Most of us probably don’t look forward to Yom Kippur, but if I’m being honest, I think I’m actually dreading it. While it’s challenging enough keeping up with my 4.5-year-old son and twin 20-month-old daughters on a regular day, the idea of chasing them around when I’m weak and dehydrated is pretty daunting. That’s why I’ve taken some time to put together a little survival plan, and I’m here to share it with all of you. Here are a few ways to make Yom Kippur just a bit more doable with young kids in the picture:
1. If you have a spouse or partner, divide the day into shifts. This way, you can take turns entertaining your crew and then resting so you each get a bunch of breaks during the day. For example, decide that one of you gets to sleep in a little while the other tackles breakfast duty. Then, whoever sleeps in should take over so the other person can relax or squeeze in a nap. I recommend rotating every 90 minutes or so, but do whatever works best for you.
2. Find a synagogue with tot programming. If you have young children, you probably know that expecting them to sit still for an hour or more at synagogue just isn’t realistic. But if you’re like me, the idea of skipping services altogether on Yom Kippur also isn’t ideal. That’s why I recommend going someplace with a tot service. This way, you can keep your kids engaged and hopefully work in a little prayer of your own. Plus, for me, going to services isn’t just a spiritual thing; it’s also a good way to help pass the time, so if you’re able to make it over to synagogue, it might actually make the fast easier.
3. Skip services if going is too stressful. On the other hand, Yom Kippur can take a major toll on your body, so if the idea of chasing young kids around synagogue is too exhausting, give yourself a break and stay home. Many rabbis feel that it’s better to stay home on Yom Kippur but uphold the fasting requirements than to go to synagogue but risk breaking the fast in the process. If your goal is to fast on Yom Kippur, and skipping services will help you achieve that objective, do what you need to do.
4. Have a plan for entertainment. When I’m hungry, thirsty, and tired, my creativity goes right out the window. If you’re the same way, do yourself a favor and come up with kid-friendly activities for Yom Kippur in advance. Visit the library earlier in the week and take out a bunch of new books to read. Do a game swap with a friend so your kids have what appear to be new toys on hand to keep their attention. This way, you don’t have to do quite as much thinking when you’re in the throes of exhaustion and self-inflicted starvation.
5. Prepare your kids’ food in advance. Your kids need to eat on Yom Kippur, and as a parent, it’s your job to feed them. But the last thing you want to do on Yom Kippur is stand around smelling and touching their food more than you have to. To limit the torture, prepare as much of your kids’ food as possible in advance. If your child typically eats a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch, make one before the fast starts, stick it in the fridge, and bust it out the next day when your child is ready to eat. You can also cut up certain fruits and vegetables the day before (like melons, pineapple, cucumbers, and peppers), and they won’t get soggy overnight. The less food prep you have to do when you’re starving, the better.
Yom Kippur is a trying day with or without kids, but the more prepared you are, the easier a time you’re likely to have. What tips do you have for surviving a fast day with young children?