Please don’t put your shoes on their couch • Remember your manners: pleases and thank yous •  Look grandad in the eye when you say hello and goodbye • Don’t run • Don’t yell • Listen the first time you’re asked to do something • Say ‘yes, ma’am’ and ‘no, sir’• Make sure you share your toys with your cousins • No elbows on the table • Don’t talk with food in your mouth • Don’t say that any of the food looks disgusting • Don’t whine • Don’t hit anyone • Tell grandma how young she’s looking• Ok, is that it? • Is everyone here? • How do I look?

Welcome to another holiday season. If you find yourself traveling or visiting family and friends for the upcoming holidays (or Spring Break), then you probably also find that your stress level has increased a few notches.

You know how wonderful your kids are. Yes, they can be rowdy. Yes, they can be loud. Yes, they can sometimes forget themselves in the fun they’re having. That’s perfectly fine when you’re all at home or on the playground, but going to your parents’ house where everything is a little more fragile (furniture and eardrums alike) is a different story. They’re young. They don’t really know the difference between being at home and having real “company manners” yet. But that doesn’t stop your mom from making comments or your dad from groaning about the noise level. So, how do you make it easier? Can you?

Bring special activities or toys that are specifically reserved for outings.
Maybe try out a busy bag from Janelle’s recent post or steal some staycation ideas from Jen to bring with you. Or remember those books that you bought to hold onto until her birthday, maybe they could come out a little early and be opened at the grandparents’ house. If the house is equipped, maybe a movie could come along too (what an idea!). Maybe you could even try to involve the kids and the older folks in a game that everyone could play. I know a couple of boys who love to play crazy 8s and would think it a special treat to show their grandparents what they know how to do (just as long as somebody else shuffles). Just come prepared for the eventuality of kid boredom. Boredom without access to puzzles, crafts or other activities can lead to the increased likelihood of something being broken (a nose! a lamp! ack!).

Take parts of your routine with you.
If somebody misbehaves at grandma and grandad’s, what’s the protocol going to be? If you use time-outs at your house, then just bring them along. Find or create a space for a kid to sit away from the action and the breakables. If their misbehavior would generally warrant losing a privilege, then maybe that movie has to go back in the bag. Or else their siblings and cousins can watch, but they have to do something else for 5 or 10 minutes before they can join. Try to decide what the important parts of your routine are. If they skip a bath one night, they’ll probably live, but if you want their good behaviors to be consistent across different environments, then you be consistent too!

Tell your kids your expectations of them before you’re standing on the doorstep.
Do you have a friend or neighbor on whom your kids can practice their company manners? Try a small outing where you can discuss what you like to see and what you don’t like to see when they’re in someone else’s house. And don’t forget that praise and affirmation of the positives that you notice are going to get your further than the No! Don’t! and Stop!

Ask your parents to move the really breakable things from their usual places of honor.
Please. Just a little rearranging will save everyone some trouble. Please.

And finally, if you’re feeling brave, tell your parents (or siblings) how it makes you feel when they criticize your kids.
This is probably not something that’s easily tackled in one sitting. Sometimes saying that certain words hurt your feelings is the way to begin talking about what you wish they’d say instead. Advice that we give our kids, to use their words and tell how they’re feeling, can sometimes also be really helpful for grown ups.

So hopefully you’ll make it through and come out the other side smelling like a bunch of spring flowers.