Holidays can be stressful for children of all ages. Schedule changes, parties, parades, presents- all of the excitement can throw any child into a tailspin! Today we will have some ideas for parents to help their child get through the holidays with success.
Rhonda Osisek is a speech and language pathologist who specializes in social communication in children. She is the owner of Social Learning, LLC in Virginia Beach and the creator of The Social Butterflies Club® Social Skills Program.
How can parents best prepare their children for the upcoming holidays?
Some of the best ways to prepare children of all ages are to give them visuals. For instance, we recommend looking through photos of family members that you will see this holiday season. Remind your child of their names. Also, show your child the calendar for the week of Christmas. Note the days off from school, the adjusted schedules, and the time of your activities.
What if you are traveling out of town?
Traveling can create so much anxiety in children in general. We always advise parents to once again use visuals as much as possible. Take the time to sit down with your child and talk to them a few days before you leave. Mark it on the calendar and count down the days with your child. Pull up a map on the internet to show your child where you are going. Look at some pictures of the place that you will be going for the holiday. Discuss the expected behaviors prior to the trip and remind them along the way.
What if you are flying with your child over the holidays?
If you are flying, pull pictures/maps of the airport off the internet, Mark the gate numbers on the picture/map, Talk about the airline and what the planes will look like, Talk about the seat numbers that you will be sitting in, prepare them for security, Pack a bag of “favorite things” for your child to do while he’s on the plane. Books to read, headphones & music to listen to, movies to watch, etc., Set a timer so that he/she can see how long the flight will take and when it will be over. Also, arrive early on the day of your flight. Most airlines will allow families with young children to board first. If you have an older child, ask before the airline begins boarding if you can board with the families because your child has anxiety about flying.
How about holiday manners?
Social skills are really a set of unspoken rules that are expected in a given situation. We practice and role play holiday situations in our groups. Parents can do this at home as well. Explain what will be expected of your child- for instance, if it is a formal event you can discuss the clothes you will wear, how to greet adults at the event, and behaviors that are expected. If you are having a family dinner, you can tell your child what is expected at the dinner table. How to use polite words such as “Please” and “Thank You”. How to handle a situation when something is served that is not appealing to them- how to politely decline. Another topic we like to address is what to do if you receive a gift that you do not like. We give the children a script of what to say and how to be polite about gift receiving.