooking, watching kids and shopping. (When I say shopping, I’m not talking shoe shopping online. I’m talking about going to a supermarket with ten thousand other people, parking a mile away, and fighting for the last container of tomato sauce while simultaneously watching the three younger ones.) The Seder night is their chance to sit back and enjoy. Yes, we certainly want the kids to enjoy. However, we can impart a great lesson if we tell the kids, “Hey, I have an idea! Let’s help clean the table or help serve, so Mommy can feel like a free person also!”
IY”H we will be able to spend this Pesach in Eretz Yisrael with the coming of Moshiach.
My son is a wonderful boy (I know I’m biased) and is in 5th grade in Yeshiva. Recently he had been coming home unhappy and seems very down on himself. Not only that, but his Davening has taken a turn for the worse, and he mopes around the house in the morning and at night which he never used to do. I have a weird feeling that something is wrong but when I try talking to him he says “Everything is fine!” and walks away. My husband strongly feels we should bring him to the Rav or let his Rebbe from last year speak with him (they were very close). I want to bring him to a therapist. My mother who is very close with us feels that he’s just becoming a teenager and he’s fine. We agreed to follow your suggestion. Can you please weigh in? R.L.F. – Kew Gardens
Your question is one of the most common ones I receive. There are so many factors that can affect a child of this age, and some are serious while others are just a part of growing up. However, if you think that something is bothering your child, you should trust your gut. Before we discuss who should be talking to him, I would suggest finding out as much information as possible.
Call the Rebbe and English teacher. Ask how he’s been doing, and if they noticed any recent changes in his behavior or work. Find out if anything is going on with any of his friends. Try and establish if there are any points of the day that seem to be more stressful than others. Is he more or less relaxed on Shabbos? This information can be very useful in helping determine the cause of his mood swings.
The next step should be to have a talk with your son. This shouldn’t be a flippant conversation in the kitchen, you need to have your husband in the room and your son should have to come in and sit down. It shouldn’t be an attack on your son. Rather, you can explain to him that you love him and are concerned about certain behaviors. Explain in detail how his moods have changed. I wouldn’t bring up the Davening as a main point, but you can mention in passing that he seems “more distracted” than usual in Shul.
If he is responsive, but doesn’t think it’s a big deal, in most cases it’s ok. The fact that he’s able to communicate with you implies that he is just going through puberty and needs some extra attention. Unless his behavior drastically changes for the worse, I would just keep an eye on him in this case. You might want to give him a one on one day with you, you’d be surprised how talkative kids get when they’re given a day off school.
If, however, during the conversation he gets very defensive or shuts down, quickly stop and tell him it’s ok. Don’t make an issue out of it, and don’t start whispering with your husband when your son walks out. (kids hate that.) This isn’t something that you’ll be able to resolve, so you’ll need some outside help. Here are your choices.
I would like to mention one important thing. You need to tell your son that you’re bringing him to someone to talk to. Most kids don’t have a problem with this, especially once the therapist tells him that in most cases everything is confidential. However, you should never make it into a threat or say insulting remarks. Comments such as “Well, in that case we’re going to have to bring you to a shrink” or “Behaviors like this are why you need to see a doctor!” are hurtful and will lessen the therapist’s ability to help your child.
Wishing you a wonderful & relaxing Chodesh Nissan,
Rabbi Yitzie Ross is a Rebbe and has been working with parents and kids for many years. You can read more about him in the "about" section.