The ultimate goal of a family get together is to have a pleasant meal and enjoy each other’s company. Stress occurs when young children misbehave, cause disruptions or don’t comply with expectations. The Comfort, Play & Teach approach can help you make the dinner more enjoyable for all.
You comfort your toddler when you recognize and support his needs, showing him that you respect and value him as a separate person. Preparing your toddler ahead of time for the dinner will help him feel a sense of security and comfort:
Tell him who will be coming for dinner.
Inform him that there will be lots of new and different foods to try.
Warn him that the meal will take a long time because grownups like to talk.
You can also prevent problems and comfort your toddler by understanding what is considered reasonable behaviour for this situation and for your child’s age. For instance, it is unreasonable to expect a toddler to sit in a highchair or at the table for more than 20-30 minutes without wanting to be the centre of attention. By reading his signals and taking certain measures, you can prevent temper tantrums or outbursts from happening:
Give your child something nutritious to eat before the holiday dinner. That way, even if he doesn’t want to try the foods being served, he will not feel too hungry.
Allow him to come and go from the table. He can play nearby in between courses and join the family when he is ready to eat some more.
Have some of his favourite activities ready beforehand, e.g. blocks, cars, crayons and paper. This way you can supervise and interact from a distance as he plays without causing too much disruption at the table.