5 Merry Manners to Help Kids Handle the Holiday Season

‘Tis the season for celebrations both large and small, and with that, tired and generally overwhelmed children to bring along. 

Holidays often come with big expectations and many of those expectations are set on our children to stay pleasant and generally well-behaved. However, most parents will agree that expectations rarely meet reality. 

Support children through the busy festive season and encourage important social skills by focusing on preparation and positive reinforcement (and remember to pack extra patience as well!). 

Take time to prepare children by reviewing upcoming events on the calendar one at a time, as they near. Talk through what the event is, when it will be, how you will get there, what will happen when you’re there, who they can expect to see and so on. This will help your child to visualize the event and begin preparing their own expectations for what’s to come. 

Once your child is able to visualize the event, these 5 Merry Manners will ensure your child feels prepared and confident in different situations which shows through kind and respectful behavior. 

  1. Dress for the Occasion

Begin by distinguishing “play clothes” from “party clothes” and share how the way we dress is one way we can show respect to the host. 

Wearing something slightly different than what’s usual also helps to distinguish the event from a typical day. Allow your child some freedom in choosing something that is comfortable, appropriate and perhaps in their favorite color, which will also help to boost their confidence. 

  1. Practice Greetings

Prior to the party, share with your child who they can expect to see there. Practice simple greetings beforehand and give your child options for how to handle each one. Perhaps they aren’t comfortable giving hugs, so practice giving a handshake or high-five instead. 

The important thing is to make sure your child feels comfortable saying hello and using eye contact while saying hello and goodbye. 

  1. Use Your Table Manners. 

It’s impossible to expect children to use table manners at a nice dinner if they are rarely practiced at home. Now is the time to focus on those skills at home so that they come naturally in different settings. 

Sitting up straight, using the napkin and utensils correctly and participating in conversation are all important table manners which will make shared meals more enjoyable. 

  1. Opening Gifts with Grace.

Perhaps what makes holidays stand out the most is the giving and receiving of gifts. Gifts are often the wild card and tend to be when a child’s expectations are exceeded, or crushed. 

If gifts will be shared, prepare your child ahead of time by discussing how to handle different situations. Remind your child that a gift is a symbol of love, kindness and generosity and should be received as such – even if it’s not exactly what they wanted. Make a plan for how to handle gifts they don’t like (say thank you and discuss options privately afterwards) or if they already have it or receive two of the same items (Wow! You both really know me well!). 

  1. The Gift of Gratitude. 

At the end of the day, the holidays are all about gratitude. Gratitude for the gifts received, the time spent together, and the acts of kindness we share. Model gratitude by saying thank you and writing thank you notes and encourage your child to do the same. 

Oftentimes, we hold children to high expectations when it comes to behavior, sometimes higher than what we expect of ourselves. Do the best you can to prepare your child for what’s to come while encouraging these important skills, but most of importantly, remember to give them extra grace, compassion and support during this most festive (and overwhelming) time of year.