Tomorrow, millions of American families will be getting together to celebrate relationships and the many blessings we have received in the previous year.

It’s also a time of year when family members we may not have seen for a while come into town. While the adults may have well-established relationships with these people – both through shared time together in person in previous years and through any of the many means of staying in touch digitally available now – young children are often surprised to learn they have aunts, uncles, cousins, they’ve never met.

As the loving adult, you may feel a little embarrassed when you two-year-old is shy about greeting a grandparent or other relative who lives far away. You may even feel the urge to push your little one to give this strange adult hugs and kisses to show how much you love this person.

Before you act on that urge, though, remember your little one may have no memory of the adult in question. Of course, grandma loves them dearly, but if she hasn’t seen them in months, she is a stranger to this little mind. Most grandmas will understand if your tiny tot takes a while to warm up.

Instead of coercing your small one to make affectionate overtures they feel uncomfortable about, perhaps you could suggest a few activities the two could do together that would help rekindle their relationship. Here are some suggestions, but you should choose activities you know your little one loves to do and that your adult loved one can accomplish with ease.

Read a book

While you’re putting the finishing touches on the dinner and need little one out from underfoot, maybe you can have Uncle Don sit down with tiny Jim and read Jim’s favorite book, or books, on the couch near the kitchen. Maybe little Jim will even get comfortable enough to show Uncle Don his bookshelf in his room and you’ve successfully transitioned through the awkward phase.

Play outside

If little Susie is always clamoring to go to the park, maybe Aunt Jane could take her outside to play in the backyard for a few minutes. Tossing or kicking a ball back and forth, riding bikes, blowing bubbles, bragging about the pretty flowers that are still blooming that Susie helped to plant, even watching Susie slide down the slide fifteen million times can be a good bonding activity for the two of them even if you consider it mind-blowingly boring after doing it so many days in a row.

Build something

This one might be a bit trickier, especially if you have a smaller house and lots of company, but Grandma and little Michelle might enjoy spending some time working with big block legos, magnet cubes, or some other building type game your little one loves. If you’re limited on space, you could suggest a smaller building activity or send them outside, to Michelle’s room, or to the garage for their building time. If there are a lot of people in the house, Michelle may need a little one-on-one time anyway to help cope with the overload.

Make something

Again, this one might be slightly more difficult if you have limited space, but Granddad and little Timmy could help with the Thanksgiving spread by making something together to share with the rest of the family. Choose a recipe with only a few ingredients and something that doesn’t require heat and you could even have them make their dish in another room!

Play a game

Whether a board game or video, this one is particularly good for older cousins getting to know new little people in the family, but is also suitable for older relatives. Just don’t stick a controller in Great Grandma’s hand and expect her to know how to play Marvel Super Heroes right away.

Some tips in suggesting these activities. As I mentioned before, make sure it is something your child already loves. Good choices would be anything they’ve bugged you to do with them so often you just don’t think you can do it one more time. Just because you’re bored with it doesn’t mean your remote relative won’t enjoy spending some time getting to know your little one.

If your little one is particularly nervous, uncomfortable, or high-strung, you may want to set up the activity in a location where you can keep an eye on things. This helps you intervene in any negative behavior your child might start to demonstrate, but more importantly, it means your child can see you. As long as you are in sight, or someone else they know and trust, they can feel safe spending some time with the stranger until they are no longer a stranger.

All of us here at Premier Academy want to thank you for trusting us with the care and safety of your little ones throughout the year. We honor the time we are given to spend with them and love them as the amazing people they are growing up to be. We hope you enjoy a wonderful Thanksgiving with family and friends, surrounded by love and warmth. From our family to yours, Happy Thanksgiving!

5 Tips for Growing Relationships with Remote Relatives on Thanksgiving