Being a wonderful house guest

One of the great things about summer is being able to spend time staying with friends and family that live too far away to see regularly, whether it be a week end or a few weeks. Planning ahead and being prepared are the keys to a wonderful trip. Use your child’s dominant sense to help you preempt possible issues so that both adults and children can have a wonderful time.

Tactile children are innately active. They will need to jump on every piece of furniture, touch everything and run and hug everyone they know, all without realizing they have dirty hands. Their zest for life can be a breath of fresh air for some hosts, especially those who are tactile themselves or have had tactile children. But it can also be over whelming for the other more structured and reserved senses. Make sure to give your child time to run and play in the garden or playground just before arriving — this will help to remove some excited energy. Once inside your host’s home explain the rules gently but firmly. Tactile children understand clear directives, especially when given with some form of touch. It could be sitting on your knee, or holding their hands. Once this foundation has been set, you will still need to remind them, but at least it will be from a place of understanding.

Parents can sometimes be surprised by how different their auditory child behaves when they arrive at their destination. Often their child has been talking up a storm, asking questions, describing all the fun things they will be doing when they get to the home of the friend or relative, only to have them become quiet and reserved, barely saying hello and being moody. Think of this as them feeling overwhelmed. Talking is what makes the world logical to an auditory child, and often they talk to organize and explore their thoughts and feelings not just to show excitement. To the auditory child, their thinking world is more logical than reality, and they can find themselves at a loss for words in order to understand their new environment; but never fear as soon as they feel more comfortable their vocal expression will return.

Visual children love to visit new places and see new things, as long as they get to go home to what they know! This can be difficult if you’re staying at someone else’s house, but not impossible. By bringing a few important items from home you can give them the security they need without having to bring the kitchen sink. Items such as their bedding, a favorite bag, favorite matchbox cars and the like, will provide your child with the comfort and stability they’ll need to have a good night. Parents of visual children often find they become very particular about what they are wearing. This could be an insistence of their own clothes or wanting to wear another child’s. Avoid this type of tantrum by bringing a good array of choices and if it involves other children, link them together by pointing out that they are both wearing skirts or the same color T-shirt. It may seem ridiculous to you but visual children feel linked by visual commonality such as the same shirt, similar hairstyles or the same shoes.

Taste and smell children love the idea of seeing old friends and visiting family but they can quickly get nervous and apprehensive as soon as it’s time to pack up and go. This is because they find transitions difficult especially when it is out of their routine and home environment. Be realistic to their sensitivities and expect a few meltdowns as a result of the change. This doesn’t mean they don’t want to be there, just that the unknown scares them. It is often easy for adults to forget that often children don’t remember previous visits or people they knew even a year before. Remember if you’re two years old, a year is half your life! They often remember the idea of a person however, which will help bridge the gap and in no time they will be comfortable and enjoying their long lost second family.

Staying at a friend or relatives home is a wonderful bonding experience, help to iron out the difficulties by being aware of how your child processes new environments.


Priscilla Dunstan is a behavioral researcher and creator of the Dunstan Baby Language and author of "Child Sense" and "Calm the Crying." She currently works in New York as a behavioral consultant. Learn more about Dunstan at