We just talked about how to prepare your somewhat older kids for the holiday visits. What about your younger kids—newborns to four? What can you do to prepare them and your family and friends for the visits?
The most important thing to remember is that little ones get easily overwhelmed. A young child needs certainty, stability, safety and calmness. The child is coming to a new household with many different people. It may be for a relatively long time. Many features of the environment are different. Aside from the people – about whom I’ll talk shortly – smells, lights, colors, temperatures, water, and the very air may be quite unfamiliar and potentially disturbing. Your child needs time to adjust to this new environment—and at a pace s/he can best handle. As the parent, you should be aware of this and the best judge as to how to proceed.
Moreover, your child may have some special sensitivities. You need to be aware of the new environment and prepare for it. The family or friends may like their home kept cold and your child may prefer or feel comfortable in warmth. So, bring extra warm clothing, blankets, and ask your hosts to raise the temperature a bit. Moreover, if your child has special needs, you need to make your hosts and guests aware of them. Let us say, for example, that your child has Asperger’s. You should tell everyone that your child may not look them in the face or be talkative in the way that they expect or like to be touched.
In general, the most important thing to tell everyone is that your child is not a plaything, a toy to be passed around or be stimulated by being forced to interact with everyone and everything. A young child can handle only so much. S/he then needs nap and/or down time, Mommy and/or Daddy time, and alone time. You need to set the ground rules before you come to the new place and should ensure that your child’s needs are respected. Tell people before you visit that that’s what you want and ask where the child and you can sometimes be alone. And if there’s someone who you think might disturb your child, talk to them beforehand. You’re the parent!