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Preparing Kids for Holiday Visits

If kids will be traveling between households for the holidays, then the “sending” home and the “receiving” home need to work together to ensure a smooth transition. Margorie Engel, Ph.D., president of the Stepfamily Association of America, offers these tips.

  1. Make sure everyone is clear on what activities will be planned so kids can pack accordingly. Will they need snow boots? Dress clothes? Ice skates or athletic equipment? If kids will be traveling out of state, check the weather at their destination and make sure they have appropriate clothing.
  2. Send a comfort item with the child. This can be a photo, a toy, a stuffed animal or doll, or even a favorite game or video. Make sure the receiving family knows about special mealtime or bedtime rituals. These can be especially comforting during times of adjustment.
  3. Try to coordinate gift giving to avoid duplication. Kids already feel a divided loyalty, and this is heightened if they have to choose which duplicate gift will be returned. Deciding between Mom’s bike and Dad’s bike is tantamount to choosing between Mom and Dad.
  4. Arrange for the kids to communicate with the absent parent. It can be hard to be away from home, and even if they’re having a great time, children will naturally want to talk to whichever parent isn’t with them.
  5. Communicate food allergies and preferences ahead of time. Christmas dinner is a bad time to find out that a stepson is allergic to the oyster stuffing or that a stepdaughter is a vegetarian.
  6. Share recipes across households. Familiar foods will ease the transition for the child and provide a sense of continuity, and getting the family involved in preparing a favorite dish can be a great icebreaker.
  7. Send them off with a smile. Regardless of how you feel about the separation, send your kids off with a hug and a smile, and offer your sincere hope that they have a good time. This will give the kids a sense of security. Consider it your holiday gift to them.
Preparing Kids for Holiday Visits

Barbara Loera

APA Reference
Loera, B. (2018). Preparing Kids for Holiday Visits. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 26, 2019, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Oct 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Oct 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.