Whatever December holiday your family celebrates, good manners help make the holiday a happier time for everyone. If you aren’t already working on holiday manners with your preschooler, now is a good time to start. Holidays can be stressful for children as well as adults, and it’s important that you help your child prepare for social events in advance.
Preparing Your Child to Meet Santa
Even a simple event like a photo with a local Santa will be more successful if your child is prepared in advance. But first you need to find out if your child wants a photo with Santa. It’s natural for many children to be frightened to meet Santa, and there’s no need to force it if your child doesn’t want a photo.
My son never wanted a photo with Santa as a preschooler, although he enjoyed it at 6 1/2. My daughter wanted her picture taken with Santa as a preschooler but was afraid of the mall “Easter Bunny” (which my son always loved). Those sorts of photo ops can be fun if your child is interested and prepared, but there are plenty of other photos you can get to celebrate the holiday if your child doesn’t want a photo with Santa.
If your child is interested in a photo with Santa, it will still help if you talk about what your child (and Santa) will say ahead of time. Demonstrating and practicing proper manners in advance is important. It’s even more important if your child is a bit shy, like my children were, or if your child has a sensory processing disorder.
During my master’s dissertation research on Montessori methods for teaching courtesy to preschoolers, I noticed that the most repetition was required for children to feel comfortable with greetings and introductions. Meeting Santa is particularly difficult for many children and requires lots of role play practice for them to feel comfortable. If your child is interested in meeting Santa, given plenty of practice, and taught to say thank you and “Merry Christmas” at the end of a meeting with Santa, it will be a happy experience for everyone.
Here are some posts I’ve published that use Montessori principles to help your child feel comfortable and display the best possible manners over the holidays.
General Manners and Manners Greeting Relatives
Grace and courtesy games can be especially helpful in giving your child lots of practice with manners in a fun and non-threatening way: Grace and Courtesy Games at Home or School.
Greeting relatives and others at holiday time is very difficult for shy children, so allow plenty of opportunities for practice. And don’t worry if your child isn’t able to demonstrate perfectly the manners you practiced earlier. Here are tips for the best possible experience: How to Help Your Child Feel Comfortable Greeting Relatives.
Manners When Receiving Gifts
There are basic directions in this post: How to Teach Your Child to Say Thank You for Holiday Presents. There are also links to games and activities to reinforce saying thank you for presents in Grace and Courtesy Games at Home or School.
Your child can learn to set the table before holiday gatherings and will enjoy helping out. There are lots of ideas for teaching table setting in this post: Table Setting. There are also many free printable placemats if you check out my Pinterest board linked to in the post.
Give your child some basic introductions to table manners before any holiday meal: How to Teach Your Child Table Manners for Holiday Gatherings.
Helping Your Child by Helping Yourself
And don’t forget that your child will have the least stress if you’re not stressed-out yourself. I hope that some of the tips in 10 Tips for Avoiding Holiday Burnout can help your holiday be the happiest possible experience for your whole family.
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