Well, this year I am thinking ahead to gift openings. Will he (Owen, age 7) have a meltdown this year? Why did that happen last year? What can I do to prevent that from happening this year?
Last year I was dumbfounded when my son fell into an all out meltdown after a little Christmas gathering with his therapy team. There were gifts involved and he got one from each person there. It didn’t even last that long, the gathering that is. Wow… I just did not see it coming! One minute he was so happy about a new toy and then the next I could see him spiraling down. It leaves me with raw nerves just thinking about it.
Here’s what I’ve been able to come up with. Gift opening is anxiety producing. What am I going to get? Will I like this gift? What if I don’t like it? What can I say? What if I don’t think the gift exchanges were fair?
And then in the split second between he has the gift unwrapped and he responds… his brain is calculating – is this cool? will it be fun for me? can I figure out how to play with this? did I ask for this? do I want this? what do I say to the giver?
It took me three different gift openings last year before I figured out it WAS the gift opening that created the meltdown. The fourth and final gathering went better. Not perfect, but better.
So here’s what I’m doing this year to HOPEFULLY eliminate the meltdowns.
• Buy him something that he actually asked for.
• Prepare hours or days before a gift opening. Talk about who will be there, the order of events, how many gifts he might be able to expect, the possible differences he may notice in gifts, how some gifts cost more money, some cost less, etc.
• Talk to grandparents about what gifts I would suggest and what gifts he requested, and stress the need for gifts between kids to be or at least SEEM fair to Owen.
• Provide what helps him to de-stress… if letting him play his DS at a gathering helps him calm down… we’re bringing it!
• Don’t make him feel uncomfortable by forcing social interactions… this will only ramp up anxiety before we even get to gift opening.
• And pray he loves what he gets and never says the words, I don’t like it, That’s not fair, or the dreaded I hate Christmas! (Ouch – that one hurt….)