Many years into my life, I have come to realize that it is impossible to give presents to everyone that they will want or be happy with.  It can even be a present that they especially have asked for, and very soon after receiving it they appear disappointed.  Why does this happen?  This is because people are often unaware of what they really want to receive.  The wife, who wants clothes or jewelry, may in fact wish that she could feel like she thinks she did when she was a young girl. Her father gave her a present that she remembers made her feel much loved.  The man remembers the pride he felt when he got his first rifle or pair of skis. Those remembered feelings may or may not be accurate.  When the giver is attempting to give something to someone and hoping to receive perfect gratitude, they will often be disappointed.

Parents often scrimp and go into debt to buy toys or games for children that are only temporarily satisfied.  The parents feel angry that the children aren’t grateful.  A disappointed husband buys a necklace for a wife that is only mildly happy to receive it.  The husband is embarrassed by tickets for an evening outing, and the wife feels frustrated that she isn’t appreciated.

Holidays are funny things.  We often fanaticize our past memories. Presents become tangible objects to attach those memories to.  How can we celebrate then; both giving and receiving presents that make us feel good? Celebrate the act of finding the presents.  Try to enjoy the process of thinking about your partner or your child and instead of trying to earn their affection providing the perfect present, just try to connect with their interests and what you think they might enjoy.  If they do, great!  If not, you have had fun getting them something that reminded you of them.  Without the pressure that often accompanies someone receiving something from someone that might have emotional strings attached, the present is given and released.   The reception of the present no longer matters so much.  The hunt for the present is like an exercise in gratitude for that person.

What you really want to receive as a present is the feeling of being appreciated and loved.  Give that present to those you love, and make your holidays better than ever!

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Gina Crozier, the director of Sonoma Family Counseling has been working with families and children for over thirty years. Her style of counseling is positive, solution-focused with the idea that within everyone there is the ability to solve their problems.