Preschoolers often feel both anxious and excited about having guests over to their houses. It is important to teach young children how to accept visitors, make them feel welcome and treat them with respect. While all of these learned behaviors take time, patience and repetition, parents can start early by discussing manners and practicing with role-playing or with dolls and stuffed animals. Children will feel proud and content when they see how they can contribute to making guests feel welcome in their homes.
Before a friend or relative comes over, evaluate your child's individual personality and take his or her maturity into account when setting expectations. After identifying realistic expectations, discuss them with your child. Preschoolers are competent and smart individuals capable of greeting guests, being respectful, engaging in conversations, sharing and saying "good-bye" at the appropriate time. Remember that each of these acts must be adjusted to fit the individual child's personality. The way in which a three-year-old greets a visitor or engages in a conversation can be vastly different from that of a five-year-old. Be sure to tailor your expectations so that both you and your preschooler feel positive and proud about the visit. Make a fun morning of role-playing to teach these skills to your child. Ring the doorbell and let your child greet you the way you expect him/her to greet your guests. Teach how to say hello, shake hands or offer to take any bags or coats the visitor may bring. Demonstrate how to take their belongings and where to place them during the visit. Have your little one offer a drink or snack at the appropriate time and help him/her serve.
If your guest is a playmate, be sure to discuss sharing. Talk about how to share, how the toys will still belong to your child once the friend is gone, and remind your child how much fun it is to play together with the toys. Express how special your child's friend will feel when he/she shares and is kind. However, do not expect your preschooler to willingly share all the toys in the playroom. Before the play date, allow your child to set aside three to four special toys that will be put away during the play date. This will help your child to feel less anxious about sharing when he/she knows that the special treasures are safe and that you are respecting his/her feelings. Make sure your child understands that all other toys are to be shared while the friend is visiting.
Saying "good-bye" offers a tricky situation for many parents and preschoolers, especially after a fun-filled play date. Practicing saying "good-bye" properly and without a big fuss will help your child facilitate a smooth departure. Talk with your little one about how to say "good-bye," walk the friend to the door or out to the car, and how to say, "Thank you for coming over." Children often feel more empowered with transitions if they have something to contribute. If your child has a difficult time with farewells, have him/her draw a picture or make a special snack to give to the guest when departure time arrives. Your little one will then be excited to share the gift and less focused on the anxiousness of saying, "good-bye."
Each of these manners will give your child confidence in his/her skills and comfort in knowing how to deal with his/her feelings before, after and during a visit with guest. Remember preschoolers are still little, and still learning. They need practice, patience and lots of positive praise for their efforts. With small steps, your child can be a polite, fun and respectful host. But remember to keep it all in perspective by recognizing that many adults have still not mastered all of these manners.
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