Dear Dr. Yael,
I am writing to you about the first days of Yom Tov. It was a bit overwhelming since I had a few married children with their large families. We tried to social distance, wear masks, etc. I do have a very large home with full time help. But even with all the help, I was so overwhelmed. I am blessed with a beautiful large family Baruch Hashem. My husband works hard and supports us generously. However the level of noise and the fighting between the young children was just overwhelming. Please advise me how to handle the second days where I have other married children and their families coming.
In these dark times we must be grateful for what we do have. Baruch Hashem it is a privilege to have children and grandchildren and on top of that to be able to spend time with them together, especially over Shabbos and Yom Tov. Of course, young children need a lot of energy to manage anytime, but especially when they are out of their own environment and their own routines and when a large number of people are involved. You may not attain the sensation akin to floating serenely on a raft in a swimming pool, but if you try to remember a few simple, but important rules, you could transform a potentially chaotic and exhausting ordeal into a calm and pleasurable experience.
1) Clarify your expectations of your kids and of your grandchildren for yourself. Communicate them clearly, asking your grandchildren to mirror back what the message is that they received.
2) Decide which boundaries you are comfortable with and with which you are not. For example, children must only eat at the table, i.e. no running around the house with food.
Additionally, soft and gentle tones, no insults allowed. Remind the children (and their parents) that we only eat at the table at Bubby’s house. If you keep saying this (if needed) in a calm and happy voice, the kids will likely comply and not take any offense.
3) Feeling forced to remain in crowded situations creates anxiety for some kids. Provide opportunity for mitigating anxiety-producing scenarios such as allowing kids to disappear from the table after a signal is given.
4) Create a schedule so the kids (and adults) know what to expect and how long things will last. Try to have the older grandchildren lead activities for the younger ones in order to keep them happy, busy, and in somewhat of a structured environment.
5) Know your own limits and when you need to escape. Spending time with the grandchildren is amazing and wonderful, but if you don’t get any quiet time for yourself, you may not be at your best with them. Make sure to escape to a quiet area when needed (e.g., take a nap, take a walk, read a book, etc). If you want to take a nap, make sure to let your children know, so they take the kids out or keep them quiet for you to be able to do so.
6) Lastly, try to enjoy your children and grandchildren as much as you can. This is a temporary situation and although you may not have the tolerance you once had for noise and sibling rivalry, you can try to be as positive as possible and try to maintain a calm equilibrium. Don’t feel bad if you need a break to keep your sanity, as it is better to take your break than to do or say anything you will regret afterwards. Do what you need to do to enjoy your company and remember to take care of yourself, so that you can take care of everyone else.