One of the first questions people ask the morning after the Seder is: “When did your Seder end?” Many people consider it a remarkable achievement to finish at 3 a.m. 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 the following points 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.
- 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 Haggadah from school, hide it 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. Many 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 Dayeinu. 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 Ziploc 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 up the table. 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 Mah Nishtanah. If you’re using food, try to stay away from candy 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 that when 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 10,000 other people, parking a mile away, and fighting for the last container of tomato sauce while simultaneously watching three young children.) 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 Mashiach.
Rabbi Yitzie Ross is a well-known rebbe and parenting adviser. To sign up for the weekly emails and read the comments, visit YidParenting.com.