(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
You may have missed it, but Yom Hamishpacha (Family Day) was celebrated this week. For those who missed it, or for those who were confused about what exactly it was celebrating, it is Israel’s equivalent of Mother’s Day. Those of you who made aliyah may have noticed Mother’s Day’s absence from the Israeli calendar. In the spirit of gender equality and to reflect the changing nature of families, Mother’s Day has for some years been replaced by Yom Hamishpacha.
Yom Hamishpacha is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate families and every person in them. In ganim and schools throughout the country, Yom Hamishpacha is celebrated by making gifts for parents, creating pictures of the family or by bringing in pictures of your family from home. But Yom Hamishpacha is not such a simple holiday for everyone.
Tal was a bit bewildered when it came to Yom Hamishpacha. In his kindergarten, they were told to draw a picture of their family, but he was not sure which family to draw. Did his family include the older step-brother he doesn’t really know and who only comes home once a month? Did it include his baby half-brother he has not yet seen?
For Shachar, guilt is the prevailing emotion. She didn’t put her father in her picture, as he passed away, but is he still her daddy and still part of her family? Was it right to leave him out?
Eliana was conflicted. She was asked in school to make a posy of flowers for her mom, but felt too shy to ask for extra materials because she wanted to make flowers for both her mom and her step-mom, who she cares about very much. On the way home from school, she threw away the posy, as she felt too guilty just giving the flowers to just one of her moms.
Yom Hamishpacha can be equally hard for parents. In addition to the holidays, it may be another day reminding them that they are not a traditional nuclear family. For some parents who feel alienated from their children, it can be painful to see the other parents receive gifts when they do not.
Luckily, as each year passes, more teachers and ganim are open to the idea of different and varied families than they were in the past. These educators use the opportunity of Yom Hamishpacha to talk about and bring into the open the many different families there are, and normalize and celebrate the idea of what family means, rather than the idea that a family has two parents and children.
Yom Hamishpacha is a great day for families to come together and consolidate their connection to each other. If you didn’t take part in any special activities or celebrate on the actual day, it’s not too late.
Here are some good ideas for families to connect to each other:
• Talk –
Speak to your children about why families are special and what they provide. Explore what qualities make good parents and what contributions children can make to their families. If discussions are hard to start, you could make a conversation starter game. Make a pile of cards, each with a different question on it that might invoke a conversation. Each person in the family can take a turn picking a card and starting the conversation. As well as the questions above, you can find more ideas for conversation starters at ahaparenting.com and other websites. • Create –
Create an art project in which the whole family participates. There are as many ideas as there are families. For inspiration, artfulparent.com has a lot of great designs. Art therapist Laura Applebaum explains that you are never too young or too old to have fun and create. She suggests that each member of the family chooses an item such as a toilet roll, milk carton, cereal box or any item they wish, and decorate it in their own way. Once everyone has decorated their own item, all the family should come together to stick their pieces together into one large sculpture. (If sculpture isn’t your thing, Laura suggests that each family member draw a picture and then stick all the pictures on to one canvas). “The act of creating individually and together embodies the idea of each member of the family’s individualism and their coming together as a family,” she explains. What is important, emphasizes Laura, is that you position the result, in pride of place, your “own family’s masterpiece.”• Play –
Playing a traditional family game such as Monopoly, Scrabble, Snakes and Ladders, Settlers of Catan or Twister can be fun and create feelings of family bonding (as long as the players are not too competitive!). Play therapist Dr. Shoshana Levin Fox, a psychologist specializing in play therapy with young children, explains, “Play is a golden opportunity to get to know your child. When you play with a child you are entering the child’s world, and that creates relationships and opportunities for conversation, and for trust to be built.” Fox adds, “Play is not just child’s play, the child is letting us know about their inner world. If you can find the patience to play with your child, your relationship will grow and develop to another level."
• Give back –
Look at everyone’s contribution to the family and appreciate their contribution. A good activity is for everyone to make “promise cards” for people in the family that promise the recipient you will do a task such as cleaning your room or doing the laundry in appreciation for something they have done for you.
Sometimes we want to connect to our families but simply don’t have the time to do a whole activity. It is important to recognize that even when we can’t spare the time for what we want to do, communication is always an option. Pick up a phone, send a text or an email, small actions that can bring feelings of warmth and connection to our families.
Yom Hamishpacha is a good opportunity to remind ourselves how important family is to us, and to carve out time just for them. It is great to have a day dedicated to families, but we also need to remember that Yom Hamishpacha should not just be an annual occasion. Any day can be Yom Hamishpacha if we decide to make it so. Any day can be the day that you bring your family a little bit closer together. The writer qualified as a lawyer in the UK and then retrained as a licensed mediator in both England and Israel. She currently resides in Jerusalem, where she has a mediation practice specializing in mediation for English-speakers.
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