Help! It’s pass the parcel!

Posted by Samantha on December 12, 2011 in Empathy, Love, Over-control, Resilience |

Can we skip pass the parcel?

Here’s a quote from The Telegraph last weekend “Pass the parcel must be ruthlessly rigged to avoid tears”.

I guess the parent who thought of putting a packet of sweets between the layers of pass the parcel was very pleased with the innovation.  I remember when I first encountered it I thought “oh, nice idea!”

However, once you’ve done this, you feel the need to make sure that any given child gets just one chance to open a layer.  Cue ruthless rigging.

Which never goes according to plan because the children don’t necessarily stop passing just because you stopped the music.  Plus, it’s pretty difficult to time the music to stop at just the right moment.  I’ve witnessed adults take presents and parcels out of children’s hands in order to give them to the “right” child.  Sparking tears obviously.

The first time I did “new” pass the parcel, I wrapped the prize, with Haribos between layers, and didn’t give a thought to how many layers I “needed”.  I didn’t realise that in the new version every child must get a gift.  Am I the only one who thinks this is barmy?

We once had a party (our son’s 6th) where most of the boys were too busy racing around our house to bother joining in any of the organised games.  So much for knowing how many layers are “needed”.

The new level of party planning also means I’ve seen children ruthlessly organised to play games they clearly didn’t want to play, youngsters forced to sit still (at a party!!) for way longer than their age-group can comfortably manage, and children managed to within an inch of their lives to satisfy parents’ needs to provide a ‘perfect party’.

Once my (3 year old) daughter was “disqualified” as winner of pin the tail on the donkey because the organising parents said she must have cheated to pin it on so accurately.  I tried defend her but they were having none of it.  I wish I was making that up but I’m not.

Who’d have thought that someone’s nice idea would have transformed a bit of fun into a full on nightmare?

In my experience, despite the ruthless attempts to rig it, there seem to be frequent tears during pass the parcel.

This is in sharp contrast to my recollection of the game from childhood.  I remember excited anticipation, the sense of hope that I might win, the thrill on the rare occasion  when I did, the mild disappointment (“oh well”) when I didn’t.  I cannot EVER remember anyone crying during pass the parcel.  I also recall it only took one adult to organise it, instead of the several it seems to take nowadays.

Which brings me to my main point, which is that kids are hugely resilient if we let them have the experiences that build resilience.  They can learn to cope with the disappointment of not winning pass the parcel.  But they need to be allowed to play the game as it always was – one winner, lots of not-winners.

When did parents decide that childhood mustn’t contain tears?  When will we realise that our efforts to protect our children from experiencing the sting of disappointment is leaving them vulnerable?  They aren’t learning how to withstand their own emotions.  Rigging pass the parcel is not helping them.

Rather than managing the party environment so that our children don’t experience disappointment, we need to remember what we can do to help when they are feeling a little disappointed because they didn’t win a party game.

Here are some suggestions:

 – Show love and support: give them a hug / kiss / cuddle / shoulder pat / any combination of these

  • – Empathise / acknowledge the feeling:
      • – For younger children say something like: “You really wanted to win the prize.  It’s disappointing when you don’t.”
      • – For older children something like: “I know it’s disappointing but you’ll be ok” is more appropriate and let’s them know you’re confident they can handle it.
  • – Help put it in perspective / focus on the positive: “That’s disappointing, but you won a prize in musical statues / it’s time to go eat all the yummy food now / I expect everyone else is a bit disappointed too”.

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