Family Reunions During the Holiday Seasons

Planning to reunite with family and friends over the holiday season? We unwrap the secrets to making holiday reunions fun for the whole family.

Holidays like Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, and Christmas are even better when families gather together. While reuniting with loved ones is one of the nicest parts of the season, it can also be stressful for children. For one thing, they’re expected to be on their very best behavior. For another, all those new faces can be overwhelming, if not downright frightening to a young child.

Sharon McKay, a writer of fiction for young people, as well a a mother and  author of The New Parent Survival Handbook says “a child might be seeing Grandpa for the first time in his life. If the child is three, and he hasn’t seen Grandpa since he was two, as far as the child is concerned, he hasn’t seen this man before. Maybe he’s a big burly fellow, and he has his arms out wide, and he’s saying “Hi!” The child just absolutely freaks and grabs hold of your leg.”

Sharon adds that too often “the next response is to say, “go on, go on, give Grandpa a kiss.” It creates so much stress for everyone involved, Grandpa feels left out, the child is horrified and the parent is embarrassed. Don’t force your child into anybody’s arms at Christmas.”

In these situations parent educator Sue Borque recommends giving children a little time to get reacquainted with a relative whom they haven’t seen for sometime. “Children need time to adjust to new people who are entering into their lives; the 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”, says Sue.

And if you’re visiting relatives over-night, Sue says it’s important “to take along some of the toys the child is used to, or a pillow that’s familiar and makes the child feel comfortable. Children are very bored when they listen to adults reminiscing. So take along toys, coloring books, and treat bags.”

Whether it’s a holiday visit for a few days or just the evening, Sharon McKay has this solution to kid boredom. “I like bringing my own video, usually one the child hasn’t seen. Sometimes we’ll just pull up to a video store, grab a movie, and off we go. That will keep my older children occupied.”

Finally, don’t forget, when holiday visiting with young children to pack a few healthy snacks that you know they’ll enjoy. After all there’s nothing that can put a damper on family reunion more than a hungry, tired and bored child.


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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