Our children, aged 13 and 15, have been acting difficult during festivals in the last couple of years, and it is getting worse. They do not like a single sweet or savoury preparation, do not enjoy crackers, hate wearing festive clothes, and just don’t like visiting relatives. We have to coax them out of their rooms when people visit. I’m willing to let them be, but my husband feels (and I agree) that this is just snobbery and they must learn to enjoy the spirit of the season. They are the same with weddings too. Please advise how to deal with this. I don’t want them participating as if they’re doing the whole world a favour.

In the spirit: Don’t force your children to meet relatives during festivals. Photo by Puneet Chandhok/Hindustan Times.

If the “snobbery" part hassles you, then there is a larger issue to be tackled year-round really at other levels. If, for you, visiting relatives or at least being sociable and nice to people when they visit is important, then you need to have a sensitive chat with them about why they need to connect with people better—not just as a favour to you. If all year round you have nothing much to do with these relatives, it does seem artificial and difficult for the children to suddenly be able to show involvement with them. It makes sense to, pre-season, perhaps clue them in on who’s who in the larger family, and tell them something interesting about that person or family, so the children don’t think of them as strangers who have to be smiled at and hugged and feet touched.

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All this means we can’t simply uncork “the festive season" on our children. We need them to have some small connect with who their family is and why they are important. Overall, many children this age are preoccupied with themselves and don’t have much mental space for what the fuss is about around festivals.

You need to negotiate with them whichever part of the festivities are really important to you, talking about which things they simply have to do and which they could learn to enjoy. There could be a bunch of things you simply agree to let go.

How does one teach a six-year-old to accept gifts and say thank you without saying things like “I already have this". Or “I wanted a yellow truck, not red". Or “My uncle is going to give me a bat with Sachin Tendulkar’s name on it". Or some such thing which makes the giver feel rejected? I have tried telling him that he must learn to just accept the gift with grace and thanks, and then he could tell us later if he doesn’t like it or wants something else. So now he just makes an awkward face and looks at us when he opens a gift that doesn’t appeal to him. Next, I will have to teach him to come up with fake joy and enthusiasm which doesn’t seem like a good thing to teach. What would you suggest?

Gouri Dange is the author of ABCs of Parenting.

Write to Gouri at learningcurve@livemint.com