The concept of gift-giving at school is on the fringe of excessive. Despite its pervasiveness, there will be classmates who get ignored, forgotten and all but deemed unworthy of a Christmas gift. At least that's how it probably feels to the ungifted.
I'm the first to admit, I'm still mad about those pink combs the popular girls gave out when I was in the sixth grade. You know the ones, they had wide handles that looked really cool sticking out of your back pocket. Where was my comb? Why didn't I get one? Surely there was one for me...
Fifth and sixth grade seem to be the stand-out years when a child feels the blatant "dis" of not being remembered, but the reasons for hurt feelings have little to do with not getting a gift. The overlook represents a far bigger problem--the "dreaded" realization of being in the lower echelons of popularity.
Children are acutely aware when cliques are beginning to propagate and the in-crowd starts taking up residence in the very air the whole classroom must breath. The exchange of gifts at school during the holidays is seemingly redefined as a time for playing favorites.
Oddly, teachers have remained universally and blissfully "unaware" of the gifting problem when they should be setting some ground rules for equal opportunity gifting in the classroom.
As parents, we can't take away every little injury inflicted on our child at school, but we can make sure our own children aren't the ones doing the hurting.
Make your child's gift-giving at school an experience that includes everyone. Opt for the same gift for every boy and girl in the classroom and keep it simple such as foil-wrapped candies or holiday mechanical pencils. It doesn't take a high-end present to make every child feel included, and the simplest, but biggest payoff comes when your child is known as the one who thinks everybody is worthy of a gift.
This doesn't mean your child will feel any better about the enormity of not receiving a gift from the captain of the cheerleading squad, but only time can show children how little it all matters in the grand scheme of things. (Unless of course, we're talking about pink combs.)
Abating your child's insecurities about popularity isn't easy, but children have to be prepared for Christmas futures instead of dwelling on Christmas' past. The fact is, we all come home empty-handed at some point in our lives, whether it be through lost promotions, jobs, or even relationships.
Teaching your children to have class in the classroom goes a long way in their development to becoming compassionate adults who are secure enough to have a sense of humor when it comes to loss and unmet expectations. This means understanding that "receiving" is fleeting, unpredictable and sometimes disappointing.
Giving, on the other hand, is something we can all control and tailor to the generosity within our own hearts, so teach your kids to give it all they've got.