Halloween Mayhem to Holiday Manners for Minors

As the holiday season approaches, Mannersmith's Marianne Cohen shares suggestions to prepare your children for the festivities.

It is crazy how the calendar says October, and already the end-of-year holiday decorations are out. Children are getting excited about wearing their cool Halloween costumes while parents are fretting about planning the upcoming holiday meals and gatherings. One way to ensure the holidays are smooth sailing for all those involved is to provide your children with the proper tools for polite behavior. Here are some tips and techniques to transition your Halloween monsters into Holiday angels.

Review the Basics ~ Of course we recommend working with your children all year long, but now is a perfect time to review the five building blocks of proper manners: please, thank you, you're welcome, sorry, excuse me.

Do Your Homework ~ Ask each child to come up with one new thing about themselves to share with relatives and friends they have not seen in a long time. Those involved may be surprised to learn how much they have in common. For instance, if your daughter scored the winning goal in her soccer tournament, she may find that Great Aunt Sophie was also a star soccer player in her day.

Act Like a Journalist ~ It is never too early to teach youngsters how to handle an awkward pause in a conversation. Have the child pretend they are a journalist. They can ask a guest questions about their past or their interests, and may find something in common which can lead to an interesting conversation.

Practice, Practice, Practice ~ It takes approximately 28 repetitions to make a behavior a habit. If you would like your children to learn how to set the table, have them do it every day and soon it will become second nature. Every time they ask for something without saying "please," have them say the whole sentence again. Soon it will be routine.

Be a Model ~ As parents, we are the role models for our children. For example, if you want them to have good table manners, you need to have good table manners; if you want them to set the table correctly, you need to show them how to set the table. Practice a formal dinner at home and make it a game. Using role reversal, pretend to be their age and show them the bad manners they are exhibiting. Ask them what they saw and how it can be corrected.

Mail Call ~ Children should learn to write thank you notes as early as they can hold a crayon. There is never a bad time for a thank you note. Toddlers can draw a picture of the gift and once they can write their name, they can sign the cards. As they get older, you can make or purchase fill-in-the-blank cards and have them write the recipient's name and their name, and then keep expanding as they get older. By third grade, they should be able to write a simple thank you note. At Mannersmith, we like to say that an "emailed thank you means you cared enough to send the very least." Handwritten thank you cards are a cheap and effective way to make someone's day.

Oscar Award ~ Has your child ever opened a gift, and by the look on their face, thought it was the ugliest sweater they had every seen? Before the holiday season gets underway, review with your children that it is the thought that counts. The giver may not have thought enough about the recipient's interests and likes, but they did give the child a gift nonetheless. You can also teach your children the art of philanthropy. If they really do not want the sweater, you can donate the gift to someone who may need and enjoy it.

The holiday season can be very stressful for all those involved but by practicing polite behaviors, it may make it a little less hectic.

We wish you and your trick-or-treating monsters a very happy holiday season.