Oooh, presents! All kids, no matter their challenges, can appreciate the joy of exchanging gifts at the holidays. Of course, for most kids, the getting is the best part of such an exchange. Keeping secrets, thinking about other people's feelings and watching other people get things that they want is not as great, and it's not easy for kids with impulsivity challenges. These children act without realizing the consequences of their actions, so they need extra support around gift exchanges.
1. Keeping Gifts Secret
Having a child who doesn't like keeping secrets is normally a good thing. When your child is giving a gift, however, blurting out what's inside can ruin the surprise for other kids. (Hello, tantrums!) Before the exchange, explain that part of the fun for the other participants is the surprise of finding out what's inside the wrapping paper, and that spilling the beans ruins the surprise.
2. Waiting For a Turn
Taking turns is really tough for impulsive kids. In a one-at-a-time gift exchange, there's a lot of waiting required. Tell your child that he'll have to sit and wait while other people open presents, and give him a fidget toy or other object to hold while he waits.
If there are other kids participating in the exchange, you can almost guarantee that your impulsive child will see someone else get a gift that she wants. Talk about how she would feel if someone took her new gift out of her hands. Model the ways in which she can politely ask for a turn using someone else's new gift, and what she can do if the person says no.
4. Showing Gratitude
Remembering to appropriately thank the gift giver is something most kids struggle with, so this is one pitfall that many of your fellow parents will have to navigate. This is another challenge that can be avoided with modeling and preparation. Talk about why it's important to thank a person who gives you a gift, even if you don't like the gift. In the moment, model the behavior you want by saying something like "Wow, Aunt Kelly gave you a great gift! I'm going to say thank you to her because it was so nice of her to get that for you."
5. Frenzied Excitement
Ripping off wrapping paper, tearing apart packaging and wanting to play with a new toy right now are all common behaviors for impulsive kids. Sit by your child while he unwraps his gift so you can remind him to slow his body down if necessary. If he can't start playing right away, redirect him to another task. "We'll put the batteries in when we get home. Right now, can you help me gather up all the wrapping paper and bows?"