Etiquette at Family Gatherings

Etiquette at Family Gatherings

Family outings or gatherings can be the settings of some of our most precious memories, moments, and celebrations. Wether it be just your immediate family, or extended.

However, many a time, someone on the table is bound to do something to upset you. It’s usually the kids, but, we all know, it can definitley be the adults!

Here we discuss some basics of social etiquette at family outings, and how to deal when kids are not being on their best behaviour.

Chatting with Dr. Nayla Daou, Psy.D., a clinical psychologist, we come to understand the most common problems and how to deal with it.

Dr. Daou specializes in working with children, teens, and young adults experiencing a wide range of behavioral and emotional difficulties, and also has expertise in parent training. Working carefully with parents to improve upon parenting skills and communication skills, they can hopefully effectively manage their children and teens’ behavior problems, and improve family relationships.

Some of the most common problems among families 


Parents often complain that their teens are -

  • Disinterested in interacting with the family

  • Always on their phones

I often recommend parents to -

  • Talk frankly and honestly with the teen

    • Say something along the lines of  ‘we know you much prefer to hangout with your friends and talk to [them] than be out with us…can we agree on a way or amount of time we can spend together once a week”


Parents often struggle to – 

  • Draw the limits with their kids in public

I often recommend

  • Agree on the rules and limits with their kids before hand

  • Use gentle reminders when they are out

  • Appreciate and praise their compliance / other positive behaviours they engage in

    • For example, [parents] can tell them something along the lines of “you are being so patient while i’m buying groceries, and i’m so thankful for that! You’re also so helpful how you went and picked out the bread.”

The digital world, tablets, etc.

  • Tablets don’t have to be no-no never to be used

  • There should be rules and limitations

  • Should not be a habit used to distract kids is, not recommended during gatherings

    • Otherwise, kids are not required to use and practice social skills

    • Nor incentivized to solve their own boredom with creativity, problem solving, and imagination

  • Gently encouraged to socialize if other kids are around [hopefully they can all be off the tablets for the duration]

    • Parents can guide them on steps they can take to start socializing, if uncomfortable

Credit: Sai De Silva

Credit: Sai De Silva

Basic social etiquette – both adults and children 

Following these etiquettes at home is good social life skills in general. Family wants to be treated well in the home too, so these rules/etiquettes should be a way of habit

  • Ackknowledging when someone talks to you

  • Please + Thank you

  • Greeting people with hello/good morning [or any of your cultural greetings]

  • staying glued to the phone when someone else is talking

  • Every family has their own rules at home

I think the below can be added to the list too. However, I agree with Dr. Daou that every house (or the situation) can be/is different.

  • Wait for everyone’s food before you start eating, even for your family (of course this is situational and flexible)

  • Don’t just leave the table, if you need to leave for a reason, asked to be excused

  • If you are running late to the meet up/gathering, let them know

  • If someone lends you an item (e.g. book) or brings food in a container/plate, etc., be sure to return the item 

  • Do not tune out by wear headphones in the car with family/friends or when walking with family/friends (unless you are on a plane or roadtrip where everyone is passing time) 

Dr. Daou highights “these rules followed or encouraged at home should be encouraged outside. But it is tricky outside because some kids have an anxious or shy temperament. Such children should always be encouraged to follow the social rules, but may have to practice, gradually, to engage in social interactions/conversation. As for the other non-interactive social rules (such as no phones at dinner, waiting for everyone before eating), they definitely should be encouraged and the reasons behind them be explained to the child/teen… [these habits] instill good personality characteristics” such as being courteous, considerate, and inclusive.

If someone is being rude

  • Shaming a child or teen is never the right way to go, this is no sign of respect

  • If we want kids to respect us, we need to respect them

  • If cannot be ignored, take them aside and address the situation

  • Older individuals, older children, teens, adults, can have the issue addressed at a later time followed by an explanation

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