Gift giving has been a holiday tradition for centuries because of the way it brings friends and families together, making everyone think deeply about how we value one another.
Here at Therapeutic Options, at this time of the year we optimize social learning and communication opportunities through our tradition of “Secret Snowman” gift exchange. Several weeks before the holiday break, each group member randomly selects the name of a fellow group member for whom she/he must get a gift. The name that was selected is a secret.
Choosing a gift to give to another person requires knowing what that person likes. Many of our group members have difficulty remembering what they have learned about each other. Our holiday tradition reinforces the importance of social recall and the need to find out information about others without giving away the name of one’s donee. This activity provides a framework for working on perspective-taking, decision-making and problem-solving.
Planning the holiday party also presents organic opportunities to work on the thinking and social skills necessary for group work. The group members need to share ideas, compromise and accept the opinions of one another. Parties are inherently motivating so this is usually a very positive exercise for all.
At the party, the gifts are given and opened one at a time. This structure encourages pro-social behavior in both the giving and receiving of a gift. Each group member sees the pleasure that the gift bestows on the recipient. Opening a present in front of the giver requires thoughtfulness as well. The manner in which one reacts when receiving a gift impacts on the feelings. For some of our clients, this can be a very challenging exercise.
We wish everyone a happy holiday and good cheer throughout the new year!