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Surviving dinner

How to deal with other people's kids on Thanksgiving

How to deal with other people's kids on Thanksgiving

November 20, 2009|By TIFFANY ARNOLD

With Thanksgiving less than a week away, families are preparing to host loved ones for extended stays, which means having to navigate the politics of dealing with other people's kids.

"I know it's hard at Thanksgiving, because we want to have the perfect table setting. But in the long run, the table setting doesn't matter - it's the family and the kids," said Jim Deaner. "Nobody's going to remember how good the turkey was."

As the executive director of the Boys & Girls Club of Washington County, Deaner is experienced in dealing with other people's kids.

So, The Herald-Mail tapped him for common-sense advice on conflict resolution. Plus, we rounded up suggestions on how to deal things like bed-wetting and picky eaters from groups such as Produce for a Better Health Foundation and the National Association for Continence.

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The Herald-Mail hopes this might be a happy holiday season for all - host family included.

The picky eater

I will always remember the time my cousin stared at his plate of baby carrots during dinner after a routine doctor's visit. He turned to my mother and said, very seriously, "The doctor told me not to eat too many carrots."

He was the picky eater of the family and he has since grown up to be a picky-eating adult.

But it is the hope of the Produce for a Better Health Foundation - a nonprofit group that promotes eating fruits and veggies - that by including kids in the process of making the meal, they might take more interest in what they're about to eat - fruits and veggies, in particular. And these patterns might rub off on them by the time they are old enough to host their own Thanksgiving dinner.

Here are a few kid-friendly, meal-prep tasks recommended by Produce for a Better Health:

o Washing fruits and veggies

o Snapping green beans and peas

o Breaking off broccoli and cauliflower florets

o Tearing lettuce for salads or sandwiches

o Older kids can peel and slice carrots, cucumbers and potatoes

The fighter

Getting the kids involved also works for preventing fights, said Deaner. But this means you'll have to assign someone to actively play with the kids.

"You're setting yourself up for a fight if you say 'Go play and leave us alone,'" Deaner said.

Because instead of "everyone playing together," it might end up that everyone fights over a toy.

You can pre-empt this by having a teen or one of the older kids participate and guide the play. But if a disagreement or fight breaks out, the discipline duties are shared, if it happens in your house, Deaner said.

First consult the child's parent. "You always want to get permission," Deaner said. If you get the green light, then proceed.

Also, consider that at least one person involved didn't want to be involved to begin with. They just wanted the toy. There's also at least one aggressor, Deaner said.

Next, separate the involved parties in order to talk to them individually, Deaner said.

The trick is to get the child involved in the process of resolving the issue. "Stop that right now" doesn't do the trick, he said. Instead, ask them questions - "Why" and "How" questions are good.

"This even works for 3-year-olds," Deaner said.

If communal play is an issue, Deaner said to consider putting it to the children this way: Either the toy is put away and no one - including the child who owns the toy - can play with it, or the children can work out a way to share.

Deaner said from the beginning of the visit, it should be made clear that all the toys there are available for all.

The bed-wetter

If your holiday plans involve 5-year-olds staying the night, there's a 1-in-5 chance that the child will wet the bed, according to the National Association for Continence, a private, nonprofit group that seeks to spread awareness about incontinence.

Here's what the NAFC suggests:

DON'T punish or shame a child for wetting the bed.

DO remind children that bed-wetting is no one's fault. Let children know that lots of other kids have the same problem. According to the NAFC's data, nearly 5 million kids in the United States are bed-wetters. Most pediatricians don't consider occasional bed-wetting a problem until the child is at least 6.

DON'T make a big deal about a bed-wetting incident.

DO stay low-key after wetting episodes. Reinforce any efforts the child makes to help clean up. Praise them for waking up at night to urinate, having smaller wet spots or for having a dry night.

DON'T allow siblings to tease the child about it.

DO let children know about any former childhood bed-wetters in the family.

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