No matter how well intentioned your gift-giving co-worker or neighbor, you’re likely to end up with at least one unhealthy Christmas present gift season. We asked etiquette expert Jodi Smith of the consulting firm Mannersmith for tips on handling those less-than-perfect Christmas presents with gratitude and class.
Scenario #1: You’re watching your weight and anticipating a relative’s annual over-the-top Christmas present of goodies.
Handle it well: Unless you see this person regularly and he knows you’ve been focusing on weight loss, don’t take it personally. Then exercise tremendous self-control, do not open it, and donate the Christmas present to your local food pantry, Smith says.
“The way to look at it is that (he) has allowed me to make a double gift: the gift to myself to pass it up the goodies and not feel bad about myself, and the second gift is to the food pantry,” she says. No matter what, write a thank-you note.
Scenario #2: Your sister-in-law gives your daughter a doll as a Christmas present that’s not exactly a proper role model for a healthy body image.
Handle it well: If the Christmas present was mailed to you, keep the doll in its original packaging and guide your child by telling her, “This doesn’t match the body image that we think is healthy for girls,” Smith says. If your child is 7 or under, the toy can simply “disappear,” she says. With so many other holiday toys around, your child isn’t likely to notice, Smith explains.
If your sister-in-law is there during Christmas present opening, “Take one for the team. Let her play with it,” she suggests. After your relative is gone, it’s within your right to take it away. In either case, donate the toy. “It’s your house and it’s your role as a parent to set the boundaries and guidelines,” Smith says.
Scenario #3: Here comes your neighbor with a plate of cookies sure to blow your diet.
Handle it well: Put a mint or a piece of gum in your mouth as you see your neighbor walking over so you don’t immediately pop a cookie into your mouth, Smith says. “Then after I accept the cookies and talk with my neighbor a bit, I’ll put them directly into my car.” Drop them off at your kids’ school or local police or fire station—the staff will appreciate the Christmas present.
“Remember that this is about the thought,” Smith explains. “They’re not purposely trying to undermine your diet or healthy living. They’re doing it because it brings them joy to bring you joy.”