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Preparing Your Kids for Company

The Invasion of the Houseguests

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One of my wife's favorite stories from her growing up years was of a cousin whose family was hosting a great aunt for a holiday dinner. This particular great aunt was well to do and had a reputation for being very prim and proper. This boy's family wanted everything to be just impeccable for the great aunt's visit. However, there was one feature of this great aunt that was impossible to overlook. She had an unusually large and misshapen nose; and she was very sensitive about it. The boy's parents had gone to great lengths to tell the children not to comment on Great Aunt's nose, no matter how much they wanted to.

After much preparation, Great Aunt arrived. It was truly all the children could do to not laugh about her appearance, but they succeeded-at least for a while. That is, until during the midst of the holiday dinner, this boy cousin, wanting some salt for his stuffing, asked Great Aunt, as politely as possible, "Great Aunt, will you please pass the nose?"

Well, there are always some embarrassing moments to be expected when entertaining guests at home. But sometimes the issues aren't always as simple as avoiding mentioning something that shouldn't be mentioned. Sometimes they may be related to giving up one's room to a guest for a few days. Sometimes the issues may surround an uncle or aunt who is so affectionate it is uncomfortable. And sometimes it is just upsetting the family routine. In any case, the key to proper performance is preparation!

Here are a few recommendations for preparing the kids for the disruption that houseguests inevitably bring to a family.

Provide Information. Make sure that you are communicating to the children what will be happening and when during the visit. Discuss where visitors will be sleeping and what will happen to the displaced family members. Go over the planned calendar of events and explain what is expected of the children for each event. Be clear about behavioral expectations, but also be willing to be flexible and plan time for the children as well.

Protect the Children's Possessions. A big part of children's sense of security relates to things that are theirs and are special. Often houseguests will limit access to certain possessions or put others at risk, especially if there are smaller children among the guests. Consider putting aside a few things that are special to them and that will not have to be shared with the guests. And make sure that the house is babyproofed if one of the guests is a toddler.

Involve the Kids in Preparations. So often, a harried mom and dad may knock themselves out cleaning, cooking and otherwise preparing for guests while the kids do their own thing. Involving them in the efforts to be ready for company can help them have a stake in how things look and in the success of the event. Have them help cook, clean or otherwise prepare.

Prepare for the Unexpected. Often with a house full of guests, things will not go according to plan. One common challenge is keeping meals on time. Be prepared with some healthy snacks for the children if a meal is delayed for some reason. If the kids aren't hungry, they will be less likely to be a problem.

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