During the eight days and nights of Chanukah, we celebrate the triumph of the light of Torah over the darkness of Hellenism. We also celebrate the rededication of the Holy Temple after recovering it from the Greeks. As we focus on the purity that the Maccabees returned to our Temple, we could use these eight holy days to focus on the sanctity in our own holy Jewish homes, removing the destructiveness of negativity and impatience, and rededicating ourselves to behaving in a more loving manner.
The following simple ideas can help put your resolve into action and lead to a warmer, happier home during Chanukah and, hopefully, all year long as well.
1. Speak kindly to your spouse and children. The children are fighting... your spouse forgot to pick up the dry cleaning... Each situation can cause frustration and angry speech. These are perfect situations to try to restrain yourself and speak kindly instead. In the course of everyday conversation try to speak gently, too.
2. Save some energy at the end of the day for your spouse. By the time the children are asleep, dishes washed, bills paid, lunches made, etc... we often don't have much energy left for more than a good book and a cup of tea. This Chanukah, save a little energy and give your spouse some attention. After the house is quiet, have some sufganiot (doughnuts) and tea and enjoy the rare pleasure of sharing a quiet moment together.
3. Overlook something that your spouse does, that you normally find irritating. Whether he left dirty dishes in the sink or she finished the last of the coffee, resolve not to let the little things get to you and see how much warmer your home will feel.
4. Find reasons to praise the children each day. Catch your children at their best and praise them. Did they willingly take a bath? Complete their homework? Finish breakfast? Play nicely together? Pick up toys? Don't wait until a great test grade comes home or a winning soccer goal is scored to extend praise. There is a lot to be proud of in their everyday behavior, too.
5. Smile at each member of your family as he or she comes and goes throughout the day. Smiles are free so give them out liberally. A smile quickly conveys your warm feelings for the other person and reminds them that you love them. Sure, the morning rush is hectic, but we shouldn't be too busy or frazzled to smile at our loved ones as we leave for the day or when we all come home and the homework/dinnertime rush begins.
6. Make Chanukah cookies or do some other activities together with the children. What do your children want most from you? It's not money or trips to Disney World - it's your attention. Make some time just for them during Chanukah. Make Chanukah cookies together (and don't worry about the mess). Sit on the floor with them and play the dreidel game. Create Chanukah decorations together and place them on your front door. Let them peel or grate your potatoes for the latkes along with you. Give them your undivided attention and you'll learn so much about them and enjoy their company, too.
7. Stop being negative or complaining in front of your family. There are always up days and down days. Things happen; keep it in perspective. Don't let your family hear you complaining. Try to be positive. "Oh good, the plumber's coming to fix the dishwasher right away." Refuse to be the source of negativity in your home. The whole family will benefit from a more upbeat atmosphere and you'll show your children that they shouldn't let the little things bring them down.
8. Focus on the Sabbath of Chanukah as a special day for your family. Maybe you don't regularly go to synagogue or light Sabbath candles, but do it for the Sabbath of Chanukah. Take the whole day to be together and focus on the spirituality of the day. Get Chanukah books to read together. Take a walk together. Serve special meals. Sing Sabbath and Chanukah songs together and enjoy the warmth of the Sabbath and the festival as a special family time.
By working to banish negativity from your home this Chanukah, you'll see the warmth of the menorah's lights reflected in each member of your family.