By Brandi M. Seals
All kids are different. Some are need and clingy, others are free spirits. Regardless of your child's personality, you have probably noticed that he or she has an extremely short attention span. And, that often means trouble when they have to sit in waiting rooms, eat out, or spend the holidays with the relatives.
They do not do it on purpose, but all that sitting still and being good gets difficult. The older your child, the longer his attention span generally is. Anyone with a newborn knows it is going to be a rough holiday and they may have to leave early. But, everyone else can really take some measures to ensure that everyone has a good holiday.
Start by deciding how long you should stay at a party. Things to take into consideration are you child's age, how many other kids there will be, and what is expected of your child. If there are a few other kids there and they are allowed to run around and play, your child can last longer than if he were the only child there and he is not expected to make a peep. That just is not possible. Trust me, it will not last long.
In general, try to keep the visits around two hours or less until the kids are able to last for longer. You will also want to take the car ride into account. Too long in the car followed by a long period of being around others may just be too tiring for some kids which will lead to cranky moments.
When you are at someone else's house for the holidays, be sure to bring along toys for your kids. Bring something that they love to do and that they can do without too much disruption. For example, coloring books or word finds make for great items to bring along. The age of the child will dictate the appropriate toys to bring. You may also want to bring along a DVD. It can serve as the last resort for keeping the kids entertained.
Make sure to have snacks on hand. That can be hard to remember on holidays like Thanksgiving when the whole day is supposed to be about food. Always bring along some snacks, like celery sticks or string cheese. The kids will probably get hungry before dinner is ready to be served. They will want something to eat and if they are made to wait to long, they will probably get very cranky.
Remember, some kids are picky eaters. You cannot guarantee that they will want to eat what is served for dinner. Rather than have a fight about them finishing their peas in front of the host, why not let them have a snack when they are hungry and help them select items they will actually eat. If you see your child playing with his food, stop him but do not scold. Try to work out a signal in advance that you can give to let him know that he needs to stop what he is doing.
When all is said and done there is only so much you can do. Kids are young. They do not know what is expected of them and they are just trying to have a good time. Try to relieve some of their anxiety by telling them in advance what they can expect. Let them know that the people there love him or her. They will probably want a hug and that you expect them to hug the people there. Next make sure they know how long they will be at the event. Try to put it in terms that they will understand. For example, instead of saying we will be at Nana's for two hours, say you will be there for the length of 4 episodes of Dora the Explorer.
Remember to encourage the kids. When you see them behaving well, acknowledge it. And on the way home, be sure to compliment them on what they did well. If there was a bad episode, you could also discuss that then. If for some reason things go badly and your child becomes a large disruption to the event and is bothering others, it is probably best to go home. You can try again later when your child is a bit older.