Visiting Out-of-Town Relatives with Children

Visiting friends and a long lost relatives in other cities is often a great break for parents.  As nice as these visits may be, it’s difficult for children to be on their best behavior.

In fact, it’s not uncommon for children to get whiney and clingy when meeting relatives. That’s because, while our children may have seen many photos of aunts and uncles, these people are, in essence, total strangers to our children. That means that first face to face meeting can be a little daunting to your young one. Parent educator Sue Bourque says, “children need time to adjust to new people who are entering into their lives. That grandparent or aunt or uncle who are seeing this child for the first time have the need to hug and hold and cuddle them, but it needs to be done slowly. The child needs time to adjust.”

The key to making visits at relatives and friends pleasant for everyone is in planning ahead. Parent educator Diane Loisie suggests “if you’re going over to someone’s home that doesn’t usually have kids, phone ahead. See what they have, find out about a room they can play in, get your kids to bring toys they want to play with. As well, take some toys ahead of time, put them in a box, and that’s like a surprise for the kids.” Diane adds it’s also wise to “take a movie with you so that they can have some quiet time after supper when they’re more tired.”

Sue Bourque agrees that when staying with a relative on vacation, make sure you bring a long a lot of familiar items. “It’s important when you go to visit relatives to take along some of the toys the child is used to, or a pillow that’s familiar and makes the child feel comfortable,” explains Sue. “Children are very bored when they listen to adults reminiscing. So take along toys, coloring books, treat bags.”

Finally remember to take a few moments to do a quick child safety check of a home you’re visiting. Ask your host if they wouldn’t mind putting detergents that are under a sink out of the reach of a child, and ensure that Grandma’s heart medicine isn’t tucked into a night table or anywhere within a child’s reach. Even consider packing a child gate and covers for electric outlets when traveling.

Of course this is your holiday too, so you may want ask your host to arrange to have a baby sitter for some of the time you’re there. That way you can relax and visit, while your children are well supervised in an unfamiliar setting.


Adapted from The Parent Report Radio Show. Any advice or information contained herein should never be a substitute for professional and/or medical advice, diagnosis and treatment. For more information please review Terms of Service.

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