Last time, we shared some tips for making it easier for you and your baby to deal with the hustle and bustle of holiday gatherings. What about older babies and toddlers? What can you do to help them stay calm and happy? Here are some ideas to keep in mind.
1. Older babies have great memories! They remember if Aunt Rita always tries to take them away from you for that big hug. Family members are often very excited to see your baby! This can come across a bit scary to a baby that has someone rushing up to them and excitedly clapping or talking to them in a high pitched voice. Babies also remember how their parents reacted to certain family members. If you tense up when Aunt Rita comes running toward you, your baby will see your tension and learn that you think that Aunt Rita is scary too!
2. Toddlers learn about their world by creating scripts in their minds for common occurrences (like bedtime or getting dressed) and by assigning “jobs” to the people in their lives (i.e. every night Dad gives me a bath, mom reads me a story). For people that your baby does not see very often, babies may be more apprehensive with them because they don’t know what their job is.
3. As older babies gain the ability to move away from their caregiver (crawl, walk, etc.), they also develop an instinct that tells them to stay close to their caregiver. This is important for their safety but can also make family gatherings challenging when everyone wants to hold your baby.
Tips for navigating holiday gatherings
Now that you understand why older babies behave the way they do in these types of situations, we want to share some tips to help you through the upcoming holiday season!
· Explain what you know about your baby and set boundaries with family members. Make sure they give your baby time to warm up first.
· Watch your own facial expressions and body language. If you are worried that a particular family member will rush up and try to grab her from you before she is ready, your baby will know! You may be nervous or frustrated for other reasons and these feelings show as well. If you enter a party rushed and stressed, your baby will see it in your face and may become upset when introduced to people right away. So, try to smile and relax when introducing your baby to people!
· Create a routine for when you see family members and talk her your toddler though it. Tell her what she is about to see and do. Your family members might think it is odd, but they will get used to it after a while. For example, whenever you get to a new party, sing the same song before you go in the door and introduce your child to everyone in the same way.
· Change your expectations. Knowing your baby’s normal development at this age, don’t be surprised if he or she wants to stay near you the whole time! It’s OK! If others want to hold her, have them stay close by so that your baby can still see you. Given time and familiarity, your toddler eventually will calm down and enjoy the party too.
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