Q. Family holidays are a real challenge for me. My siblings and their spouses talk non-stop about their children’s accomplishments and wonderful personalities; they don’t seem to pay much attention to anything else. Unfortunately, my kids haven’t achieved many noteworthy successes for me to brag about, but I want my family to notice and appreciate my children as much as they do their own. I don’t want to get into a competition over whose kids are “better.” How can I do this without starting a fight?

A. You say your children are ordinary when I’m sure you know in your heart that all children are uniquely special and wonderful. There are ways to get your children’s personalities and accomplishments across to others without being boring or competitive as well as ways to make holiday time spent with your extended family more fun. Here are some ideas for you to consider:

1. Before the holidays, create “get-to-know-you” cards for each of your children. Include a picture, your child’s name, age, birthday and any other fun facts about them. Make several of these cards for each of your children and mail them to your parents and siblings. A friend of mine from Georgia sends me one of these cards about her daughter every year. I feel like I’ve gotten to know her daughter though the information on these cards.

2. Help your children make yummy treats to give to your family members. Attach a recipe with the children’s group picture on it.

3. Talk with your children about “good deeds.” Think of good deeds that the children can do at your parent’s house, e.g., set the table or offer to help with going to get things for their grandmother.

4. Work with the children to increase their repertoire of good manners. Nothing gets attention quicker than poor manners or good manners. Practice the good manners until they are automatic.

5. Get to know and like your siblings’ children, not through your siblings’ bragging, but by interacting with them. Plan some games for the kids and join-in. Encourage other adults to join-in, too. Playing games together will help your kids get to know and appreciate their cousins and their uncles and aunts if they choose to participate in the games.

6. Plan some fun, light-hearted competition with your siblings. Some easy ideas include having a salsa or cookie-making contest with everyone invited to bring something homemade for judging.

7. Write notes to each of your siblings and your parents before the holidays telling them what you like and appreciate about them. It strikes me that everyone in your family could use a little boost to their self-esteem. Teach your kids to make positive affirmations, too.

Hopefully one or more of these suggestions will work for you and make your holidays more enjoyable.

Betty Richardson, PhD, RNC, LPC, LMFT, is an Austin-based psychotherapist who specializes in dealing with the problems of children, adolescents and parents.

Got a question for Betty Richardson? Email us here and you just might see the answer in an upcoming issue!

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