Making Rosh Hashanah Meaningful for Your Kids
How to help your kids connect to the significance of the Jewish new year.
We want our kids to identify with their rich heritage and realize the significance of Rosh Hashanah.
We want them to appreciate that Rosh Hashanah is a sacred time, a special time to ask God for a good year and to assess our life's direction.
These concepts are profound and can be hard for children to understand. Therefore, it's important that we prepare our children before Rosh Hashanah so that when the day arrives they can experience its import.
Sometimes the best approach is the direct approach. Sit down with your children and talk to them about Rosh Hashanah. Think about your family situation to decide how this will work best: Either formally, like during dinner – ideally screen-free, or informally before bedtime, or when the kids are hanging out on the couch together.
Prepare yourself a little bit before talking to them. Children have a very short attention span, so you don't want to give a longwinded speech. You can start by asking them, "This weekend is Rosh Hashanah. What do you know about Rosh Hashanah?"
Use their answers as a springboard for your discussion. Then navigate the conversation to the concepts of Rosh Hashanah. You can explain that every once in a while businessmen sit down to assess how their company is doing. Is it earning enough money? How can they get more customers?
Our lives are just as important as a business, and once a year we have to sit down to assess how we're doing. We should think about the different aspects of our lives, friends, family, and school and see what we can improve. On Rosh Hashanah, we commit to bettering ourselves.
Ask your kids where they want to improve this year.
Ask your kids for some ideas. In what areas do they want to improve this year? Are they nice to their friends? Are they applying themselves to school? Do they help out enough at home?
You might also want to brainstorm as a family. What areas can the family improve in this year? As a family, perhaps you would like to commit yourselves to talking more calmly in your home, perhaps you'd all like to volunteer for a non-profit organization together.
If you want, you can show your kids a picture of a shofar – or a real one if you have one. Explain that the shofar is a symbol of Rosh Hashanah. The shofar is blown to wake us up from living a life of habit and start making positive changes.
Another important Rosh Hashanah idea is that God will be judging us and deciding what kind of year we will have. On Rosh Hashanah, we pray and ask Him for a good year.
The concepts regarding commitment to change and growth and prayer are mature ideas, but our children have just experienced a year of development and maturity. Their world has turned upside down and their social activities have been limited or curtailed. They have been forced to learn that living life means choosing priorities and that health and family are much more important than hanging out with friends. This new reality may have even pushed them to existential questions like what is the meaning of life.
This new maturity will help them understand the concepts you are discussing with them. They truly understand that we must pray for a year of blessing, a year of good health, a year during which they will be able to meet with their friends and go to a party without fear of catching a disease.
Talking with your children about Rosh Hashanah will make the holiday much more meaningful for them. Not only that, it will make the holiday more meaningful for us parents too!
May the entire Jewish Nation be blessed with a happy, healthy sweet new year!