Holidays & celebrations

7 Ways to Reduce Your Child’s Frustrations About Gifts

By Lexi Walters Wright

12Found this helpful
12Found this helpful

For some kids with sensory, self-control or attention issues, exchanging gifts can turn a fun event into a holiday headache. But you can help keep your child from getting frustrated about gifts and enjoy getting and giving presents. Here’s how.

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Set your child’s expectations.

Give her a run-through of what the day will look like with as many details as possible. “When we get to Aunt Jen’s, we’re going to open stockings first and then have breakfast. Then it will be time to take turns giving presents after breakfast.”

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Role-play opening gifts.

If your family has specific methods for present exchanges, discuss and practice those beforehand. “One at a time, each person will open one gift. When you open your present, look at me so I can write down who gave you what. Please remember to say thank you!” Also remind your child that wrapping paper and bows get damaged when gifts are unwrapped, and that’s OK.

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Talk through possible scenarios.

What might your child do or say if she’s disappointed by what she receives? What if she opens two of the same gift? Role-play these possibilities, as well. Agree on a code word, look or gesture that you’ll use if she needs to calm down and check in with herself to see whether she’s behaving appropriately. Let her know that it’s OK to ask you to take a break from the activities if she gets frustrated.

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Wrap and offer gifts strategically.

Make sure all tags for gifts are marked clearly. If your child has difficulty reading, consider separating her gifts into a pile or bag to reduce confusion. You can also use different wrapping paper for each person. If motor skills are a problem, keep scissors on hand for paper and bows that won’t budge. Intersperse gifts that you think your child will really like so she doesn’t become fixated on one or uninterested in opening the rest.

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Take breaks.

Pause the present-opening every once in a while. Kids may welcome some time to play or try on their gifts. A snack or a quick run around the yard or basement can release energy.

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Encourage giving and receiving.

Kids of all ages can appreciate the satisfaction of finding or making the “perfect” gift for someone else. When a person receiving a gift from your child opens the present, try to make sure that everyone is paying attention. A positive reception can help fuel your child for opening her own presents.

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If possible, prep gift-givers.

If family and friends ask what to get your child, be ready with gift ideas you know your child would love. Or offer substitute ideas if what they have in mind wouldn’t be good. “A skateboard might be tough for Henry. He’d love a marble run, though!” Many families find that making an Amazon Wish List can be incredibly helpful for gift-buyers—after all, they want your child to love their gift!

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About the Author

Portrait of Lexi Walters Wright

Lexi Walters Wright is a veteran writer and editor who helps parents make more informed choices for their children and for themselves.

Reviewed by

Portrait of Bob Cunningham

Bob Cunningham, Ed.M., serves as advisor-in-residence on learning and attention issues for Understood.

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