Be aware, parents and hosts. From toddlers to college students, this Thanksgiving may be a very uncomfortable experience for children. There have been few such gatherings in the past 2 years and kids have not had the opportunity to gain the social skills and understanding to navigate the Thanksgiviing event. Older children are definitely out of practice. Here are 5 strategies to help ease children back into social gatherings with family and friends and teach them the skills they have missed.
1-Forgo the kisses, cheek pinches, and hugs.
Respect personal space and pandemic mitigation strategies. Children will put up their defensive mechanisms, because they aren’t used to close contact with adults they haven’t interacted with in a while. Children who are used to physical distancing, may not be OK with getting up close.
2-Assign only one person to answer the door. It makes it easier for children to cross the threshold when there isn’t a large, loud welcoming committee.
3-Ask about topics other than school, college plans, and job prospects. These endeavors have been incredibly difficult for children these past two years. Kids are struggling to adjust and readjust to their situations. Questioning them puts them on the spot and may make them the unwelcome center of attention. It can cause incredible stress. Questions like, “How do you spend your free time?” are better. Find out about hobbies from their parents and ask questions about those.
4-Plan and offer age-appropriate activities. Is there space for building with blocks or drawing? Will sports games be shown on TV before dinner? Are there jobs children can do to help? This will give them the feeling that they are integral to the event.
5-Assign seats with place cards. Figuring out where to sit and with whom is often extremely awkward. Place cards relieve this discomfort. Be flexible if people exchange their assigned seats. Your cards serve as the ice-breakers.
If you have other strategies for easing children back into the Thanksgiving and holiday season, add them in the comments. It will be quite helpful.