Spare Your Kids an Inappropriate Gift
Imagine your third grader opening up Grandma's holiday gift to find a fancy new iPhone or your 4-year-old ripping through the wrapping paper to find a set of PG-13-rated Iron Man DVDs. Although Grandma is probably well-intentioned, her choices might not match up with your family media rules.
We all want the holidays to be a special time, filled with fun and family, but the truth is: not everyone is super-savvy when it comes to picking out gifts for kids. Grandparents, aunts, and uncles aren't always in tune with what your kids are interested in, what's appropriate for their age, or what your family rules are around media-related toys and treats. Here are some tips for helping out well-meaning gift-givers while also keeping conflict at bay.
Be prepared: Kids start thinking about holiday gifts pretty early in the season, and so can you. Decide which of their many requests you're willing to pass along to Grandma and Grandpa and which you'll probably leave out. If you have any great ideas –- like some cool games for your Wii or an Amazon gift card for your daughter's new ereader –- write them down so you're ready when the "What do they want for Christmas?" phone call comes.
Express yourself: Sometimes you can't wait around for folks to ask what your kids want for the holidays -- you just need to speak up. You can take the subtle approach with, "We're only watching G-rated movies these days." Or you can be super proactive with, "We've got some really clear rules about media use in our house, so if you're thinking of getting the kids any gadgets, DVDs, or video games, please ask me first."
Stay positive: Instead of listing what you don't want friends and family members to give your kids, it can be helpful to describe what would work for your family. For instance, you can steer folks away from media gifts altogether with, "We'd really love something homemade this year." Or talk about what's worked well in the past: "Those Nintendo games you got for Marcus last year were perfect. I bet he'd like the latest one this year." Wish lists on sites like Amazon also can be helpful for Internet-savvy gift givers who like clear direction.
Set limits: As much as kids love getting presents, sometimes too much is just too much. Aunts and uncles sometimes like to splurge on fancy gadgets or just go overboard on the number of gifts they give. But your kids may not be ready for the latest tablet or a $50 iTunes gift card. If you want to regulate the amount of media (or anything else) coming into your home, set some limits. You can organize a gift exchange in which each family member buys for only one other person -- or ask for activities or services instead of products.
Don't panic: When your 7-year-old tears open the latest Xbox console on the last night of Hanukkah, don't freak out. If you've explained your media and gadget rules clearly to your kids, they'll be more understanding when you explain that you'll need to hold onto the present until the right time. After you've taken a few deep breathes, you can offer the gift giver some gracious feedback out of earshot of your kids and maybe find a way to turn the situation around (return the gift and use the money for a toy-shopping spree or donate the gift to a needy family). Fortunately, kids usually move on to the next gift pretty quickly.