Purim was great this year. It always is because it is one of my most favorite holidays. I love the story of Mordechai and Esther and each year when I hear the Megillah I find something new and interesting to focus on. Although I’m an adult, I still appreciate the candy and all the goodies that come in the Mishloach Manot and I love the creative costumes, Purim Seudah, and just the overall good cheer. Purim is probably the most joyful and fun Jewish holiday. Sometimes I wish we could bottle Purim so our families could be happy like this all the time.
I know, after 17 years of motherhood, that is an unrealistic wish. Part of being a good parent is recognizing that family life is pretty bumpy which is normal. I used to get very upset when things were not always running smoothly and everyone was not on their best behavior. Expecting everyone to be in a good mood all the time is unrealistic, especially when you have a large family. It is better to cherish the good times as a gift and recognize that the bad moods are annoying but standard, usually occurring at some point everyday.
It is not easy to remain calm, cool and detached when you are watching your toddler cry, your teen slam doors, or your spouse getting snippy. Unfortunately, bad moods can be contagious. Negativity breeds negativity. It helps if our bad moods and the bad moods of others are navigated with respect, empathy and acceptance.
Here are 4 ways to help you keep your family happy:
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 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 things they do regularly that I usually don’t notice.”
3. Talk about yourself:
Families who have healthy communication and coping skills will manage the rough spots more effectively. It is helpful for parents to learn ways to deal with the frustrations of everyday life with kids so they can act as role models. Children learn best by observing their parent’s behavior. If parents are calmer and less prone to bad moods, children will naturally follow suit.
In my classes, I teach parents to use one of the most helpful, productive and effective communications tools- the “I” statement. Every member of the family can use this handy skill.
Instead of accusing:
“You are acting like a baby with all this crying and yelling!”
Speak about your feelings:
“I am getting frustrated with all this fighting.”
“I am having trouble holding onto my patience with all the loud fighting going on around me.”
Children can also be taught to use “I” statements:
Instead of accusing:
“You are the meanest brother ever!”
Teach them to speak about themselves:
“I get upset when you tease me about my questions.”
“I don’t like when you touch my stuff without my permission.”
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 chaperon 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.”
We can also set limits. We do want to teach our kids that it is not appropriate to take your bad moods out on others. We can say:
“When you are in a bad mood, you need to find a place away from everyone to calm down and pull yourself together. We need to maintain a quiet and calm home.”
Purim is a great time to start working on keeping our family happy by respecting, empathizing, accepting and finally setting limits on our families’ bad moods. In this way, the happiness that we feel on Purim can spill over onto the rest of our year.
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.