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  • Family Reunions: 6 Awkward Situations and How to Deal

    Dreading some sticky situations you may face this season of grand family reunions? Don’t panic! We’ve got your back.
    by Jaclyn Lutanco-Chua .
  • Situation #5:  The bad influence
    “I love my nephew, but I cringe every time he and my son play together!” says Jocelyn Ampil, stay-at-home mom to Joven, 6. “My nephew says cuss words, doesn’t practice good table manners, and gets things without asking. I worry that his bad manners will rub off on my son. I’m tempted to confront his parents and ask them what they’re teaching him at home!”

    What to do:
    Dr. Del Mundo-Nepomuceno says: “Children this age learn mostly by imitation or modeling, so you are right in worrying about your child picking up his cousin’s bad habits. When this happens, you should point out to your child that such behavior is unacceptable. Negative behavior usually persists only when left unchecked, so adequate discipline is very important. Keep in mind that a loving and supportive parent will exert more influence on the child than a cousin whom the child sees only during family reunions. Parents are the best models of positive attitude and behavior.”

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    Situation #6:  Young love
    “I nearly had a heart attack when my daughter once approached me and told me that her cousin Kuya Christian is so guapo, that he is her boyfriend, and that she would like to marry him when she grows up. She’s just six years old!” gasps Analyn Selmo, stay-at-home mom to Jennie.

    What to do:
    Dr. Del Mundo-Nepomuceno advises: “In this case, berating your child is out of the question. Laughing at her will also make her feel ashamed. “First, acknowledge your child’s comment by saying ‘Oh, what do you mean by that? What is a boyfriend?’ This way, you can find out the extent of the child’s understanding of these words.     

    “Generally, thoughts about romance and marriage are transient at this age and are not used in the same context that teenagers or adults use, so you need not worry. Tell your child that she has to complete school first because romance and marriage are for grown-ups who have already finished school and are working. I wouldn’t talk about the taboos of incestual relationships between cousins just yet, since the assumption is that, at six years old, her understanding of love and marriage is usually related to the good feelings she has while playing with her cousin.      
    “But if your child says that a boyfriend is someone to kiss and get naked with, then sound the alarm! It is possible that someone is feeding your child sexual information that is meant to be playful and harmless but is nonetheless confusing to her. If this is the case, you should casually check with your child where she got such information. Ask what she understands about those words, and find out if someone has asked her to try such things.”

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    The reason for the reunion
    “Family reunions are supposed to be joyous gatherings where family members can feel secure and accepted,” says Grace Macapagal, M.D. “As long as we keep in mind the reason why we hold these reunions in the first place—a time for families to bond and renew emotional ties—children subsequently will learn to look forward to them and not react with dread.”

    Avoiding tricky situations
    Indeed, family reunions are a minefield of sticky social situations, but there are ways to minimize such occurrences. Dr. Del Mundo-Nepomuceno, M.D., gives some advice.

    • For dealing with anxieties of command performances:
    “One mother I know encourages her daughters to prepare a song or dance number before the reunion in case they decide to perform. If her children are anxious about performing on the day of the party, she calms them down by saying, ‘It is up to you if you’d still like to dance.’ She leaves the decision to them.”

    • For dealing with unruly cousins:
    “Tell your child beforehand that cousin X might be there and ask him if he remembers what happened during the last reunion. If your child expresses concern about that particular cousin’s presence, reassure your child that you would be watching him closely at the party. Instruct your kid to immediately approach you in case cousin X misbehaves.
       
    “Talking to the parent of the ‘unruly’ child would be all right if both parents are on good terms and understand that kids are just being kids when they fight. Both sets of parents can agree to intervene immediately once a fight ensues.”

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