QUESTION: As Yom Tov nears, I worry about my kids. Tishrei has the added stress of shopping, cooking, building a Sukka, family visiting and kids starting and then having days off from school. My husband and I work full time and Pre-Yuntiff is always stressful in our home. I’m worried my children observe my husband and I bickering and stressing and instead of enjoying Yuntiff they will resent it.
ANSWER: Your concerns are valid and many parents feel the same way. How do we give our children positive experiences while there is so much that needs to be done causing us stress and anxiety?
No matter what, we need to shop and prepare. The Esrog has to be purchased and the Sukka built and it’s nice to buy new clothes for the kids. If your family is like mine you’ll be doing all this while juggling work, school and settling in to a new school routine for the kids. While these realities can’t be changed, there are strategies you can em-ploy to help make the whole pro-cess less stressful, more reward-ing and overall a positive Yontiff experience for your family.
First, the required tasks must be accomplished. And they are time-consuming, expensive, and stressful. However, if you employ your best self-discipline techniques and limit shopping to absolute necessities, the task list can be much reduced. Also, it’s so important to get enough help! – cleaning, babysitting, whatever you can do, this is a budgetary priority in the life of a working mom at Yom Tov time. In short, do whatever you can to reduce the physical requirements of this time while still creating a beautiful Yom Tov.
It’s interesting that research shows that stress resulting from positive experiences such as Simchas has the same deleterious effect as stress from negative experiences. The good news, however, is that stress can be reduced with some great tools from DBT, an ex-citing and increasingly popular form of therapy. One great technique is mindfulness, which basi-cally means living in the moment. Let’s say you’re sitting in traffic and worrying about your list of tasks. Rather than stressfully ruminate, mindfully notice your surroundings. Take in details of the buildings around you, notice the color of the sky.
Feel the physical sensation of the steering wheel in your hands. Relax your muscles and breathe deeply, and noticing the scent (or odor!) you smell. By being fully present in the very minute you are experiencing, on a multi-sensory level, keeps our mindand body from experiencing stress. Also very important is self-care. An occasional manicure, delicious drink, or chat with a friend will energize you and enable you to complete the rest of your tasks more efficiently (but only if you mindfully and consciously experience them).
As far as marital discord, hopefully if you reduce the stress level, that will be reduced as well. At the same time, if you are conscious of implementing your best skills that you regularly use for maintaining your relationship, despite the hectic nature of the time, you will surely improve the overall emotional time of the home.