The holidays are often the times when you and your child are with relatives you don’t see very often. Of course, you want your child to be on their best behavior.  So, then why does she sometimes act her worst?

Think about the whole thing from your child’s perspective. She walks into a room full of people. Although they are relatives, she doesn’t know them very well and is still expected to give hugs and kisses. She is expected to share toys with cousins she doesn’t know. She is reminded (often with a disapproving tone of voice) in front of everyone to use manners such as putting her napkin in her lap although you rarely do that at home. She is asked to sleep in an unfamiliar house and eat unfamiliar food.The stimulation is considerably higher and different from what she normally experiences.

It is like being immersed in a foreign country where all the customs, people, and food are different. Then receiving blame for not following the proper social etiquette with which you are unfamiliar. Your senses are overwhelmed but you can’t catch a break from it.

What can You Do to Make the Holiday Easier? 

    • Before you go, show your child pictures of your relatives. Remind your child of their names. Tell stories about them.  


    •  Have “manners nights” at home before you go. Have the child practice making eye contact, shaking hands, or whatever is considered important in your family. Make a game of following all the manners. If there is tension when you teach your child, then your child will have a negative association with manners. Make it light and relaxed. Practice this over many evenings because it takes a while to form a habit.    


    • Tell your child, in advance, how long the trip will be, where she will be staying, what the room might be like, etc. Each morning review that day’s schedule with her. 


    • Have some time during the day during which your child goes to their room or to another place for some quiet time and/or rejuvenation. She will need a break from all the stimulation. 


  • Watch the sugar intake. Two pieces of cake for a thirty pound child is roughly like eight pieces of cake for a 120 pound person. How do you feel when you have had eight pieces of cake? 

After considering things from your child’s perspective, you will realize how hard it is for her and what more you can do to make things more understandable.