Thanksgiving Etiquette for Kids
Help your kids be on their best behavior this Thanksgiving with our simple etiquette refresher.
While we don't expect our kids to offer to whip up the sweet potato pie or brine the bird for us, we can, and should, expect them to use their best manners at the dinner table -- and there's no better time than a holiday to help them brush up. We consulted the owner and CEO of EtiquetteMoms.com, Elena Neitlich, for the top five things kids can do this Thanksgiving that will help make them look like the perfect little angels they are. (And when your cousin's kids are flinging mashed potatoes across the room, you'll look pretty good, too).
Dress the Part
It's not just another weeknight dinner; Thanksgiving is one of the most special meals of the year. "Whether you're at home or at someone else's house, you're probably using their most beautiful linens and china, and sitting before a gorgeous meal," says Neitlich. "So your appearance should honor that." The kids should be showered, their hair done neatly, nails shortened and clothes nicely put together. "Depending on the age of the kids, you may want to have their clothes ready for them." Otherwise, give them a chance to pick out their own ensemble. (But give them the once-over afterwards)
Bring a Hostess Gift
Your host likely put in a lot of time preparing the meal, and now they are opening up their home to you and your family. But rather than buying a hostess gift yourself, take the kids to the store with you, suggests Neitlich. "Show them the importance of a token of appreciation; let them help pick out the gift and help to wrap it." A good rule of thumb, she adds, is to go the extra mile and make the kids responsible for actually giving the gift. "Don't let the kids walk to the front door empty-handed. Put a little gift bag, batch of homemade cookies or plant into each set of hands. That's the way you go to someone's home."
Use Your Best Table Manners
"By the time kids are 6," says Neitlich, "they should have basic table manners down pat." But if they need one, give a refresher course, ideally at home the week before the holiday. Sit up straight; napkins in laps; help pass food; wait until everyone is served; use the correct utensils; no texting or video games -- and use napkins properly. "Kids should know that linens are not used for sopping up spills. Yes, they are there just in case, but we are trying to keep the linens clean."
Be a Respectful Conversationalist
There are certain things kids should absolutely not say at the table. "This turkey is so dry!" Or, even worse, "I remember when my mom made the grossest thing." Neitlich advises parents to remind kids to not be offensive. If they don't like something on their plate, they should quietly leave it there -- without announcing their dislike. There are a few things they should say, however: "Thank you." "Please pass the green beans." "May I please be excused?" "This tastes great!" and "Can I help clean up?" (Of course, the hostess will often answer that last one with a no, but they should still offer.)
Send a Thank You Note
After the whole thing is over and you're back at home, get out some stationary and write up a thank you note. "Something in the kids' handwriting -- even if the child is four -- is so nice to receive," says Neitlich. You could also simply have them sign the card, or draw a picture. "Grandparents and older relatives often still expect that kind of thing. And it's our job to keep those traditions alive."
Just In Case...
If someone in your brood forgets their Ps and Qs, Neitlich advises against calling them out at the table and embarrassing them. Instead, "give a little touch to the arm or subtle glance if someone is acting up." Still worried? There's always the good old-fashioned bribe you can offer in the car: Extra dessert for those who are extra well-behaved!
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