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Advice & More November 2014

Health, Wellness & the Good Life

Safe Holiday Visits When the Kids Come

By Lynn Pribus

Remember that two-year-olds usually behave like two-year-olds. Sometimes ten-year-olds do, too. Have quiet activities up your sleeve – perhaps a new board game or a wonderful book that you can read aloud ten minutes at a time now and then.

Last year Sharon spent Christmas Eve at an emergency room praying her grandson wouldn't die. After surgery in August, she'd taken two prescribed sleeping pills and forgotten the rest. When her son’s family came to visit, inquisitive two-year-old Logan found the "pretty candies" in her bedside table and promptly ate the eight that remained. Fortunately he recovered fully.

Good visits don't just happen. It’s important to survey your house for potential problems and make good plans for a great holiday:

  1. Safety first! Toxic items and fragile things are the greatest risks for youngsters – particularly curious toddlers. Before your company arrives, check for household products, medications, breakables and heavy, tippy objects that could prove harmful. Obtain local phone numbers for medical emergencies including Poison Control and the nearest urgent care facility. Reduce the temperature on your water heater if it's especially hot.
  2. Protect children from pets (or vice versa). Rent or borrow gates, cribs or playpens to set up one or two rooms as a safe children's area. Introduce young visitors to your pets and be sure they know how to behave around animals. If you have pets that aren’t child-friendly, consider boarding them for the visit.
  3. If it's been a while since you've seen your young visitors, don't swoop. You probably remember them better than they remember you. Consider, too, that their parents have probably been teaching them about “appropriate” touching. Sit back and let them come to you.
  4. Establish your house rules promptly. Discuss them when both children and parents are present, so if the parents don't discipline misbehavior, you can tactfully do it yourself saying, "I see you've forgotten the rule at my house. Come sit right next to me for five minutes to think about it."
  5. Make a list of places for good times together whether singing, skating, attending religious services, storytelling time at a local library, or going to a park or zoo. Parents will know what their children will especially enjoy.
  6. It's crucial to offer youngsters opportunities for burning off energy. If you don't have yard space, locate the nearest park or schoolyard with play equipment or a community swimming pool. Invest in a soccer ball, a jump rope, snow saucers (or swimming floats depending on your climate), and other equipment for vigorous play.
  7. Remember that two-year-olds usually behave like two-year-olds. Sometimes ten-year-olds do, too. Have quiet activities up your sleeve – perhaps a new board game or a wonderful book that you can read aloud ten minutes at a time now and then.
  8. Discover ahead of time which foods your young company favors and whether there are allergies. This isn't the time for startling new menus. Serve wholesome snacks such as popcorn, nuts, fruit, and whole grain cookies rather than a lot of candy.
  9. A good way to keep little ones on an even keel is to maintain their home routine as much as possible. Meals, naps, baths, and bedtime are significant parts of children's lives and a disruption can make it harder for them to behave.
  10. Arrange to spend some exclusive time with each person each day, even if it's only a few minutes. Enlist a grandson to help set the table, peel carrots with your granddaughter, run an errand with your daughter-in-law, walk the dog with a toddler.

Planning ahead can make your visits both safe and fun.

 

Lynn Pribus lives near Charlottesville, Virginia.

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