August 18, 2022

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Q: I got married this year and have an eight-year-old daughter from a previous relationship....

Q: I got married this year and have an eight-year-old daughter from a previous relationship. My husband and I are expecting a baby early next year. I am writing because I am appalled by the amount of presents that are given to the children in his family. He has two brothers and two sisters and each have a few kids. Every child is bought a present by their aunts and uncles and the cost would be minimum €20. I don’t want my daughter to be brought up with this amount of waste, but I don’t want her to feel left out.
They are including her as one of their own, which I appreciate. But what about my ethics and boundaries? Should I just ignore the fact that there are homeless kids with nothing and that these kids are getting so many presents they won’t even remember them?

Allison replies:  Have you discussed how you are feeling with your husband? Part of the Christmas family struggles are differing norms that become ingrained in tradition. This can quickly lead to defensive arguments as it feels part of what makes their Christmas and part of their unique family blueprint. But norms are not DNA and it is possible to open new ways of doing things.
Staying mindful of how comments that invite change can initially feel like a sting will help navigate this conversation in a constructive way. Broach this directly and gently about why it is important to you, what it means to you as a parent and the values you want to instil in your child about presents. That is the goal.
Present giving norms are as individual as families and it causes issues when the values differ immensely. Coming at this from a practical place first, could you or would you be comfortable suggesting a Kris Kindle where perhaps each adult gets two or three children with an agreed set budget? Or something along those lines.
Some of the most meaningful gifts are charitable and I’ve seen children really respond to the Christmas stars from The Dublin Simon Community that you can hang on your tree.
There’s a great selection of options to choose from. There are hat, scarf and gloves for €10, personal care kits for €15, board games for those in residential settings, medical support kits at €40, some of my favourites of a bed, food and a Christmas gift at €75, and four counselling sessions or 10 emergency packs which are €250 for people sleeping rough. These gifts are ones that they will talk about and feel good about receiving.
These can be alongside gifts for the children but the blending of the presents that really give while also receiving adds to a lasting meaningful experience that is so special.
Conversations about what Christmas means and the real message of giving and receiving is the best gift. This is just one of many amazing charities that have transformative presents that imbue the spirit of giving at Christmas.
Thoughtful gifts are also a lovely way to show that you know the child and what’s important to them. Thoughtful doesn’t need to equate to expensive, it could be a day out together doing something you know they love such as going to see farm animals.
There is also the four-gift solution where you could choose from either something they want, need, wear or read. If you each had two children to buy for, you could have two of the above as options.
This is an opportunity to explore doing Christmas in a fresh way. Note any frustration or annoyance you may feel and identify why it is present. Are there other family traditions or ways of doing things that jar with yours?
Bring a reflective tone to this. When it comes to parenting, anything that differs from your own way of doing it can feel deeply unsettling. The way through it is to try to understand why. What was your Christmas present norm within your family? What was the narrative around it, was it jovial or was there a negative narrative around it?
For some parents giving gifts can bring up old wounds if their family narrative was one where the children were chastised for wanting presents that perhaps the parents couldn’t afford or they were made to feel guilty in wanting them. Narratives of ‘in my day we only got’ or ‘children nowadays are so spoilt and have far too much.’ This may not have occurred for you, but its helpful to get curious when you feel triggered in order to get to the root of the emotion.
I hear what you are saying. You don’t want this to be your daughter’s norm and don’t want to grudgingly buy gifts that you feel are unnecessary. You may be surprised that the other adults may also be feeling the extra work and financial burn on buying so many gifts.
In so many ways children have been robbed of the element of surprise and awe in a culture where immediacy and entertainment rule. Adding to the conversation you may talk about what you miss about Christmas, what made it special for you as a child and checking in with your husband which will give insight into his Christmas morning rituals.
Intimacy springs from tricky and uncomfortable conversations. Shining a light on triggers that are important to you will illuminate taking a new path with a better destination outcome.
Allison regrets that she cannot enter into correspondence. If you have a query you would like addressed in this column email [email protected]

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Ask Allison: ‘My new husband’s family give kids too many presents at Christmas and I don’t like it’ appeared first on maserietv.com.