Family Gatherings

Making a Success of them

When we are planning or joining a family gathering we wish it to be a meaningful and exciting time for our family, to reunite and celebrate the things we hold dear and to teach our children the importance of being part of a family. However, sometimes family gatherings can be stressful and not much fun.

When our child is easily frustrated, anxious or not flexible there are things we can do ahead so we can all enjoy and make the family gathering the special event we want it to be.

Behavior rules for children and adults - We have rules in our homes and our children know them, but when going to a relative’s home they are easily missed within the anxiety and excitement of the event. It is very helpful to have a conversation with our children before we head to our relatives’ house in which we explain in detail our expectations regarding their behavior. It is as simple as laying out the rules in these gatherings, they already  know rules are different at a soccer game than in the theater.

Hosts’ expectations - When our children need some help in coping, like a safe space and/or not getting all the attention of everyone in the room, talking to our relatives in advance is important. Through a tactful conversation we can prepare our relatives and thus avoid putting our children in a situation in which they might have a meltdown.

Awareness - We must ourselves curb any tendency to criticize our child in public and ask our relatives not to either, especially on sensitive topics. If our child is a chubby teen, no one should criticize her for eating more dessert. These gatherings are not the time to expose or discuss sensitive issues.

A quiet place - When we know our children will need a quiet place, we should plan ahead and arrange for another room that they may use to take a break. Our children will feel safe socializing knowing that when things get too intense there is a place to take a break.

Food - Many family gatherings are centered on a meal. When our child is a picky eater or has sensory issues with food that we know will be a problem, the easiest thing is to bring with us something that our child will eat. Let him explore what is available to eat knowing that he can always have what we have brought.

Other kids - We expect our children to get along with their cousins and other kids their age, but this is not necessarily an easy thing to do. Being the same age does not guarantee they will naturally get along; however, they should definitely try - even if they need our help from time to time.

Let’s show our children that family is important to us. Let them know that often there’s someone we don’t particularly like but we interact with them and we try to make it work. We avoid conflict. By displaying good social behavior we are modeling just that to our children.

Family ties can be very important and they can last through generations when properly fostered.