Dear Ilana and Jess: Like the rest of us, I want the holidays to be relaxing. I find that they rarely are. We visit my in-laws every year, but my kids always seem to be bored. What can my wife and I do to cut down the complaints? — Steve
Dear Steve: When it comes to holiday travel, there are a lot of logistics to consider. One of the things we always recommend is that parents plan at least one thing that everyone will genuinely enjoy. Of course, you’re not going to love every kitsch or kiddy thing your children want to do, but find something you will. Maybe the whole family loves a good movie, or really excels at ice skating. Whatever it is, find one thing that gets the whole band onboard. If there’s nothing you can all agree on, take turns letting each family member pick an activity they like.
Complaints often come into play when hopes are dashed or expectations are unmet. Prevent this from happening by telling the kids what to expect, as much as you can. Describe ongoing and upcoming tasks, and give an estimated time commitment. For example, if you’re going to be visiting your in-laws for a few hours on a Saturday morning, let the kids know: “Hey, we’re going to be here until about noon, then we’re going to find a place to eat.” This will help alleviate any frustration that comes from ambiguity.
Help your kids plan what to do during boring intervals, like long car rides. It’s important that the they learn to cope with nonpreferred activities and regulate the corresponding emotions. If the kids are young (4-10), letting them know when they can expect to eat, get out of the car, and do something they want (for example, play video games) will be particularly helpful. Make clear expectations surrounding behavior and interaction, especially if they’ll be spending time with a large group of people. For example, tell the kids, “I want to make sure you say ‘hi’ to Aunt Linda and Uncle Pete. Make sure you also wish them a Happy Anniversary. Once you’ve done that, you can take a break and play some video games upstairs.”
Say This: “We’re going to plan one activity we will all enjoy during our trip. If we can’t agree on the activity, everyone gets to pick one, small thing they’d like to do with the family. When we’re visiting Grandma and Grandpa’s house, the rule is that you have to say hello to everyone there before you can take a break and play some video games. When your Mom and I tell you to come back and spend more time with the family, then that’s what you’re going to do. Understood?"
Not That: “Stop complaining!”
To all those celebrating, we wish you a very Happy Hanukkah!
Say This, Not That is based on the work of Cognition Builders: a global, educational company headed by Ilana Kukoff (Founder & CEO) and Jessica Yuppa Huddy (Chief Learning Officer). Everywhere from New York City to California to Shanghai to Zurich, the Cognition Builders team is called upon by A-list entertainers, politicians, CEOs, and CFOs to resolve the conflicts that upend everyday life. When their work is done, the families they serve are stronger than ever. With their new book, Say This, Not That To Your Teenage Daughter Kukoff and Yuppa Huddy have selected the most common conversational mistakes parents make, and fixed them. For more information, please visit: https://cognitionbuilders.com. To purchase Say This, Not That To Your Teenage Daughter visit: http://publishing.andrewsmcmeel.com/books/detail?sku=9781449488055.
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