The following is the final installment in the Holiday Hassles series originally posted in December 2006.
Continuing the discussion of some holiday hassles, I want to bring one up that is more common than I would have imagined. That is blatant favoritism of certain children by family members.
Imagine this scenario: Your family goes over to grandma and grandpa's for Christmas. When it comes time for gifts for the grandchildren, your brother's child gets several gifts while your child gets none.
How about this one: You go out and have a family portrait taken (quite costly I know!) and have it placed in a lovely frame as a gift to your in-laws only to have it put in a drawer or closet while your sister-in-laws family portraits are all over the house.
Amazingly enough, these scenarios are based on actual situations. Although I have many years of experience working with families and individuals and I know "analytically" how such things come to be, I really have a tough time grasping these scenarios emotionally. I mean, purchasing gifts for one set of children and not for another with the latter set having to watch their cousins open gifts in front of them? That really offends me. This is not to say that children should always expect gifts, but when grandma has gifts for cousin Joey, but none for me, well, that just doesn't feel right.
So let's add fuel to the fire and say that your spouse (whose parent is the "offender") sees no problem with the situation. How do you cope with that when the kids come to you asking why their cousins got gifts and they got none? Talk about a horrible situation to be in!
Here are some suggestions and thoughts on how to deal with blatant favoritism at the holidays:
- Discuss the situation with your spouse. Find out where he/she stands on the issue. Your spouse may not want to acknowledge the favoritism as it brings back his or her own emotional pain from childhood. If your spouse refuses to acknowledge the problem, you could tell him that the next time the kids ask why grandma doesn't have their pictures up in her home or why cousin Joey gets birthday and Christmas gifts and they don't that they will be directed to him for an answer. It isn't their problem is we keep trying to clean up the mess. Depending on your family, you might suggest to the children that they ask their grandmother the question the next time they visit.
- Have a meeting with family members. Discuss the Christmas gift giving procedure: 1) is there a limit on the gift amount for each child; 2) will all the children be receiving gifts; etc. You can also try sharing your observations in a calm, cool and collected manner. For example, one might say "Sue, I noticed last year that you gave gifts to Bob's kids but none to ours. Will all of the children be getting gifts this year or just his? If that is the case, we would like to know what time the gift exchange will happen and we will either leave beforehand or come afterwords." This may sound caddy to some, but it is a fair question to ask. You can provide the explanation that you are trying to avoid your children feeling left out or hurt as a result of not getting a gift to open (no matter how small or insignificant the gift inside might be).
- I know someone who tried this one: She bought two gifts for her kids, wrapped them, and put grandma's name on the gift tag. When it came time to pass out gifts and her children didn't get any, she quickly went and pulled them out saying someone must have forgotten to put them under the tree. When the kids opened them, they thanked their grandmother for the lovely gifts. She was red with embarrassment. Later, the mother told the grandmother she owed her $30 for the gifts and to let her know if she wanted her to pick up the gifts for her kids next year or if she would be doing the shopping herself. It worked as the kids had gifts under the tree the next year!
- Finally, if it continues despite your efforts to encourage fairness, you may want to consider passing on the get together.
Have you or anyone you know gone through something similar? If so, how did you work it out? Please post your suggestions and tips!