I seem to recall that you wrote an article before Pesach with some great Yom Tov tips. I am not very good at the internet (except for shopping) and I could not find it. The Bedtime solution won't matter much this week, since Yom Tov will throw off bedtimes anyway. Could you resend the Yom Tov tips article? - Baila Pittman
Baila, thank you for the compliment. I have received a few similar requests, and I agree that the bedtime hints can wait. However, instead of simply resending, I'm going to modify it a little for Rosh Hashana. I hope this helps you all have a wonderful and enjoyable Yom Tov.
1) Try and keep everything age appropriate, if possible. Five-year-old children will not sit through multiple Simanim, and fourteen-year olds may not want to sing “Dip the Apple”, (though I love that song).
2) Seating arguments? Who should clear the table? It’s not worth getting aggravated. Do your very best to keep all the kids happy – even if they’re not being reasonable. Remember, trying new fruits is not a Halacha – don’t force your children to eat them (like starfruit or carob!). Additionally, you can make it into a game or challenge by guessing what they’ll taste like before you pass it around.
3) Try and be as prepared as possible during the meals to make everything seem more exciting. Once they are waiting for the honey to be passed around, or the apples to be sliced, they start to lose interest.
4) 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 the Shofar to the younger one while your spouse listens to the Divrei Torah.
5) Davening is very long during the Yomim Noraim. Instead of bringing your kids for the whole Tefila, set up a time that you will drop them off. Remember, better for the mother to Daven at home with the kids, than to Daven in Shul, while letting them run around. It’s also a good idea for the mother to let the children know (if they are able to understand) when she is about to daven shemoneh esreh and that she won’t be able to talk until she’s done. Incidentally, The Artscroll Rosh Hashana Machzor is wonderful and helps children have an understanding of some of the important Tefillos. For example, it is a good idea to sit with age appropriate children (younger elementary) and read through Nesanah Tokef inside, while explaining it to them.
6) Although hearing the Shofar in Shul is preferable, bringing your little children and shushing them can be counter-productive. Most shuls have a later Shofar blowing for women.
7) Rewarding the kids for questions and answers is a fantastic idea. 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?”
8) 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). If you want to give them, make sure it’s just a little bit and tell them that when you they’re older, they can have a bit more.
9) 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 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.) Rosh Hashana is their chance to sit back and enjoy. Yes, we 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 serve, so Mommy can also relax for a few minutes!”
10) This one is for the moms. I’ve heard from a few mothers, that they let each child choose a favorite dish to be served on Yom Tov. This allows them to be involved in the meals, and helps them look forward to the seudos.
Wishing you and your family a wonderful and meaningful Yom Tov, and a K’siva Vachasima Tova!
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.