Holiday Jealousy over Gifts

by Parenting Power

In the movies, holidays are about love, giving, kindness and caring. In the world of Real Life Parenting, that isn’t always the case. No matter what’s in your child’s specially-wrapped package, her sister’s present will be better. Santa leaves way more presents at your neighbour’s house and while the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence, the envy seems greener right in your own home.

Many siblings spend their lives comparing themselves to each other, vying for Mom and Dad’s attention. When it comes to gifts, the comparisons continue. Rather than hoping that jealousy won’t happen, we can let our kids know that it just might show up during the holidays, when shopping at the mall or when a playmate or brother gets the exact toy you were hoping for.

With young children, the old distract and re-direct move may be your best bet. However, if your kids have graduated to the “You-can’t-fool-me-with-that-redirect” stage, you need a new plan. Read stories about jealousy (Spelman’s, When I feel Jealous) so that your kids can tell you – I’m feeling jealous, I need some help. Acknowledge the feeling rather than telling them not to feel it.

Teach strategies for when they feel that way:
  • Pick a crayon that is the colour of their feeling and scribble the feeling out
  • Draw how they are feeling
  • Blow/Dance the feeling away
Gratitude can be a great way to move jealous feelings out. You can make a Love Hand ahead of time that your child can use when feeling overwhelmed with jealousy, fear or sadness:
  • Trace your child’s hand on some paper.
  • Put the name or picture of someone who loves him on each digit and a heart in the palm.
When the yucky feelings come, he can count and think of the 5 people (pets) who love him and who he loves. Eventually, he won’t need the paper hand because he’ll memorize it and carry his hand with him whenever he needs a reminder.

One final thought: Start to become aware of how much the focus of your family’s celebrations is on gifts as opposed to spending time together.

As ex-teachers, we know that when kids come back to school after the holidays, they rarely remember what gift they got. They do remember fun times spent with family, going skating or bowling together, yummy food and togetherness.

After all, kids spell love T-I-M-E!

From Julie Freedman Smith & Gail Bell, Parenting Power