We’ve come this far – we are almost there! It’s a wonderful time of year, the month of Nissan is a time of rebirth and it follows the enjoyable happy month of Adar. In a few days, we will be sitting around the Yom Tov table with our homes clean and clear of Chometz.
When you finally sit down to the Seder table how can we make it enjoyable for the children and ourselves. Below I use some of the basics of attachment theory to encourage a most enjoyable and relaxed Seder table:
1) Attunement: Being aware of and responsive to another. People are attuned to each other when they tune in to notice how the other is feeling. An example of being attuned at the Seder table would be the way you pause deliberately when you notice one of your children has something she wants to say, when you see from her body language that she has something to say. When we are not attuned, we may go on with the Seder and end up with a temper tantrum: silent or aggressive.
2) Boundaries: Boundaries are healthy safety limits that we set between ourselves and others, both physically and emotionally. An example of this at the Seder would be leaving enough space between the children at the table so that one does not invade the other’s physical space. Rather have an extra table set up than a crowded table.
3) Co-regulation: A form of interaction where one person helps to regulate the other by being attuned and present. You can co-regulate your child when he/she is triggered by an uncomfortable experience. An example of this at the Seder would be when one child gets upset, you as the adult, can help him calm down using facial expression, tone of voice or words. In my book The Parent-Child Dance I explain facial expression as follows: “Show your child you really are interested in him, and validate his experience by your non-verbal affect, both with facial expressions and gestures. ….Looking into his eyes in a friendly way, and moving your head slightly toward him when you and he speak; leaning your body toward him; stepping toward him; raising your shoulders’ and so on.”
4) Coherent Narrative: A story that is clear and easy to understand, and linked in a logical sequence. Bringing the story of Pesach “alive” helps children place our history in a logical sequence. Friends have shared so many creative ideas on making the Pesach Seder exciting and full of engagement – such as red jello for the Ma’akah of Dam, and toy frogs for Tzifardayah and other small and inexpensive toys and candies. You can also bring life experience into the Seder by talking of your own personal redemption experiences using the “I” (so long as it is age appropriate). This will help children truly connect to the feeling of being saved.
5) Dopamine: A neurochemical in the brain that provides us with the sense of pleasure and reward after completing some action from getting a smile or thinking positive thoughts, or winning an award. Some people who do not get their need for dopamine met in a healthy way will exhibit risk taking behaviors or need novelty on a consistent basis. For children who seek excitement, giving them a warm engaging smile and periodic compliments on the positive behaviors that you are seeing at the Seder table can help fill their dopamine seeking needs. In addition the novel toys and candies mentioned above will be helpful for your dopamine seekers!
6) Emotional Safety: For the purpose of this article, emotional safety is a state in which a person feels emotionally safe from judgment. Providing each child with time to say their thoughts and ideas about the Seder without laughing, smirking, or judging their delivery gives them emotional safety and enjoyment of the Seder.
7) Insight: A new understanding of a person, situation or thing. Ask and encourage insightful questions and answers. Insights have a marked influence on gaining engagement. Through self-reflection, realizations, and new perceptions, children can enjoy expanding on what they have learned in day school.
8) Nonverbal Communication: Includes gestures, facial expressions, and body positions. Use body language to “tell” the children you are present and listening and engaged in what they have to say.