Yom Tov. It’s such a special time, but can be so hard, too.
There’s the special hisorerus from the chag, special tefillos and meals, having the family together, time to sit down together and just enjoy each other…
But sometimes it gets to be a bit too much. Stress levels running high, lots of people packed into small places, sugar highs and overtired little kids (and mommies!) can make for a Yom Tov that’s not all that you hoped it would be.
Many mothers I work with struggle to find the balance between work and play – maintaining the routines and bedtimes, while still allowing for some wiggle room as you accommodate other family members.
I’d like to preface this post by saying: if what you’re doing works for you, then keep doing what you’re doing! I’ve put together these tips for those families that it’s NOT working for – and I know they’re out there, because I’ve spoken with them :).
If you’re going to be going away for Yom Tov, I’ve got a guide for you to grab to help you stay on track when you’ve got Yom Tov AND a new place to contend with.
But whether you’ll be at home or away, here are 3 tips to help you stay on track with your kiddos’ sleep over Yom Tov:
Bedtime is Bedtime.
I know this is going to sound very off the beaten path for some of you, so hang in with me, okay?
If your child is less than 3 years of age there is no reason for him to be up if it’s usually a time that he’s asleep. Shall I repeat that? There is no reason for a child under 3 to be up when he’s usually asleep. That means that the nighttime meals (which are, in most places, always after 7:00, the ideal bedtime) are out of the picture entirely. Daytime meals may or may not be, depending on when his nap is.
Sound controversial? In some communities it may be (I know in my community it is!), but I’d like you to look at this with an open mind.
You have no obligation of chinuch for a child below 3 years of age. None at all. You don’t say brachos with him, he doesnt wear a yarmulke and tzitzis (I’m laughing, imagining doing this with an 8 month old), none of all of that, right?
You do, however, want both your baby or toddler and the rest of your family to be calm and happy over Yom Tov so you can be calm and happy too; right? Well, for most babies, calm and overtired just don’t go together. Something’s going to have to give, and I think most of us would prefer to drop the overtired and keep the calm.
And that’s going to mean it’s bedtime and naptime as usual.
Does that mean that you’ll have to be a wee bit more prepared in advance so that you have time to get everything ready before Yom Tov starts, while still carving out a 30 minute chunk for bedtime? Maybe. But is it worth it? Totally.
If your child is above 3 (so you DO have an obligation of chinuch) that’s a different matter entirely. I do recommend exploring different options with your husband and rav. Some families will allow the child to stay up for one or two nights over Yom Tov, so long as they take a nap beforehand. Some families will still put young children to bed before the meal.
Keep in mind that those 12 hours of uninterrupted nighttime sleep are super important for your little one – up until the age of 7 or so – and that well-rested children usually will not be able to sleep in the next day.
As always, keeping consistent is key in ensuring success.
Forget about naps. For a day.
Most well-rested children don’t sleep as well on the go as overtired children do. And many more sensitive babies – well-rested or not – don’t do so well with naps in a noisy environment or on the go.
During the rest of the year, it may not be such a problem, but with the clamoring for Chol Hamoed trips, it can put some families in a pickle.
I generally recommend choosing one day to forget about being careful with naps – on the go, in the zoo, whatever and wherever – and be prepared that your kiddo might need a slightly earlier bedtime that day.
For the other days, it’s best to either do family activities that allow for naps to happen at the proper times, or have someone stay home with the napping child.
Why just one day? I’ve found that one day usually doesnt do too much to throw the schedule off. When it’s more than that, however, a young baby can easily become dependent on motion sleep, and both younger babies and older babies and toddlers can become so thrown off and overtired that it will be a real struggle to get them back on track after Yom Tov.
Stay Calm, Stay Confident
The extra hustle and bustle can be confusing and overwhelming for babies and little kids. Young toddlers old enough to understand the concept of Shabbos, but dont remember the last Yom Tov can be especially confused by two (or three!) days of “Shabbos.” Having other guests or family members over, or going away can add extra confusion for them.
But you can help them get through it a whole lot better when YOU’re calm. Do your best to keep your cool even when things get nutty. Check your demeanor during bedtime and naptime routines – are you stressed? constantly checking your watch? Preparing in advance whenever possible will help make that special time of day just as special as it always is.
And lastly – be sure to take care of yourself! Overworking yourself is not going to be beneficial to anyone in your family, so giving yourself some self-care time is important for everyone’s simchas Yom Tov.
Wishing you all a freilichen Yom Tov!