The holiday season is upon us. It is a time that should be an opportunity to cultivate values and traditions. Uphold those family customs our ancestors have established. Honor our festive spirit.
However, we are living a heavyhearted reality: the time of children who are receiving too many gifts.
I’ve always been drawn to the topic of intergenerational issues. The way specific generations interact with each other, and the socio-emotional component of generations. The largest group that has children at school-age are those who belong to Generation X.
GenXers are the sons and daughters of Baby Boomers, the first generational cohort that explored what it was like to have women leave the house to pursue a profession.
Several experts argue that this historical change forced GenXers to grow up fairly quickly. They had to become independent from a very young age. Staying home alone for long periods of time, taking care of their siblings, watching the house, among other responsibilities.
Knowing this sociocultural background, we can understand how these GenXers –now parents– would want to give their children a different reality. Because of this, in a way to heal their own emotional needs, these parents might feel inclined to give more material gifts to their children. A way to heal through others.
This isn’t intended to be a generalization or a collective diagnosis, just a mere social hypothesis as a way to understand the social phenomenon that is the “overly-gifted child.”
Who is this child?
According to an article published by the Spanish newspaper El País, “the child who suffers from it is [the one who] receives an avalanche of toys and gifts within the same day.”
Usually, it’s more present on important dates like birthdays, Christmas, Hannukah, or any other special holiday festivity. The same article cited before explains “in some case, especially in those children who spend less time with their parents, this ‘syndrome’ can become a regular occurrence, when you try to replace the lack of attention with physical gifts, and the need to be constantly rewarding them, and to do so, you rely on gifting them physical objects repeatedly.”
Sending this unconscious message of consumerism has important consequences for the emotional health of children. We are teaching them to value physical gifts so much more than sentimental ones. We are limiting their imagination. Overwhelming them with a sensory overload which has a direct relationship with anxiety. We are teaching them to measure affection in gifts.
What are some of the signs?
Here are three signs that your child might be receiving too many physical gifts:
- Low frustration tolerance
They never seem to be completely satisfied with their gifts, ask for more, or often throw a tantrum when it’s not the “exact” gift they had requested.
2. Their attention is limited
They usually play with one gift for 10-15 minutes, go on to the next, and completely forget about the original toy they were playing with.
3. They have trouble diving into fantasy and magical thinking
When children have too many structured toys, this might often cause a sensory overload. Which significantly limits their creativity and imagination.
What to do?
Some actionable steps you can take to counteract this ‘syndrome’ include:
- Establishing a healthy boundary on how many gifts they will receive. I highly recommend looking into applying the four gift rule.
- Listening. Sitting down with them as they write their letter to Santa, Baby Jesus or whatever belief you have in your house.
- Donate toys. Together with your child, carve out a morning to look at their current toys and decide which stay and which go. This is an important and valuable gratitude lesson.
- Holding everyone accountable and making sure we’re all on the same page. Often, it’s not parents who struggle with setting boundaries, but other family members. The extended family. It’s important to clue in as many family members as possible into your gift-planning ideas.
- Don’t gift them EVERYTHING on their list. When we don’t have something we want, that often pushes us to work harder to get it. The same happens with children. A healthy dose of frustration is SO important for their emotional wellbeing.