Having visitors in your home feels like it should be a fun and exciting event, so why are your preschool aged kids acting out during this time? Kids will often be excited about having friends over to play, but having someone else in their home can be stressful for kids. Sometimes they may respond to this stress by refusing to share, refusing to play with the visiting children, or constantly demanding your attention. Fortunately, there are ways you can help your child learn to manage their feelings and respond to their guests appropriately.!
Before the visit, plan the time together with your child. How long will they have to play? Will there be a snack? What activity do they want to do? Which toys will they play with? If there are toys they don’t want to share this time, you can put them out of sight. By respecting your child’s wishes around which toys they are willing to share, you are teaching them to set boundaries. When your child can make choices about what to expect, you are gaining their cooperation up front, and you are increasing your chances of a successful, well behaved visit.
Key Steps to Preventing Problems When You Have Visitors
- Try to plan visits around your child's usual sleeping and eating times, so as not to disrupt routines. This is important for your child’s ability to stay calm and regulated. We all do better when our basic needs for rest and food are met.
- Get your child to agree to a few simple rules while your guests are here. Focus on things they should do, not things they shouldn’t do. (Ex: Take turns with your toys). Remind them of these rules prior to your guests arriving.
- Talk with your child about what to do if they feel frustrated or angry during the visit. Practice taking deep breaths together. How can they express what they want in a calm way? When should they ask for help from an adult?
- Encourage your child to greet guests when they arrive. Practice what to say, such as, “Hi Billy. I’m glad you’re here.”
- Make sure you have some activities ready for the kids in advance. Help your child and any visiting children get set up with the activities so that everyone is comfortable.
- Praise and reward the kids for cooperating and playing together nicely. Check in often, not just when challengingbehavior is occurring.
- Act as soon as a challenge arises. Get close to your child, use a quiet and calm voice, and tell them what to stop doing and what to do instead.
- If the behavior continues, back up your instructions with a logical consequence (ex: You continued to throw your toy car so now I will need to take it away for ten minutes).
- After the guests leave, talk about the visit with your child. Ask them what they did well, and help them to feel proud of themselves. Then spend some quality time together. This individual attention will let them know they are important to you, and you like spending time with them.
Having visitors provides kids with the opportunity to practice some complex social skills, such as being a good host, talking politely with adults, greeting visitors, and considering things other children might like to do. It helps them learn to cope with their feelings in sometimes unpredictable situations, and to negotiate friend relationships. While your child will get better at these skills with time, it’s important not to expect your child to be perfect at first, a lot is happening in their home!
As your child gets more comfortable with having guests at their home, they will get better at all the social skills they are learning. They will learn to manage their difficult feelings and behave responsibly, so won’t need as much reminding of the rules, rewards, and consequences. Continue having friends and family over to your home, and notice and point out when your child behaves well. You’re building skills that will help your child with social interactions throughout their life!
Triple P – Positive Parenting Program
Are you interested in receiving more parenting advice? Triple P Online – Positive Parenting Program could be for you! This online parenting program allows you to take a parenting class in the comfort of your own home!
If you live in Lane County, you can get Triple P Online for free by filling out the form on the Triple P page. A staff person from Parenting Now will send you an access code within 24 hours and you’ll be able to start using the program right away! For more information about the program and to sign up visit the Triple P page.