For me, parshat Ki Tisa evokes images of the golden calf and the accompanying frivolity, Moshe smashing the tablets and the second set of Luchot. But in light of current world events, it was mention of the construction of a copper washbasin for the Mishkan that caught my eye this week. This large basin with two faucets was used by the Kohanim to wash their hands and feet before beginning their service.
Hygiene and hand washing are a hot topic right now as we deal with the COVID -19 pandemic.
Here are some other guidelines that may be useful to allay our kids fears and help them during this time of uncertainty.
1. Limit your own anxiety
Kids follow our lead – both verbal cues and our body language- so if you are feeling overly anxious seek out help for yourself first.
2. Discuss coronavirus with your kids
Trust and open communication between parents and children is always our goal, here too, our children should be able to turn to us for clarification and guidance.
You don’t have to wait for them to ask you about coronavirus, initiate conversation.
It is preferable for you to be the source of information rather than their friends – you are far more likely to provide correct information.
No need to overwhelm them with details and information, keep it relevant and developmentally appropriate.
3. Don’t shut them down
Allow them to express their feelings, even if they are scared or fearful don’t dismiss their negative feelings. Also do not promise them that you/they won’t get coronavirus. You don’t know that. Rather, reassure them that there are medical professionals dealing with it worldwide and that you have each other and will deal with whatever may come.
4. Limit access to the media
Constantly rehashing the same information doesn’t help. Staying up to date does not require constantly checking social media or being bombarded by the news. Reduce your family’s exposure to the media.
5. Empower your kids
Focus on what we can do, let them know how they can help out and be practical and active.
Remind them of general hygiene rules such as limited physical contact, no handshakes, to avoid touching their face and to be regularly washing their hands with soap.
Encourage creativity – what song can we sing that takes 20 seconds whilst we wash our hands? Can you think up a new greeting that requires little physical contact?
Provide them with tissues and a hand sanitizer.
Think up ways to do chessed and help out neighbors and friends in self-quarantine – phoning them or dropping in food or crafts.
It is vital that we listen to the health officials and do whatever we can, but remember that emunah and tefilla are important tools too.
This week when we sit around the Shabbat table and we find ourselves spending too long discussing COVID-19, let us shift our focus to the parsha, remind ourselves of the importance of ritual hand washing for the Kohanim, and washing for hygiene purposes for ourselves. Think up other practical ideas, then move on to the many other fascinating topics in the parsha like the golden calf and the luchot!