You hope that all will go well on the way to grandma’s house. Things go well in the car, but as the door opens at her house, your child turns into a Tasmanian Devil! A whirling dervish of mayhem that grates on family members and causes you unneeded embarrassment and stress. Here are some tips that can help prevent your child from turning into a Tasmanian Devil.
1. Schedule, schedule, schedule. You and your child can sit together in a quiet place and draw a timeline with pictures. Start with a drawing of your car at your house with the time you’ll be leaving placed just below the car. Mark a point on the timeline where snacks will be eaten, where you’ll stop for lunch, take a restroom break, etc. Encourage your child to document your trip on the timeline including sights along the way, unique cars they see, towns you pass, etc. This gives your child structure, a sense of participation, and keeps him occupied.
2. New or different environments can cause rambunctious behavior. It can be difficult for your child to control himself with the added excitement of the holidays. To minimize inappropriate behaviors and maximize holiday cheer, rehearse the event beforehand. Assign family members a part in the rehearsal; you and your child will play yourselves. Select one other family member to play the role of the friend or family member whose house you’ll be visiting. Brainstorm with your child Act I, Act II, Act III, and Act IV.
Act I, driving to person’s house.
Act II, being greeted at the door and spending time with the host prior to dinner.
Act III, dinner.
Act IV, activity after dinner and goodbyes.
For each Act, discuss expectations and timelines. After this discussion, you should act out and rehearse each part of your ‘play’. Take the opportunity to redirect when behaviors are inappropriate and provide positive feedback when your child displays desired behaviors during your rehearsal. An interactive dress rehearsal will allow your child to develop a clear understanding of expectations over the holidays.
3. Use a secret code. A word like “snowball” or a gesture like touching the tip of your nose can be your secret code to your child that means they need to adjust their current behavior. Allowing your child to practice this during your dress rehearsal can be fun and will keep you from having to yell or discipline your child in front of family.
4. Make the most of your child’s talents. Recite a poem, do magic tricks, take care of a younger child, present the host with some artwork they did while waiting for dinner, set the table, or sing holiday songs.
5. Prep other family members you’ll see over the holidays, and ask them to provide positive praise for good behavior. This can make a world of difference.