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September 22, 2014 / 27 Elul, 5774
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Yom Tov Family Crisis


Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

After expressing delight at the prospect of their visit, ask what you can do to make their stay more enjoyable. For example, is there any special dish they would like you to prepare? What would be a good toy to buy for the children? Admittedly, this can be somewhat tricky, for they might ask for something beyond your means. In that event, don’t be embarrassed to tell them that in these difficult economic times you have to be more cautious in your spending.

Having assured them you are prepared to do whatever you can to make their stay a wonderful experience, you can proceed to inform them of the rules of the house.

You might say something to this effect: “We do not have a staff to help with the household chores, nor are we at a resort where these services are readily available, so I will have to ask you to pitch in, be it cleaning, cooking, baby-sitting, etc., because as much as I would like to, I can’t possibly do everything by myself.”

Should it happen that both your daughter and daughter-in-law are coming for the same days of Yom Tov, warn your daughter to refrain from criticizing her sister-in-law if she feels she in not doing her share. Such remarks can only lead to serious family disruptions that, G-d forbid, can split a mishpacha.

Should it happen that, despite making these guidelines clear, your daughter or daughter-in-law fails to abide by them, be careful not to criticize her in the presence of others or complain to one regarding the conduct of the other. That type of an exchange can only cause terrible damage, with long-lasting ramifications

What you should do, however, is take that individual aside and, in a warm, loving voice with kind words, tell her you would really appreciate it if she would pick up after her children, not leave dirty diapers around, or go visiting friends and expect you to baby sit and prepare the seudah at the same time. The manner in which you couch your words, the body language you use, the love that emanates from you – these will make all the difference.

I have often given this advice to grandparents, many of whom were hesitant to act on it from fear of alienating their children. If, however, this discipline is enforced in a warm, loving manner, children and grandchildren will learn to relate to grandparents with respect rather than arrogant entitlement.

At the end of the day, all grandparents have to realize it is up to them to set boundaries. If they are afraid to do so, they will have to accept the consequences.

In these pre-messianic times in which chutzpah abounds, families are splintered, and children and parents often do not communicate, we all need the help of Hashem to recreate our mishpachas on the pillars of shalom bayis.

There is no magic solution that guarantees good children. Painfully, even the best of families who spare no effort to do everything right can have troubled offspring, and the converse is also true. So at the end of the day, with all the advice and guidance, we have to do a lot of davening and ask Hashem to help us see nachas.

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