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Giving Children the Gift of Holiday Manners

By: Zane Carson Carruth, Certified Etiquette and Protocol Professional

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For most parents, the holidays are a whirlwind of shopping, baking, parties, and excited children. It can be hard for kids to mind their manners when so many thrilling things are going on. One of the best gifts we can give our children is to let them know what is expected of them during this time and provide a few basic etiquette lessons, so they can navigate the season in a mannerly fashion. The sooner this is done before the festivities begin, the better. When discussing holiday etiquette with your children, you might want to cover the following:

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Guests in Your Home

If you’re expecting overnightguests, let your child know ifthey will be sharing their roomwith another child. Remindthem they will be expected toshare their toys and that it’sOK to ask the other child tohelp keep the room tidy and picked up.As well, advise your child to greet each guest with a smileand a warm welcome. After all, they are sharing their home and hosting the guests just as you are. Children can helpguests settle in by telling them where to put their coats andshowing them to their room if they are spending the night.

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Remind your child to smile and say “thank you” when handeda gift. Tell them to focus on the individual gift they areunwrapping and not to tear through each one hurriedly.Explain that after they unwrap the gift, it is good mannersto thank the person who gave it to them if they are in theroom. It is important they know that this rule even appliesto any gift they did not want or already have. Finally, helpyour child develop the habit of sending thank you notesseveral days after opening the gift.

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Communicating with Adults

Remind your child they must respond when spoken to by anadult. Children often become timid when asked questionsby their elders. Tell them it’s OK to keep their answers simpleand short. At the same time, reinforce the notion thatthey must respond in some manner, and to do it while lookingthe person in the eye. This is especially true if they havebeen paid a compliment. Let them know a simple smile and“thank you” is sufficient.

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Table Manners

Practicing good table manners is a life-long commitment. Itis best to start working with children when they are young,because having elegant table manners does not come naturallyto most and takes practice. Along with giving thema refresher course on the proper use of utensils, cover thefollowing basics with your child:

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Hands must be washed and hair combed before coming to the table.

​The napkin is to be placed in their lap as soon as theyare seated.

They are to wait until everyone is seated before theybegin eating.

Their elbows mustn’t be on the table and they are to sit up straight.

It is impolite to chew with their mouth open just as is speaking while chewing.

Saying “please” and “thank you” is the correct response when something is passed to them.

Negative comments about the food selection should not be made.

There should be no phones at the table.

It is proper to ask to be excused when finished eating prior to leaving the table.

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Saying Goodbye 

Let your child know it is equally important to give yourguests a warm farewell as it is a welcoming hello. Teachthem the value of walking guests to the door when theyleave. Also, let them know it is a nice gesture to hug a relativegoodbye and tell them they enjoyed their visit. It isnever too early to teach our children that a final impressionis just as important as a first impression.The holidays are special times for families and eagerly anticipatedby children. Helping them navigate the many changesthat occur during the season, such as house guests, newfoods, and different routines, makes for a more enjoyableholiday for everyone.

Zane Carson Carruth is a certified business etiquette and protocol professional and owner of Etiquette to Excel, which specializes in international business etiquette and protocol. In addition, she owns Carson Marketing, LLC, a Houston-based, full-service marketing company that provides integrated marketing solutions for businesses. A budding children’s author as well, Carruth has recently published, The World’s First Tooth Fairy . . . Ever, which is about being curious, adventurous, and courageous.

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