Yom Kippur is known as the day of atonement and is considered by many to be the most important holiday in Judaism. What does such a momentous and solemn day mean for young children? How can we introduce and involve them in the holiday in an age appropriate manner?
The High Holidays are a wonderful time to dig deep and explore the value of "I'm sorry," with young children. While children may be too young for some of the rituals associated with Yom Kippur, like fasting, kids of all ages understand the weight of "saying sorry" and "doing better."
Here are four ways that young children can take part on Yom Kippur:
Give Something Up
Encourage children who are old enough to consider giving something up for the day while the adults are fasting. This might be candy or sweets or something like fighting with a sibling. Use the idea of a "junk food fast" or a technology fast as a way to help children set goals and challenge themselves. Letting kids self regulate is also a fantastic opportunity for teaching self reliance and honesty. If your child promises to use the day to fast from technology, it's on them to not sneak in screen time. Older children and adults who cannot fast can also recite this meditation.
Families can start the day by saying sorry to each other or talking all together about moments or events that they wish they'd handled differently. You can sit and read a story about forgiveness, make a list of people to apologize to, or use puppets and stuffed animals to act out and model saying sorry. In addition to issuing apologies, practice and discuss the much more difficult act of accepting apologies and forgiving others.
During the High Holidays we reflect on the past year and work on moving forward and doing better in the year ahead. We do teshuva to fix our actions and behaviors and do better in the coming year. One of the best ways to look forward to the coming year is to make resolutions. Kids may decide that they'll try to make sure to reach out to the child who is picked last for kickball or to sit with someone at lunch. Adults might resolve to not participate in gossip or to call friends more often.
Do Some Good
Part of celebrating the High Holidays is looking forward to improving ourselves and the world in the coming year. Start a family tzedakah practice, do some volunteer work, or make a donation to a favorite charity.
Are you looking for a good book to introduce Yom Kippur to children? Read a story like Sammy Spider's First Yom Kippur for children under five, and The Hardest Word for older kids.
September 5, 2019