Strategies to Manage Behavior Problems in Family Gatherings and Social Events
By Ann Logsdon
Do you dread holiday gatherings because of your child’s behavioral challenges? Do you worry about clashes with other children, disapproval of relatives, and the safety of aunt Sally’s collection of ceramic figurines? Worry not. Try these strategies to help you manage your child’s behavior during holiday social situations. Feel free to adapt them to your child’s needs. Keep realistic expectations. If your child’s behavior is likely to be a problem in social situations, plan ahead to decrease behavior problems.
- Use behavior rehearsal to help your child understand social expectations. Tell him ahead of time about any special rules for this particular gathering. If aunt Sally’s figurines are in the living room, ask her to designate a play area for your child and others that may be attending.
- Know your child’s limitations. If the stay is going to be long, plan opportunities for periods of physical play to allow kids to run off their energy. Do not push your child beyond his limits and then punish him for not being able to live up to aunt Sally’s standards. It is unrealistic and will lead to failure.
- Ensure your child eats appropriate foods and avoids stimulants such as caffeine.
- If your child takes prescription medications for severe hyperactivity, ensure he stays on schedule per his doctor’s instructions.
- Take along some of your child’s favorite toys and games.
- Use rewards and positive reinforcers to manage behavior.
- If a problem occurs, use these quick behavior strategies to redirect him.
- Casually check on your child about twice an hour, and be prepared to intervene if there is a problem.
- Consider introducing a new activity to reduce quarrels with other children.
- Plan a quiet place and activity for your child to get away from others. Quiet time can help your child cope with holiday stress. Age-appropriate movies, books, video games and toys that can be played alone or in a small group can help.
- Consider an alternative plan for the holiday. If you know that your child’s behavior cannot be managed, consider planning a small, simpler gathering at your home, or a one limited to your immediate family. If you must attend a gathering away from your home, consider taking your child to make an appearance, and then return home. You may want to consider getting a sitter.
- Take along some hands-on rewards. If your child understands money, for example, take along a roll of quarters. Let him know that the quarters are his and that he can keep all of them as long as his behavior is appropriate. If he fights with other children, for example, he will lose a couple of quarters. If he runs through the house, he’ll lose more. When he shows a problem behavior, tell him to stop the behavior. If he does not comply, tell him you are taking some of his quarters. Allow him to see that you’ve taken the quarters, and remind him again of the rules. If he does not comply, consider using time-out.