As parents of preschoolers, it’s crucial to our survival to stay connected with friends and family. Even if it’s just chatting over coffee every couple of weeks, it can be a huge support for our emotional needs.
Having friends or family with similar-aged children can also be a huge perk for both you and your child. However, children sometimes have a hard time sharing their home with visitors.
Have you noticed that your preschooler acts differently when visitors come to your home? You may notice your child acts overly:
- Clingy to you
She may also struggle to share toys, refuse to play with other children, or be extra demanding of your attention.
While it can be hard for kids to share their parents’ attention or let others into their personal space, hosting visitors provides opportunities for young children to practice their social skills. Remember very young children need to learn all these skills for school success—and that takes time and practice. With encouragement, we can teach children how to:
- Greet visitors: hello, smile, make eye contact.
- Utilize your family’s polite habits: handshakes, say “please” and “thank you,” and “excuse me.”
- Play appropriately with their friends.
- Think about their friend’s needs: What they would like to play, are they hungry or need a drink, are they taking turns?
But first, you may need to lay some groundwork.
Changes In Behavior
There can be a number of reasons that you may see a change in your child’s behavior when a visitor comes over:
- Preschoolers can find it hard to share their parent’s attention.
- Children are left to amuse themselves for too long without a parent’s attention.
- If the visit goes on for too long, children can become tired and irritable when it disrupts their normal routine.
Planning For Visitors
Give your preschooler opportunities to practice their skills by planning to have some visitors over. It might be helpful to start with someone your child feels comfortable around, such as a grandparent, aunt, or uncle.
- Talk about the visit ahead of time: “Aunt Nancy is coming over today to work in the garden with me. While she is over, you can play with your cousin Miley. I bet she will love to see your doll collection. Let’s choose some toys for the two of you to play with”
- Create a few easy-to-follow rules such as:
- Share your toys.
- “If you need to speak with Mom or Dad, say ‘Excuse me’ and wait until we have finished speaking.”
Before your visitor arrives, go over the rules: “I need you to remember our rule about sharing with visitors and taking turns with Miley when you are playing with the dolls.” It might be helpful to practice sharing or how to get your attention appropriately to make sure you’re all on the same page.
- Prepare some planned activities for your child: Whether your guest is a friend coming over for coffee or it’s a playdate for your child, keep the kids occupied by having some activities out, such as coloring books, soft dough with cookie cutters, or dress up clothes.
Home Sweet Home
When your guest arrives, give your preschooler the opportunity to greet them: “Aunt Nancy and cousin Miley are here. Come and say hello.” If your child is feeling nervous or shy, don’t force them to greet your visitors right away.
Once everyone has settled in, set the children up with their activity. Check in with the kids every 10 minutes or so and praise them for playing well. If either child’s interest in their current activity is waning, set up another activity for them to play with for a while. Be sure to also plug in a snack break for your child and their friends.
After the visitors have gone home, talk with your child about how the visit went and point out the behaviors you especially liked: “You did a wonderful job of sharing your dolls with Miley today, and following our visitor rules.”
With a little practice and guidance, your child will look forward to having friends and family over for visits—and you might even get to chat about the latest episode of This Is Us with your bestie!
This article is brought to you by Parenting Now! Parenting Educators and authors Amanda Bedortha, Claire Davis and Lynne Swartz and consultant Jay Thompson (andupdatemywebsite.com). Parenting Now! is passionate about happy, healthy families. For more information about Parenting Now! please visit their website (https://parentingnow.org/) or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
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