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Mama Drama: Christmas Morning Craziness

Dear Mama Drama:

Christmas day is a nightmare at my house. My children run downstairs, dump their stockings, tear open all the gifts and then fight over who got what.

When the rest of the family comes over, it’s the same thing. They greet their grandparents with, “What’d you bring me? What’d you bring me?” Then there is wrapping paper everywhere and they have no idea who gave them what presents nor any appreciation for them.

It’s like a feeding frenzy. I have no idea what to do to make this better.

~Feeling Frenzied

Dear Frenzied:

Creating a routine for Christmas morning and opening presents is just as important as developing regular daily routine. Since your children have a pattern of behavior already established, it is important that you start talking with them before Christmas morning about changes in your expectations this year.

Begin discussing the importance of appreciating their gifts, whether they are from Santa, parents, or other relatives and friends. Let them know your concerns with their previous behavior and how you would like that to change. Teach them ways to express gratitude and have them practice.

Create a new Christmas morning tradition together. Perhaps the kids can all climb in bed with you and snuggle.  You could all take turns doing shoulder rubs or tickling backs. You could also read a book together. If everyone is old enough, perhaps they can read quietly in their rooms until a specified time.

Make a new rule that you will wait to open presents until all family members are downstairs. Set a time when everyone is expected to be up. As they begin with their stockings, give them each an area where they can open their gifts. Encourage them to take items from their stocking one at a time, rather than dumping them, and examine the gift.

As you begin opening presents, set a system where only one person opens a present at a time. Encourage them to observe what their brother or sister received and be excited for them. Have them thank the person who gave them the gift as you practiced. Let them know this will take more patience than they are used to using on Christmas morning.

Elicit the help of the grandparents and other family members in your plan as well. When they come over to celebrate, use the same system of opening one present at a time and thanking the person who gave it.

Thank you notes are also an important step in developing a sense of appreciation rather than entitlement. Determine who will keep track of who gave which presents, parents or kids.  Then set a time a few days later when you can work on the thank you notes together. Allow younger children to dictate to you or work from prompts you provide. Relatives and friends who receive these notes will be very appreciative.

Your children may grumble about the limits you are setting. Gently let them know that they are welcome to join in the present opening if they are willing to follow the rules you have set. This lets them know you are willing to have them wait to open gifts until they can do so in a respectful manner. Be prepared to stop the present opening if things get frenzied. There is no harm in waiting a bit. Waiting encourages appreciation, too.

Motherhood is an amazing journey that can have its share of Mama Drama. The Mama Drama column runs on Fridays with everyday mothering questions from readers and answers providing strategies to tackle these daily challenges. Send your questions and challenges to [email protected], and your Mama Drama could be in next week’s column! All emails and identifying information will remain confidential.

Send your Mama Drama questions to [email protected]

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