You can insert many potential retorts that break the hearts of well meaning loved ones when your Little Big is opening their Christmas presents.
It's not always as pointed as ‘I hate this present’ but regardless of their words, when our kids receive gifts but miss the memo on the perfectly grateful and humble response, us as parents often are left with shame, guilt, embarrassment or often just pure SHOCK!
We have had our own experiences with expecting ‘gratitude’ to look a particular way for our 6 year old when she receives gifts. Then being blindsided when she didn't conform to our expectations...
C-L-O-S-E-R is an easy 6 step acronym to get us all through the ‘I hate this present!’ (or any variation your little throws out!) moments.
C - Centre Yourself
L - Listen
You know when you’re angry/disappointed/hurt and someone tells you to ‘calm down’ or ‘get over it’. IT’S THE WORST!
Granted, it’s so valid to want to simmer down your kid’s feeling-pot when you’re in front of family and friends but, on the assumption you’ve nailed point 1 and you’re feeling centered, listening to your Little Big’s feelings is a pretty powerful step towards moving through them. Listening without agenda and with curiosity.
PRACTICAL TIP: If it’s going to regulate you/your LB in this moment, take them away from the rest of the family. ‘Thanks for being patient everyone, Olive and I are just going to take a breather outside and we’ll be back soon.’
Your family can wait, or they don’t have to, but taking a simple slither of control back will do wonders for your calm and your little one's confidence in the fact that you’ve got them, in this overwhelming moment.
O - Open A Space For Chats
Whether you choose to listen to the more rational feelings or not, they’re all inside your little one and (especially if this is early in the day) they're probably going to keep seeping out if you don't have some in-time early.
S - Sandra Bullock
This one is 100% because of a Miss Congeniality crush that never left our 90s hearts but the loose segue is about walking the talk. Act out the behavior you want modelled. Back to not being centered, remember your little one is not right now. Forcing them to say thank you or apologise might make the moment feel a little less cringey but it’s not really going to help in terms of developing intrinsic gratitude.
‘Hey Uncle Henry, Olive is having some big feelings right now but I’d like to say thank you for their gift. I know you put lots of thought into it and I’m grateful. Thank you.’ Not the easiest when Uncle Henry is miffed, but I promise it gets easier with practise. You know that your babe is kind and generous and grateful and empathetic (well, learning to be!). They’re just having some feelings right now and it’s directed at the Paw Patrol colouring from Uncle Henry. It will pass, and your modelling will pay off.
E - Enabling Factors
This one often begins in hindsight but when you get really good at the next point, it will become a gift in foresight.
Christmas is an overwhelming sensory overload that is built up for weeks and weeks before hand. All this pressure on a single day and often individual moments of single present opening. Alone, this is a lot for a little nervous system and if the body that houses that nervous system is also tired after a long day, hungry after playing with their cousins, overwhelmed from all of Grandma’s cuddles, cold after the swimming pool, hot because there’s no swimming pool - their ability to keep it together is limited.
Always remember all the enabling factors. This will help you be genuinely understanding and empathetic to your own kid's feelings.
R - Remember
Lastly, we try to remember that this is just who our kid is. Instead of forgetting the moment and expecting her to go back to a version of #grateful and #polite that we were drilled with as children, we’ve started pre-empting the likelihood of her overwhelm and presenting them in safer situations a few weeks before the suspect events.
Incidental play has become the easiest way to present very specific scenarios in very calm, centered moments within the safety of our homes.
- "What do you think Pikachu would say if they didn’t like the present Unicorn Falafel (actual teddy name) gave them this Christmas?"
- "How do you think Pikachu might act if they were tired and angry about it?"
- "How do you think Unicorn Falafel would feel if Pikachu said something hurtful?"
Finally, we end with a solid round of Sandra Bullock, "What could Pikachu say instead?" (ensuring here that Pikachu is both respectful and polite to Unicorn Falafel but also true to themselves, such as "Thank you for my present UF, I appreciate how much effort you put in."
(Let them know they can vent in the car on the way home can be helpful too!)
Practising this language before the big day will mean they're not coming down from the feels and having to learn something new.
Hope this is useful fam and good luck out there. If all else fails, have another ‘nog?
Feel free to reply to this blog with any thoughts or things that are helpful for your family!
With love and peace,
Happy Holidays! x