It’s that time of year when many of us start to plan festive family gatherings and celebrations. The Christmas holiday is a great excuse for meeting with family and friends that we would like to see more of, and as adults this is usually fun and exciting. For our little ones, however, this can be a scary time full of unfamiliar looming faces with a barrage of kisses, cuddles and questions.
When viewed from a young child’s perspective it really is no wonder that so many children become shy when meeting people they don’t know, or remember. Hiding behind a parent is not intended to cause embarrassment or offence, it is merely a sign that your child feels anxious and threatened.
As much as we might know and trust the people we introduce to our children, we cannot expect our little ones to understand complex family connections without any explanation, and we should be glad that they are cautious around unfamiliar people.
With this in mind, there are some useful guidelines we can follow to help our children understand who people are and what to expect at family gatherings.
Tips & Tricks to Help Shy Children at Family Gatherings
- Background information. Show your little one photos of the people they are going to meet and explain their relationship to the family. Tell your child stories of the things you remember fondly about time spent with each relative or family friend.
- Use modern technology. If you have the opportunity use social media or video calling to connect with friends and relatives before your child meets them.
- Try to plan. If you can, make sure your little one knows who is coming and when. Stagger arrivals where possible so that your child does not become too overwhelmed by a sea of visitors and greetings.
- Brief your visitors if needed. Let them know that your child is a little shy and not to make too much fuss of them straight away. Ask them to introduce themselves quietly and calmly, and to allow your child to warm to them gradually.
- Respect your child. Try not to tease a shy child, or the way in which they greet people. This is probably all new to them and children can forget their manners, particularly when they are anxious. Breeze past any social hiccups if you can.
- Have games and activities ready to go. A simple activity to focus on can help to take the pressure off a child who is being asked a lot of questions, and instead allow them to bond with family members at their own pace.
- Make memories for next time. With a camera on most devices it’s super easy to take photos of your child as they spend time with relatives. They can keep these as a memento and it will help them to remember those friends and family.
Whatever you do this festive season relax and enjoy time with your family members and loved ones. And when it comes to your child socialising with those their own age you can always count on childcare centres such as Cherry Bridge Station Early Learning & Childcare to provide a safe, friendly and inclusive setting.