The festive season is one of the holidays when we all feel compelled to visit some of our family, yet this is the time of year that family fights seem to be most prevalent, resulting in disappointment.
The reason for this hostility is probably pretty simple: stress. “You know my parents don’t like your table manners, so please try to eat in a civilised manner,” you say. “You know my parents don’t approve of your working and putting the kids in day care. Try to act like you know their birthdays and whether they’ve had their shots,” counters your husband. If that sort of exchange has ever happened in your family, don’t be under any misconceptions – your children will pick up on the tension.
Follow these 5 tips to help your young children adapt to the changes brought about by holiday visits:
Rehearse and prepare
Even though you went to grandma’s last summer, your three-year-old may not remember it. Show pictures taken at that time and tell stories about the visit to prepare your children for the house rules. Alert your children to any health problems they might see and not understand. To avoid any embarrassing questions, tell you little one to discuss things with you in private and tell her it’s ok to look but not to stare.
Take along as many familiar and beloved objects as you can carry – favourite toys, books, special snacks, stuffed animals, pillows and blankets. And don’t forget to take all these treasures home with you when you leave.
Alert your hosts of special needs or problems
If there are any events that trigger upsets in your children, be sure to communicate this. For example, if your children are used to eating at the same times every day, but your family tends to be more relaxed about meal times, take along a few convenience meals and make sure there are plenty of snacks available.
Pets can also be a problem. If you don’t have pets at home, books and stories about pets can help prepare your child to not be overly scared of the animals, and to understand how to give them appropriate, gently affection.
Don’t over-sell the visit
Don’t promise too much. Chances are, your child will indeed have a wonderful time. But if they are expecting too much, even a feast of experiences may not appear to be enough. And let them know you are going to want to do some talking just with the other grown-ups and that you expect them to be able to play by themselves some of the time.
Find moments to be alone with your children
During holiday visits, we always want to do our share of the cooking and the clean-up. You may find yourself getting more tired than at home, even if there are plenty of people to share the work. Both you and your children will need a few quiet moments (perhaps at bedtime) to share stories about the day, to read a book, sing a song together, or reflect on what might be happening at home. And your parents will probably appreciate those moments for a bit of sharing on their own. Too much togetherness is toxic. These precious moments will help to keep things on an even keel for all the participants and help ensure that the holiday visit lives up to your expectations.
Written by Dr. Bettye M. Caldwell Ph.D. Professor of Paediatrics in Child Development and Education on behalf of Fisher-Price.
Parenting advice is given as a suggestion only. We recommend you also consult your healthcare provider.