Posted December 27, 2010on:
Yes, there are ways to take the drama out of holiday visits when you have children in tow.
1. Empty the car trunk. Visits often include taking gifts and bringing gifts home. Put children in their car seats and all of the extras in the trunk. Bring baby foods and needs and pajamas for little ones. If you are bringing food, it is worth your while to pack it in sturdy boxes (even a cooler or large duffel bag) and put it in the trunk. Food on the seat with children or on the floor doesn’t work. If there is any possible way to bring food ahead of time, this is always your best bet.
2. Keep children as close to their routine as possible. Loading little ones in a car to start a visit at 7:00 at night is asking for trouble. If children fall asleep in the car, ask if you can tuck them into a quiet spot and let them sleep. If little ones get cranky on a visit, take them home if possible. If not, find as quiet a place and read a story or just offer a hug and your lap.
3. Pick your battles. If green beans are served and your child doesn’t want them, it’s not the end of the world. Keep some favorite foods in baggies in your purse. What’s wrong with Cheerios or crackers? There’s a reason families have a “kid’s table” (and it’s absolutely true that most adults would like to sit there!)
4. Just because you child-proof your home, don’t assume other people do. Be very observant of your children. Hard candies, nuts, cocktails and small game pieces are often prevalent at a holiday gathering. The host and hostess are in charge of the party. You are in charge of your children.
5. Be with your child. If your child whines that they want you to go to the bathroom with them or play with them or sit next to them, please do it. A house full of busy adults with a lot of commotion can be stressful to young children. You are their stabilizer. Also remember everyone wants to see a new baby, but this is very stressful to the baby. Please don’t pass babies around.
6. Set some ground rules ahead of time with older children and be part of their activities.
Older children like to show off and be loud at large gatherings. They have learned very early that you don’t want to cause a scene, so they tend to try to get away with what they can. Know where your children are and what they are doing – at every age.
7. Understand that young children will not gush over the sweater that Aunt Mary gives them or jump up and down when they open the gloves from Uncle Mark. If they are in the spotlight, they will be wary – and you know they would rather have toys. Please say “thank you” from you and your child with a pleasant remark for each gift. A thank you note, phone call or small token (a picture or photo) should be sent to each gift giver. Children should contribute to this.
8. Most children do not want to hug and kiss each adult at a large gathering. Please don’t start or end the visit with “Go over and give everyone a kiss hello / good-bye. “ This sets children up for stress. You can give everyone a warm hello / good-by and say a heartfelt thank you from your family.
Lydia Maria Child wrote a happy, go-lucky song that has become a classic
“Over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house we go….”
I don’t think Ms. Child ever went for a holiday visit with real children.
-Kate Dust, EduKids Education Director