How to Talk to Kids About Brit Milah

Cut and dry?

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You may also be able to introduce more nuanced ideas like "relationship" or "covenant," which evoke give and take (e.g. "God promises Abraham that he will be the father to the Jewish people if Abraham promises God that the Jews will follow God's laws, and this agreement is what we remember when we have a bris"). Children at this age may understand the idea of give and take because they themselves are navigating relationships with friends and the rules that govern them.

The Event Itself

The brit milah ceremony brings about transformation not only for the newborn, but also for each of the parents as they assume new roles, and for older children who have recently gained a new sibling.

Think about how to show each child special attention during this transitional time, to help them feel loved and secure. At the bris itself, deciding where they sit and with whom (e.g. on a grandparent's lap, holding their favorite relative's hand, or with a close friend) will help convey those feelings. You might think about giving them an age-appropriate role during the ceremony. Any task, from handing out programs to carrying up the kiddush cup to walking in with the baby (accompanied by an adult), will make them feel important on this day.

It's also useful to think about your children's temperament when you decide where they sit or stand, and how much of the ceremony they will see. Some kids are squeamish at the mere mention of blood, while others aren't. Assessing how they might react will help you determine where they are situated during the event, and who you assign to be with them.

However you decide to talk to your children about a bris, it will not be the first or last opportunity that you have. At whatever stage you speak with them, maintain open communication, and be available to answer questions. As your child becomes a sibling to a new baby brother, understand that the bris is just part of a larger context of changes in your child’s life.

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Dasee Berkowitz

Dasee Berkowitz is the founder and lead consultant for JLife Consulting, service which offers educational workshops to couples and families to prepare them for their life cycle events.