Christmas Coping Strategies: Or, Why Opening Presents Early is Ok

by ACMJ on December 16, 2011

in Monday Morning Memo Top 10 Parenting Tips

I have no doubt that there are children out there who sail through the holiday time with great equanimity, smoothly transitioning through the sugar overload and piles of presents with smiles, graciousness, and charm. I’m sure their clothes are all pristine green and red, and never accented with schmears of chocolate chips consumed as if life as we know it depends upon getting another chip in the mouth as quickly and as messily as possible. I’m sure if those children have an Elf of the Shelf, they don’t hunt it down each morning with a mania that borders on stalker-ish behavior.

However, those children do not live at the EHP homestead. Not. At. All.

So we have developed a few coping strategies to deal with the reality of the EHP children as they are, in all their holiday glory. Perhaps these will help you out too on a difficult day:

1. Open Early: I am a full convert to the idea of opening Christmas presents that arrive by mail from relatives and friends early. This is not to say they should be opened immediately, but the giant pile of presents on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day? It’s overwhelming, and frankly, unrealistic. It also distracts from the meaning of the day, which, depending on your point of view, should be about family, tradition, faith, and friends, or some combination thereof.

2. Wish List It: the wishlist function has saved the day more times than I can count. When the “need” for something becomes overwhelming, we put it on the EHP kiddos’ Amazon wish lists. It’s visual, it’s concrete, and it’s affirming. Make sure that on birthdays and at Christmas that someone actually BUYS off the wish list. I can’t stress enough how key this is. Your child has to know that the Wish List works, that delaying gratification does ultimately result in gratification at some point.

3. Reinvent It: I’ve taken to making enormous piles out of the EHP kids’ toys around this time of year. No neat storage, no toys put in their place. Nope. I dump it in the center of the room, and make a big mess out of playing with it. Why? Because it reminds them – both visually and tangibly – of how much they already have. It feels “full” to them. They don’t see it as messy, they see it as exciting. And this helps them cope – really well, actually – with the constant pressure and expectation of “getting” during the Holiday Season, because they realize that they have already “gotten”.

As we all work to teach our kids the right meaning of the season and the holidays, I hope these tips will help you manage those difficult emotions too! And, remember, on really bad days, there is nothing wrong with feeding your child a big bowl of chocolate chips and letting them go to town on it. Christmas really does only come once a year.

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