For us… “The Grown-ups”- the holidays are a festive time. We travel to the homes of family and friends, or invite them into ours. We show off our children and indulge in recipes from our own childhoods. While we like to think the kids are enjoying themselves, that’s often not the case.
Unfortunately, for some children this is a time of crazy chaos, uncomfortable clothes that need to stay neat, sitting still for photographs, lengthy car rides and of course, getting kissed and hugged on by family members they may only see once or a twice a year. To them, – strangers. Children’s physical appearance and academic growth are usually in judgment during these annual meetings. Height, weight, age — grades, social standings. All these factors are what many people talk about when they don’t really know the child well enough to talk about anything else. To kids, it’s placing them in the hot seat.
Let’s face it – children would rather be grounded to their rooms for life than endure these holiday horrors. It’s not hard to imagine how all of this can cause the holidays to be a hassle and bring out the worst in them. This time of year should be fun for all! Grown-ups and children alike. Manners can be taught in a relaxed and fun way that offer up much better results than high expectations and awkward questioning.
Grandparents, parents and friends can help ease the “agony” of holiday gatherings by following some of these helpful hints on teaching children proper etiquette and good manners in a way that is beneficial to all.
1. The Menu- Face it, we would like them to try all the different and sometimes foreign dishes on the table- but having a few “kid friendly” and familiar dishes like homemade mac & cheese will bring a smile to their face. This also assures that they eat something that’s a little better for them than cake and without ensuing an argument with force feeding tactics.
2. The Attire – Allow them to bring a change of clothes along. Try to get picture-taking out of way as soon as possible and always before food is served. They’ll be much more comfortable and you’ll know for sure that there won’t be any punch on the front of that dress shirt.
3. Participation- Encourage children to participate in some of the meal preparation. This can become messy and slow things down a bit, but the pride they show when that dish comes to the table is worth it. Cooking together is a great way to enjoy spending time with your child. It allows you to teach them a valuable life skill – and even get a jump-start on passing down family cooking traditions.
4. Education – Teach them an etiquette rule for the day. A fun example would be how to make a toast. Explain to them that a toast should last only a few seconds and is meant to make others feel good. They can make a toast to welcome the family, to show special appreciation to a particular family member, or tell what they are grateful for. Remind them that the person being toasted should never drink to themselves.
5. Decorations – Let them be a part of decorating the holiday table. Send them on a scavenger hunt for holiday decorations to accessorize the table with. Go along with what they choose, it won’t be the perfect table but it will show creative holiday character and your family’s ability to work together.
6. Relaxation – Try to keep things light-hearted. Your children want to enjoy the holiday, so let them! If you’re hosting the get together- don’t use linens or tableware that will cause you to go into a panic when sticky fingers stain it or drop food on it. Before correcting your child for any behavior make sure that it’s truly warranted. Punish in private, praise in public. Expecting them to exude the same decorum as an adult is probably not very realistic. If you feel something must be addressed do so quietly and quickly. There’s no reason to go into a 20 minute lecture over placing elbows on the table in the middle of the meal and in the presence of your guests.
7. Indulgence – The holidays are special occasions. Will having a piece of pie, and a candy cane with hot chocolate really matter in the grand scheme of things? Maybe not but try to continue to practice healthy eating habits the majority of the time. Go ahead and let your kids be kids and sample annual gooey goodies.
8. Compliments- Show praise and compliment each child equally for all the considerate deeds they did that day. Let them know how grateful you are for them. Be sure to show the children how to compliment your hosts if your family is dining away from home.
9. Clean Up- Encourage them to be involved in the clean up, especially if you’re the host! There are lots of things they can help with. It will make things easier for you, and assure the littles will feel involved.
10. Activity – I don’t think I need to remind you what idle hands or idle minds can do. Prepare holiday crafts, choose family games appropriate for all ages. Have conversations at the dinner table that EVERYONE has the ability to participate. Ask related questions of the children when having a discussion at the dinner table — this will assure your children learn great social skills while feeling accepted.
All these activities will help to create positive holiday memories.