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Members of the Wedding

Emlyn Foxen, 5, of Portland, OR, loves to play dress-up and go to parties. So when an older cousin wanted her to be a flower girl at his wedding, she was thrilled.

To prepare, Emlyn's mom, Cecily, had her practice tossing flower petals from a basket and talked with her about what happens at a wedding. Emlyn sailed through the ceremony and had a wonderful time.

Still, Foxen admits she kept a close eye on her daughter to make sure her mood and behavior were up to the challenge. "Having a room full of unfamiliar faces looking at you can be stressful for adults, let alone young children," says Greg Prazar, M.D., who serves on the American Academy of Pediatrics' executive committee for development and behavior. "This is especially true for kids under 5, who may crumble under the pressure."

To make sure your child's first trip down the aisle goes smoothly:

THINK TWICE

Before agreeing to let your preschooler participate, consider her age and temperament. Kids under 4 may not have the emotional maturity or attention span to remain composed or be separated from a parent at a big event. Shy or excitable children may also find the task too daunting.

SPEAK UP

If you decide to let your child join the party, voice any suggestions or objections early on. For example, ask the bride to select comfortable attire for young bridesmaids and ushers (no tight collars or itchy fabrics), suggests Jean Picard, a wedding consultant in Ventura, CA. It's also wise to station people the child trusts at the back and the front of the room to monitor and reassure her during the ceremony.

STICK WITH ROUTINES

Weddings can play havoc with a preschooler's regular schedule, leaving her cranky. If the ceremony falls during nap or mealtime, make sure she's well rested and has no-mess snacks available to munch on.

BE READY FOR THE WORST

Even with preparation, your child may have a meltdown. Seat yourself close enough to intervene if she refuses to cooperate or sends out distress signals.

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