Toddlers are not always at their best in strange situations, so here are some suggestions for enjoying time with friends and extended family while still helping your toddler feel comfortable.
- Prepare your child. Show your child pictures of the people and the places they will see. Talk about them, and share your fond memories. Talk about what will happen. “First we’ll see Grandma and Grandpa, then we’ll eat at a big table…”
- Allow your child to stay close. Of course relatives and friends will want to greet, photograph and snuggle with your precious little one, but at first your child will probably want to stay close to you, as you are the one thing with which they are familiar. Let him stay close while he gets his bearings. Allow your child to be first to walk away from your side, rather than the other way around. When you leave a room, let your child know where you’re going so that they will not feel worried when they look around and you are not there.
- Refrain from asking your child to perform. Children (just like adults) get anxious when lots of people are looking at them expectantly. Even something simple, like saying, “hello” or “goodbye” might not come easily when your child is anxious. Share stories about things that your child is doing at home and school, but don’t ask your child to do them on command for an audience.
- Keep to your routine as much as possible. When so many things are new and different, keeping other things the same will help your child feel secure. Bring along your child’s pillow and blanket from home for naps. Bring one or two of her favorite books.
- Involve your child in the gathering. Rather than sending your child off to stay out of the way, involve her in preparing meals, setting the table, and tidying up. It helps them to feel like a valuable member of the family, and keeps their little hands busy.
- Be patient. Understand that while family gatherings bring so much joy to adults, they take a lot of effort on the part of your child and drain their energy. Make time to give your child the extra love, attention and rest they need to get through the day. (Be patient with yourself as well…you’re working just as hard at this as they are!)
Take time to be thankful for these amazing years of growth and love. They go by in a flash!