According to Jewish tradition, the summer months of Tammuz and Av are filled with strife for the Jewish people. It is the time when we had the story of the spies talking Lashon Hara about Eretz Yisroel, Korach’s rebellion and later on the Churban Bayit Rishon and Sheini.
Why our ancestors failed is less important than how our ancestors failed. We can use these stories as a teaching moment for ourselves about how important it is to run our families efficiently while trying to maintain a stress-free environment. A stress-free environment is the first step in guaranteeing shalom bayit, peace in the house.
Here are some simple ways to keep our family lives more peaceful:
1. Cut yourself some slack:
Low states and feeling blue are an annoying but intrinsic part of life. When we are feeling “blah” or we see others acting poorly we tend to blow things out of proportion. We can become critical of ourselves and of our family members. The best way to manage our bad moods and the bad moods of others is to accept them at face value and acknowledge them without any judgments:
Criticizing: “Why do I always get so upset about everything? I am such a party pooper.”
“Why is she always whining about everything? She is so spoiled.”
Accept the low state and be kind to yourself and others: “Seems like I am having a rough day, I am in a low state, nothing to worry about, I will come around soon enough.”
“She is having a rough day today. She usually does not act like this. Once she pulls herself together she will get back to her cheery self.”
2. Be kind to others:
Bad moods can also taint our perceptions of our kids and spouses. Behavior that was considered normal one day may seem contentious and irksome when one is feeling down. Resentment can fester and the blame game starts. If we recognize that our bad mood is the cause of the negativity we can avoid conflict:
Blaming others: “Why do you kids have to complain about everything? You are so annoying and rude!”
Recognizing the low state: “I must be in a really bad mood, everything they do or say is bothering me. Even the things that they do regularly that I usually don’t notice.”
3. Don’t do anything:
Many health professionals recommend postponing any important decisions until good humor is restored. Discussions of a serious nature should be avoided as well, until everyone is feeling happy. It is fair for family members to say to one another:
“I am feeling overwhelmed right now. I need to let you know later if I can chaperone for your school trip.”
“I am not in the best of moods, can we have this discussion another time?”
4. Take a breather:
When emotions are running high it is the time for everyone to take a break from each other. When members of your family are not getting along, gently encourage them to find a quiet place to recharge. Parents can do this by role modeling:
“Boy, I am in a bad mood. I need a couple of minutes of quiet to pull myself out of this funk. I’ll be in my room if you need me.”
Family life is not always easy and can be full of strife. But there are ways to keep us far from machloket even during these tough summer months.
Adina Soclof, MS. CCC-SLP, 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 also runs parentingsimply.com.
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.