We have finished siman 2, in which the Chayei Adam listed some examples of the proper age to begin chinuch in specific mitzvos. We have discussed the examples of lulav, talmud torah, birchas hamazon, brachos in general, kiddush, shema, tefillah and netilas yadayim. Today, we will discuss havdala.
The same way there is a chiyuv chinuch to be mechaneich a child in kiddush when they reach the age of chinuch, there is a chiyuv chinuch for havalah as well. Although generally, the halacha is that one may not eat or drink before havdala, Chazal did not institute that element to a katan, as we learned regarding kiddush (shiur 1279).
If the katan is making havdala themselves, they make a bracha on besamim and ner, the same way an adult does. The question arises regarding shabbasos which end late, way past a child’s bedtime. There are two options. The halacha is that technically, even an adult can make havdala from plag hamincha and onwards. They cannot light a candle, but they recite borei pri hagefen and the bracha of hamavdil. Alternatively, the halacha is that if an adult forgot to make havdala on motzei shabbos, they can still recite havdala until Tuesday afternoon before shkia. Similarly, in such a situation, one only recites borei pri hagefen and the bracha of hamavdil.
The poskim assume that the latter option is preferable. Although the first option is sourced in a Gemara in maseches Brachos, it is something looked upon as strange by the general population, because it seems to be a contradiction to shabbos, and may lead people to mistakenly do melacha when they are still unable to. Therefore, one should wait until Sunday morning. Similarly, a child should wait until Sunday morning rather than make havdala early.
Regarding a child, if the child waits until morning, presumably all of the adults will have made havdala on motzei shabbos, so the child will need to make havdala on their own. If the child is unable to drink the cup, there is a concept of chamar medina, that a drink which replaces wine as a primary drink can be used for havdala. Rav Moshe understands that people drink wine not only due to thirst, but because of the element of kavod and social connection inherent in wine. Therefore, in order for a drink to qualify as chamar medina, it must meet those criteria; in other words, it must be a drink over which people get together. For example, people get together for a cup of tea or a cup of coffee. However, people do not get together to drink coke, but rather it is drunk for thirst or out of taavah. Although some poskim suggest that a child who is unable to drink a cup of tea or coffee could use a cup of milk, Rabbi Reingold does not see the heter based on the teshuva of Rav Moshe.
From the age of chinuch (six or seven) a child has a chiyuv to say or hear havdala.
He or she may eat before havdala.
If a child is unable to stay up on motzei shabbos for havdala, they should make their own havdala the next day, skipping the besamim and ner. If they are unable to drink a cup of wine or grape juice, they can use chamar medina, which includes tea or coffee.