I would love to hear your thoughts on managing the excesses of the holidays. I read your blog religiously and love your practical approach. This holiday season I have implemented advice that you give over and over - keep routines the same, don't make a big deal out of things, recognize that kids have a different sense of time, focus on the traditions and not the "stuff," etc.
However, I don't know what to do about the things/people that are out of my control. I have given grandparents and other family members lists of reasonable and useful things (slippers, games etc.) and in some cases actually asked people to not give gifts to my kids (3.5 years old and 18 months old). But there are already several boxes that have been shipped to my house and 3/4 grandparents will be visiting us for Christmas. My mother in particular is well known for her excessive generosity. She got mad at me on Thanksgiving (and really ruined the rest of the holiday with her resulting attitude) when I asked her to not give the kids games and other toys she had brought with her. I mentioned that I had already given the particular game idea to the other grandmother and that Christmas was only 4 weeks away.
We love having our family join us at the holidays - they all live at least 5 hours away by car, but the excesses that I can't get a handle on are making it very difficult for me to enjoy the holidays. I look forward to your ideas and also those from the other readers.
Thanks so much!
From: Michelle, Medford
Dear Michelle (and thanks so much for your kind words about the blog!),
Asking family to respect your wishes takes some serious training. Some relatives get very competitive about gift-giving and, let's be blunt here, it's more about them than it is about the kids. Sure, sometimes they are competing for the kids' attention but these grandparents mostly are playing a game of one-upmanship with each other. Sometimes all it takes is getting one set of grandparents on board for the competition to stop, but it's not easy.
Rather than struggle with this every year, here's another way:
Explain to your family that less is more for young children because they get overwhelmed by too many choices. Give them a list of what you have in mind for your kids; here's my favorite toy gift guide by TRUCE (Teachers Resisting Unhealthy Childrens Entertainment). Tell your family that you are going to screen the gifts by pre-opening what they send. If a gift seems excessive or inappropriate, you're going to put it away and save it, either for another time (Christmas in April?); to re-gift; to exchange; or to give to a Christmas toy drive of your choice. You will, of course, make sure each relative is appropriately represented under the tree and you will rewrap the gifts as beautifully as they were originally.
There's a chance they will be horrified. (One way to avoid the angry initial reactions is to do this by letter.) They will also see that you are serious and I bet they will take your advice about gift-giving much more to heart.
That children develop serious cases of "the gimmes," by the way, is partly a reaction to what they see around them, both in the culture and in other families, and partly how parents handle it. Of course kids want everything! They're kids. One way to handle this? Grant them their wishes in fantasy: "Boy, it would be so fun if you could get a pony! What would you name it!" They know it's not really happening.
But whether you have a limited budget or you're exercising common sense, your attitude is critical. If you're feeling sorry or sad for what you can't do/give, not only does that spoil your enjoyment, but it rubs off on them. If you make the most of what you have/can give, they will, too. If you ask me, that's giving them the best gift of all, and it's a gift that will last a lifetime.
I answer a question from a reader every weekday. If you want help with some aspect of child-rearing, just write to me here.
The author is solely responsible for the content.