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Back to School Etiquette for Families

Posted by Sunita P on

Maybe etiquette is the last thing on your mind as school approaches, but did you know that etiquette is really about making others feel comfortable, respected and valued. Now that’s something we can all get behind. And etiquette matters in all arenas of life including school. Sunita Padda, the well-mannered mother behind TableSmarts outlines five areas where manners matter.

Five areas where manners matter

Respecting time

During the summer many routines are overshadowed by lazy evenings on a patio, or cooling off in the pool for most of the day. I recommend parents create (and instill) a back-to-school bedtime routine a week before school starts. That way if you have some “off” days during the transition, it won’t affect your child’s ability to get to school on time. Our family recently invested in the Gro Clock (and book), which has taught my child that if we don’t go to sleep when we are supposed to, it will affect our mood and ability to interact the following day.

Respecting other people’s time is a skill that should be taught at an early age as it can be a very difficult habit to break later on in life; I’m sure we all have friends who are notorious for being late! This is an important social skill because it reflects the level of respect you have for the person waiting on the other end.

If your child is too young to read a clock, you could introduce a timer to help them get ready in the mornings. Alternatively, you could let them know when there is 10 min left, and 5 min. and so on.

 

Being inclusive

The first day of school often brings new faces to the classroom with many families moving over the summer months. Remind your child what it felt like when they were the new student, or what it might feel like to have left all of your friends and to be in a new classroom with unfamiliar faces. Discussing these emotions are an important part of building empathy both in and outside of school. These skills will be appreciated by everyone who meets your child, and will reflect on the values you instill in your home. Practicing some go-to phrases such as “tell us about your old school” or “come and play with us” can make a world of a difference to a new student.

 

Respecting the rules of the classroom

Ask your child what the rules of school and classroom are. In our Dining + Social Etiquette class we spend a large amount of our session discussed the “why” behind social rules. Children are far more likely to retain, and implement, a rule if they understand its impact. If your child lists one of the rules as no running in the classroom, you could ask why that’s an important and safe rule.

 

Family meals

The thought of fitting after school activities, homework, cooking dinner, baths, and a bedtime routine into a few short hours before the evening is over seems daunting. Which is why the thought of a regular sit-down family dinner each evening is close to impossible for families. Although I stress the importance of sit down meals as a way to connect with every member of your family, discuss your days, and solidify family bonds, it doesn’t always have to look a certain way.

In our home, we have implemented fun meal themes such as “Waffle Wednesdays” for breakfast and “Pizza Fridays” for dinner.” Whipping up waffles with your kids can be the time you spend chatting about your upcoming day and what you hope to achieve. Meanwhile, if we can’t make every dinner an entire-family meal, we know that Fridays are reserved for everyone to sit together. You can do this with activities such as weekly family meetings, or games night with the kids. If you’re looking for in-depth conversation starters that not only help your family get to know each other better but also develop confidence in your child to have appropriate conversations about world events, I recommend TableSmarts’ TableTalk cards.

 

Social media and bullying

Depending on the age of your child, social media use will most likely play a big part of the social interaction with their peers. It’s important to remind students that what is put on, or sent through, the Internet can be copied and saved. Depending on the age and maturity level of your child, you can have an open discussion of cases in the news where children have been bullied over social media. Discuss where your child can turn to for help if they ever become a victim of any type of bullying. Making them aware of all of their sources of support, both inside and outside of school, can give students more confidence to select a source they feel most comfortable with based on their specific situation.

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Attending Play Dates Etiquette

Posted by Sunita P on

School is officially back and the kids’ are going to want to catch up with all of their friends! Of course, parents all want their kids to be on their best behaviour at their friend’s house, but playdate etiquette isn’t just about the children; parents also have a set of rules they should follow.

AT THE DOOR

Drop off’s at the door may be stressful for your child for many reasons. They are (potentially) saying goodbye to you and entering a home that they may or may not have visited before – making it unfamiliar territory! If your child is feeling nervous and the playdate doesn’t involve parent participation, I suggest sticking around for part of the playdate, even if it’s only 5 minutes, to help your child adjust to the situation. You could make your extended presence even more beneficial by asking the host parent what the kids will be up to during their playdate – your child will feel much more assured once they know the itinerary of their date.

If your child is feeling nervous about saying hello to a new adult (their friend’s parent) I suggest practicing with some go-to phrases that your child can memorize and whip out when feeling nervous. In our Dining + Social Etiquette class we call these our “elevator pitches.” A good one to start with could be a simple: “Hello” with a smile. Slowly, you can work your child up to a: “Hi, its nice to see you again.” Remember, this may be really difficult for your child at first, try not to show disappointment if they forget or become too nervous to use their greeting.

 

PARENT COMMUNICATION

First, find out if the playdate involves parent participation, which is usually the case with younger children. If you prefer to stay, perhaps to calm your child’s (or your own) nerves about being apart, you could always bring dessert and suggest “tea and cake” with the host parent as a way to socialize while still being near your child.

Second, if you are dropping off your child, it is your responsibility, as the parent, to be clear about expectations during a playdate. If you prefer that your child not consume any “junk food” or refrain from watching TV – be sure to let the host parent know this to avoid any disappointments. Further, if your child has a specific diet (gluten-free, vegan, etc.) it is best to be prepared by packing a few items – especially if the host parent has not inquired about your child’s food preferences/restrictions prior to the playdate.

Third, once you find out what time the playdate is ending – be sure to be on time! If you’re running late, communicating with the parent via phone or text is appropriate so that the host parent (and your child) are in the loop!

Finally, be sure to reciprocate the offer by hosting the next playdate!

 

PLAYING WITH TOYS

Remind your child that when visiting their friend’s home its important to be mindful of which toys are open to play with. Giving examples of some of their sentimental toys can be a good way to illustrate boundaries.

 

EATING

In most cases, food will be a part of your child’s playdate either in the form of a quick snack or a meal. This can be a new experience for your child – eating in a potentially unfamiliar environment with potentially unfamiliar foods! In our Dining + Social Etiquette course we encourage children to try everything once, even a very small amount, since every new food is a new experience. Let your child know that by trying a little bit of the food they can finally discover where the food lands on their “favourite foods scale.” Further, remind them that every dish tastes different based on how it is cooked. They may not have enjoyed spaghetti at last month’s restaurant, however, it could taste very different when made at home by their friend’s parent. The exception to this rule, of course, is restricted foods or allergens. In which case, your child can politely say: “I’m sure it tastes wonderful, however, I can’t have _______.”

 

CLEARING UP

When you arrive to pick up your child, don’t be afraid to ask your child and their friend if they had a chance to clear up their toys together. By asking both kids, you aren’t singling out your child and potentially making them feel uncomfortable. Further, you are showing that you place importance on your children cleaning up after themselves – especially when at someone else’s home. If the kids haven’t cleared up, encourage them to do so while you wait and chat with the parent.

 

SAYING THANK YOU

Phrases such as: “Thank you for hosting our playdate,” or “Thank you for having me,” is an important phrase for your child to learn especially as they practice speaking to adults. If your child is still developing their confidence, a shorter phrase such as “Thank you” with eye contact is a great start!
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Summer Fireworks Etiquette

Posted by Sunita P on

You’ve spent a lot of time scoping out an ideal location, planning the perfect picnic, packing your beach essentials and setting up for the perfect night of fireworks with your crew. The last thing you want is for it to be ruined by other firework enthusiasts who are completely unaware that their game of volleyball is displacing half of Second Beach onto your Tofino Towel! Here, five ways you can get the most out of this year’s Honda Celebration of Light, happening July 28th, August 1st and August 4th in Vancouver! —Sunita P.

 

Location, location, location.

There are multiple spots throughout Vancouver that will offer prime views of the fireworks this year, but select your location carefully. If you have young children or are opting for a more low-key atmosphere, perhaps consider having a picnic at Kitsilano Beach or Dundarave in West Vancouver. If you’re heading out with a group of friends afterward, English Bay may be as a more appropriate spot for your pre-party. This way, you’re more likely to be surrounded by individuals on the same page as you and you’ll be less likely to offend those around you.

 

Plan ahead.

Did you know there are restaurants and other venues around English Bay that offer reserved seating with a great view of the action? If you’re looking to eliminate uncertainty, visit the official website to save your spot in these prime viewing lounges. You can also find information on parking and other important topics on the Honda Celebration of Light site. If you plan to picnic at your spot beforehand, consider packing items that are (almost) mess-free, won’t take up too much space in your basket or backpack and leave minimal garbage for cleanup afterward. Finger foods such as veggie and turkey rollups, seared tofu pieces and harder (less likely to mush) fruits, such as apple slices or plums, are ideal choices. This way you won’t have to leave your (hopefully ideal) spot in search of a washroom to clean yourself up afterward.

 

Be considerate.

With tens of thousands of people attending each night of the festival, it’s important that everyone is mindful of one another as it’s the only way a large event like this can run smoothly. You may be on a mosquito-free streak this summer, but that doesn’t mean dousing the air with OFF! is a good idea. Be mindful of the fact that others are breathing in, or potentially eating, whatever you spray or smoke around you. Feel free to bring entertainment to the beach, be it (shareable) toys for kids or a beach ball—just be mindful of not letting these items annoy others as there’s something unsettling about constantly wondering if someone’s soccer ball is going to hit you! Furthermore, consider taking down your daytime volleyball or badminton net so that others can start to set up their spots for the show. If you plan to enjoy food from the numerous food vendors on site, be patient and considerate. The last thing needed in a big crowd is pushing and shoving. Take a scan to see if there are children, strollers, elderly or disabled people around you and act accordingly. Don’t forget to keep the beaches the same, or even better, than you found them. Show consideration and pick up after yourself so that others don’t have to.

 

Kid stuff.

Yes, it’s true that parents are only halfway through summer and are most likely completely exhausted from keeping the kids entertained but, parents, don’t let that distract you from keeping an eye on your kiddos in case they are screaming or stomping sand over someone else’s blankets. Although this is a family-friendly environment, consider that some may be looking for a more peaceful or romantic atmosphere. Also, don’t forget to bring earplugs or noise-blocking headphones for younger children who may be sensitive to the loud sounds of the fireworks.

 

Put the phone down.

Enjoy the atmosphere you are in and let yourself be carried away by the lights and music. Events such as these don’t happen often enough—don’t let them pass you by while you refresh your news feed!

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