Pesach is right around the corner and I am just past the nail-biting phase. This is where I just worry about Pesach. I walk from room to room in my house, feeling overwhelmed, not sure how I am going to do it all.
After 13 years of making Pesach, I know that this is an annoying but necessary part of the whole cleaning process. The anxiety that I generate during this time actually propels me forward into the next stage where I finally organize, clean and cook.
For those of you who subscribe to the, “Pesach cleaning is not Spring cleaning” bit, you might want to disregard the rest of the article. I am unmoving and quite stubborn about equating Pesach cleaning with Spring Cleaning. My feeling is that if I am cleaning already, then why not do a Spring Cleaning? Why should I clean twice? (I hope you heard the Talmudic singsong melody in the question and the movement of my thumbs as they went up and down in the air. Yes, I can do that even while typing!)
What I also feel strongly about is that my kids need to get in on the action. It is important that they actively participate in getting ready for the chag. When kids are given jobs they might complain, but they sense that they are contributing something important to the family. Once Pesach starts and is enjoyed, (as of this writing, my kids love Pesach), kids make the connection that they have played a significant role in preparing for the holiday. This helps build their self-esteem and confidence.
Because there is so much work involved and things can get hairy, it is important to strike a balance. We want our kids to help, but if we push them to do too much they might dread instead of happily anticipate Pesach.
Here are some ways to help your kids get involved in Pesach cleaning without going overboard:
1) Inspire Cooperation
When we ask our kids for help we want to avoid saying:
“You are going to clean your room once and for all!”
“That is it, you are going to help, no ifs, ands or buts.”
This creates a “Me against You” environment where the child wants to fight for control.
With older kids you want to invite them to help out with a positive tone and a neutral manner:
“Guys, I am going to need extra help this year to clean for Passover. You have worked hard in the past and I know you can do it again. This week your rooms need to be cleaned. I need to know by bedtime when you are going to be available to do that.”
Similarly, with younger kids you might want to say:
“You know how you learned in school about cleaning for Pesach? Let’s pick some jobs for you so you can help clean for Pesach!”
When we speak to our kids in this way, they feel respected as if they are part of a team. They will be more likely to cooperate and help out.
2) Make A List
It is hard to work for an employer who does not have a clear business plan and goals. The same goes for kids having to work under a disorganized mom. You know what you need to do – but your kids don’t. They have to be at your beck and call. If you randomly hand out jobs your kids can get confused and frustrated, and rightly so.
It is best if you organize yourself before you ask your kids for help. You can make a list of everything that needs to be done. Find a calm time and share the list with your kids. You can then ask, “Who is available for what and when?”
3) Get Up Close and Personal
All kids, especially younger ones, are able to listen if we give them lots of visual and tactile cues. They are better able to follow our directions if we touch them on the shoulder, get down to their level and make eye contact. It is hard for them to respond when we call them from a different room.
4) Be Specific
If your children are having a hard time cooperating, you might want to try to give them jobs that are more concrete or have a finite time frame.
Instead of: “Clean the family room.”
Try: “Everyone needs to pick up 10 toys in the family room.”
Instead of: “Clean your closet”
Try: “Hang up five shirts that are lying on the floor.”
Instead of: “Help me put the laundry away.”
Try: “I need your help for 10 minutes to take the laundry to everyone’s room. It is now 7:00 at 7:10 you will be free to play.”
5) Help Them Develop Good Middot.
Kids don’t know that they should offer to help. It is important to teach them this. Before any of the yomim tovim, I will say to my kids,
“I would appreciate if you would pop your head into the kitchen every so often and just ask if I need some help.”
My kids now do that and, to be honest, it warms my heart. It makes me feel like I have the best kids ever.
If I need them, I will say:
“I appreciate the offer. Yes, I can use some help peeling potatoes.”
If I don’t need help, I say:
“Thanks for looking in on me. I don’t need anything right now but I do appreciate you asking.”
Getting kids to help can be a bit tricky. Having a plan in place can make a tremendous difference. Have a wonderful Pesach.
Adina Soclof, MS. CCC-SLP is a certified Speech Pathologist. She received her masters degree from Hunter College in New York in Communication Sciences. She works as a Parent Educator for Bellefaire Jewish Children’s Bureau facilitating “How to Talk so Kids will Listen and Listen so Kids will Talk” workshops as well as workshops based on “Siblings Without Rivalry.” Adina developed TEAM Communication Ventures and conducts parenting, teacher and clinician workshops via telephone nationwide. Adina lives with her husband and four lively children in Cleveland, Ohio. You can visit her at website at www.parentingsimply.com.