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Thanksgiving, in most homes, is usually an extended family event. This means there will be a lot of people, some new faces, and tons of noise. There will be new people shouting at each other across the dinner table using strange hand gestures, and of course, there will be new foods. And to top it all off, the head of the household is going to be busy preparing food and entertaining guests.

Mom and Dad won’t have the time that may be needed for the children.

So, how to handle Thanksgiving at home when there are kids with isms in tow?  Prepare in advance with these six suggestions:

Let the Kids Decorate & Bake

I always enjoyed preparing some of the decorations for the table.  I would engage in a craft project or cookie baking beforehand which helped me to feel as if I was actively contributing to the holiday.  This hands on engaged activity helped me to enjoy the holiday.

Assign Small Tasks

My mom always had something to keep me interested whether it was a Beanie Baby turkey or festive decorations like pilgrim salt shakers that I helped to fill.   I was always fascinated by the colors and decorations of autumn.

Prepare a Side Meal

The hardest thing for me as a child on Thanksgiving was the food.  I was a picky eater and only like a few things.  My mom would make sure that in addition to cooking for everyone else, that my favorite food was prepared and readily available. That relieved a lot of stress for her and me. While everyone else was eating the lavish gourmet meal, I was happily eating my chicken nuggets and fries.

Supply Visuals in Advance

Sometimes the new faces are too overwhelming. If there are people coming to your house who your child doesn’t, warn your child in advance.  Tell your child who they are so that they can be prepared for the unexpected.  Visuals help!

Allow Exit Strategy

If your child becomes stressed, antsy or incredibly bored, let them go to their room.  Allow them to play video games or let them go off to another room to play with other kids during the meal.  An occasional check in always helped as my mom would make sure that I was not too overwhelmed with everything going on.

Reward Desired Behavior

If you need to, use a reward system to reward desired behavior. For instance, my mom would promise me a favorite ice cream or a desired toy to encourage me to work extra hard at being well-behaved. It’s hard to remember, but the Thanksgiving holiday can be a rough time for children with isms.

Avoid Black Friday

One more recommendation is to avoid bringing your child out on Black Friday.  Leave your child at home with a sitter or just wait for Cyber Monday. Black Friday sales are even more stressful than Thanksgiving, if you ask me.  I still would rather be with people I know and tolerate weird smells than impatient crowds screaming, yelling and bumping into me.

Visiting Family this Holiday?

Have a great Thanksgiving!