Q: My values during the holidays are to focus on my family and gratitude, but my in-laws want to shower my kids with an obscene number of gifts. I don’t want to offend them, but it makes me uncomfortable and it is not the sort of values I want to convey to my kids. What should I do or say?
A: I completely understand where you are coming from and why you would want your kids to cherish family over materialistic things. One thing you can do to help address this is by having an honest conversation with your in-laws and explaining to them what you hope to create in terms of traditions with your children, their grandchildren. This could start by just contacting them, and saying, “Could we have a quick chat as we plan for the upcoming holidays?” This is a good first step in having open communication and setting boundaries with them. When the conversation starts, you can begin by saying how you are excited about the holidays. Then, when the time feels right, you can explain how you and your husband have decided to emphasize family time and gratitude over the holidays and de-emphasize gifting. You can gently explain that you would prefer it if they limited the number of gifts given per child. Be specific to set them up for success. Remember, communication is a two-way street. By explaining your perspective and listening to theirs, you cultivate empathy on both parts. Using clear, respectful communication reduces future conflict and bad feelings. While having this conversation may seem scary at first, it can prevent bigger conflicts from occurring down the road. Family disagreements are common, and communicating respectfully can help mend your current relationship and the worries that you may have with your extended family.
This article was originally published as a Laudable Life advice column in the Lakelands Leader December 2022 addition.