November 25, 2013 4:22 pm
Updated: November 26, 2013 3:10 pm

Have a cringe-free holiday season with your kids


There is often a feeling of dread that accompanies the invitations coming in this time of year. Christmas parties, Chanukah meals, whatever family gatherings may occur, the questions arise:

Will Susan sit politely at the table?

Will Michael gross out at the brussels sprouts?

Will Danielle remember to say, “Thank you,” when she opens her gift?

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These moments, and many more can bring out the Holiday-Cringe. There are many side-effects of the Cringe. Some parents may find themselves speaking for their child – beating them to the punch. Others may stay close by and squeeze their child’s hand very firmly as a reminder of what to say. Here are three ways to cringe-proof your holiday season:

1. Ponder: Before you head out to the festive gathering or have guests over, consider all the things that could go wrong. You might not think of them all, but you can save the leftover cringe-worthy moments for next year. If you know that a meal will be involved, consider the manners that are top priorities for your child’s age and stage. If you think some gifts are coming, decide on a script that fits your family’s value system.

2. Plan: Once you know where you’re headed, involve your child, (three and up) in planning the strategies. Ask questions like, “What can you say if you don’t like the food you are being offered?” When you get the answer, “YUCK!” ask, “What is the polite thing to say in that situation?” Write down the script you can live with, “No thank you, I’ll pass.” Or “I only need one spoonful thank you.”

3. Practice: Play out the scenario at dinner a few times in the week leading up to the party. Or, if it is about gift manners, do a pretend gift exchange with teddy and bunny. Have your child practice his script, “Thank you for the gift.” You can also practice what he might say when he already has the gift – he could say thank you or even, “You know me really well, I have this at home and I love it! I can donate this toy to charity.” Encourage your child to look the gift-giver in the eye when they give thanks.

You can also practice a “cue,” or a sentence you’ll say just before you sit down with gifts or dinner or whatever the activity. It might be a quick whisper in the ear, “This is your chance to use your script. I know you can do it!” It could also be a visual cue that you’ve worked out in advance.

From that point on, you can sit back without fear of the Holiday-Cringe because you’ll know that your child has tools to use!

If things backfire, and they might, remember that shaming is not the solution. You can support your child, asking a guiding question. If your child clams up, don’t force the issue, help your child move to a quiet spot, let her get herself calm and then, she can go and thank the gift-giver on her own when the spotlight is not shining right in her face.

Don’t let the Cringe steal Christmas or any other holiday this year. Set your kids up for success!

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