By: Natasha Archary
The holidays, when families come together and spend what seems like eons of time bonding. All well and good while everyone is getting along but it’s family and there’s bound to be some drama one way or another. Afterall, what would the holidays be without some?
Family favouritism can be somewhat of a dampener to the mood over the festivities.
Grandparents, uncles, aunts and yes, even parents are prone to favouring one child over another, which can often lead to resentment and risk ruining the vibe during the holiday season. It’s easy to overlook the signs of favouritism in a family dynamic because one would not readily admit to it. Or you may just choose to keep the peace by ignoring the telltale signs, than to call a member of your family out on their deliberate indifference towards child 1 vs child 2 or vice versa.
The principle of favouritism is a tricky slope of denial and complete obliviousness but it happens and it may seem trivial to point this out until it’s all tears and tantrums because an older sibling received a more extravagant Christmas gift from gogo. However, material signs are not the only clues that favouritism may be at play.
3 Tips for handling favouritism
1) TALK TO YOUR RELATIVES
It’s important for family members to each understand how to speak, treat and interact with children when you are all together. If you suspect that your parents, in-laws, brothers or sisters are guilty of playing favourites, you should stand up to them and bring their actions to their attention.
Describe as best you can how this makes your child feel and try to find solutions together. Explain that it is in your child’s best interests to learn that everyone gets treated equally – same gifts for each child or same price range for gifts with each child, discipline, praise etc – that the rules applies to every child, no exceptions.
No grandparent sets out to deliberately hurt their grandchildren, atleast none whom are caring and thoughtful so it could just be that they are unaware of their actions and bringing it to their attention should remedy the situation.
2) VALIDATE YOUR CHILD’S FEELINGS
It’s important to validate your child’s feelings. Children as young as three are able to pick up that grandma spends more time cuddling their older cousin. Remind them that they are not measured by someone’s actions but rather what they give of themselves. Teach them to forgive the flaws in others and stress that it should not define who they are. Where there’s an obvious discrepancy in treatment, explain that grandma and grandpa loves all their grandchildren equally. And when grandchild 1 goes to Private School because grandma spent a fortune of her savings securing her place then you will have to find a better excuse.
3) ACCEPT WHAT YOU CAN’T CONTROL
Despite the chats with your relatives and children, prepare yourself for a repeat in pattern when it comes to favouritism. Something there is nothing you can do to change behaviour but you can instil in your children the ability to be thankful, gracious and immaterialistic in this cruel, cold world.
It’s natural for the first grandchild/niece/nephew to be treated with undivided adoration and love from all parties concerned. Doting grandparents devote unlimited time and affection to their newest addition. Grandchildren have a way of wrapping grandparents around their tiny, chubby fingers. Many grandparents carry around little brag books and most are unrecognisable to their own children, who may have grown up under stricter conditions. Grandparents tend to spoil and limit the rules when it comes to their grandkids. But what happens when the novelty of the first grandchild wears off?
Grandchild 2, 3, 4 and 5 have joined the expanding brood and you wonder how your mom and dad can juggle all 6 so effortlessly on their knees. You’re in awe of your parents’/in-laws’ ability to love your children and their many other grandchildren with seemingly equal flourish until…
You start to notice that the picture frames that once housed your childs’ photos are now holding the newest additions pictures, grandparents are always babysitting the oldest grandkids, your older siblings’ kids seem to do no wrong in the eyes of your parents, your mother-in-law seems to only talk about your nieces and nephews in a praise worthy tone all while your child is in earshot.
Doesn’t seem quite so trivial anymore does it? Favouritism in any form can have long term effects on a child. Self-esteem, confidence, emotional stability, security, relationship building it’s a very touchy path to tread but one you should consider if you want to avoid hurting little feelings. Granted it may not always be easy for family to treat each child equally – geographic implications for example could be a factor – but this doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t try!
Children have an innocence in them that cannot be described and it is this profound trait that one should try to protect as best they can. Often, favouritism hurts mom more than it does the child but this doesn’t mean it should be dismissed. What about parents who play favourites? Well perhaps that’s a topic for another day.