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Holidays with the Cousins: Keeping Harmony in Reunions

I asked Michelle Nicholasen and Barabara O’Neal, authors of the book I Brake for Meltdowns: How to Handle the Most Exasperating Behavior of Your 2- to 5-Year-Old (De Capo Press) for some advice on how to deal with some of the most common issues presented by the holidays. Here’s what they had to say about how to keep harmony at a family reunion.

Someone’s going to cry. Someone’s going to fall. Someone’s going to fight. Don’t get outraged at all the incidents that pop up. Be there to support and give a hug.

Fighting. Kids thrown together can act like a pack of frisky animals. They need to know there is at least one grown-up in charge. First, huddle them and calmly go over the basics: no teasing, no excluding, no hurting each other. Anyone who ignores the policy will get some time away from the group. When someone is crying because she is hurt, get all the kids to sit down for a wile on the couch to chill out for a couple minutes. Then let them go off and play. At least one grown-up should take responsibility of overseeing the kids. Better yet, take turns being the monitor.

Feeling left out. You can’t expect the big cousins to entertain the three-year-olds. Bring a bag of small toys, i.e., your “bag of tricks” for the youngest ones. Set them up for parallel play. If possible, get your child who’s at a loose end to help you with food prep or other set-up project. Of course, you could always give a relative a book and ask him to open it and start reading—that alone can get a young one’s attention.

Wild rambunctiousness. Certain things you will have to accept. Kids will be louder and more exuberant with their cousins or friends. They’ll express their joy by running around and making noise. As long as no one is getting hurt and possessions are not being trashed, let it go. But don’t wait until everyone falls apart to change gears. Step in preemptively with snacks and milk for the kids, having them gather around the table or on a blanket on the floor. This is not only picnic time, but also wind-down time.

Guaranteed grown-up time. Serve the kids’ dinner first, either at the main table or on a picnic blanket on the floor. After they eat, put on a good educational video while all the adults eat their meal.

Find out more about I Brake for Meltdowns: How to Handle the Most Exasperating Behavior of Your 2- to 5-Year-Old here.

Photo courtesy of Manic Mommies

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