I can't think of a way to better title this question.

My question is a direct response to a recent news event. You can read the article online.

Here's the scenario:

A child with a condition socially impairs him, in this case a speech delay known as apraxia, was having a public birthday celebration. The parents, uncertain that anyone but close family would attend, created a Facebook event that went viral worldwide.

In response, more than 300 people, primarily strangers, attended the child's event, bringing hundreds of gifts, with more being shipped via online orders. Much of this is because of the action of the Reddit community.

Responses such as this from the Internet happen occasionally, ranging from raising money for medical bills, sending pizza to children's hospitals, and now making amazing birthday celebrations.

My questions are:

What are the implications of such a large turnout on the psychological and emotional health of children who receive such enormous gifts (if not quite so enormous as this)?

How do you properly guide their expectations about such events in the future, to help them realize, in a healthy manner, than such an occurrence is not likely to happen again?

If you have a child of your own, that may or may not have social development issues, who reads such articles, how do you help them realize that such events are not typical for every child and that shouldn't necessarily expect the same?

I'm hoping there is some base psychology/sociology information that deals with similar events, if not the same events. For instance, I've recently read (still searching for articles) about the negative effects of military parents' surprise public homecomings. Those are also situations that are atypical for children, have a huge immediate impact on the child's life, and may or may not involve a lot of community members.

Update: I've had time to think about the question more, so I'd like to provide the following:

I realize this is given as multiple questions, and am willing to break it down into separate questions if necessary, but I'm really asking one overarching question:
What are the short-term and long-term psychological, emotional, and social outcomes of such events on children in unusual spotlights and children that witness/learn about such unusual events?
My multiple questions are intended to be guidance towards answering the larger question, not as discrete questions requiring dedicated answers. Although, I suppose there is an implied follow-up question being:
If any of these outcomes are negative, how do you, as a parent, mitigate them?

  • 1
    Your question might not be answerable that way. A specific event will affect people diffrently depending on how they rationalize it. Does the kid think it's like santa (he was good, received gifts). Does he think it's from authority (he obeyed rules, received a gift). Just random people being nice. Or a "Oh look, being nice makes people happy".... This also depends on how the parents talk about it with the kid.
    – the_lotus
    Jul 8, 2015 at 11:28
  • @the_lotus Those seem like standpoints to make an answer from, not conditions to make it unanswerable. I think it'll also affect the children differently based on how the parents present it to the child. So, what's the most beneficial way to do that?
    – user11394
    Jul 8, 2015 at 21:32

1 Answer 1


I think this depends more on the child and the parents, and how they approach and respond to the situation, than on the event. In fact, I would argue that the long-term outcome depends almost entirely on the parents (at least their overall parenting approach/effectiveness, and how they handle this situation), since I would expect them to have a very strong influence in this boy's life. There are also very likely factors that are unknown, but I will ignore them since they are unknown and because I would still expect the parents to have the strongest influence.

Most people in my experience (and from stories/media/movies/etc.) are not defined by a single moment in their life, even if they distinctly remember very important "milestones". These events are just important, even sometimes life-altering events, but they don't define the individual. The individual is defined by how he responds and adapts to these events. Mature individuals, especially strong, confident ones, take these events "in stride", gain what they can from them, and keep going. This means not saddling up the high-horse when something great happens, and not wallowing in the mud when something awful happens. Those who do let events in their life define them as a person are what I understand as "having a chip on their shoulder", "recapturing the glory", or some other such metaphor for trying to get away from something unpleasant they can't let go of, or trying to relive something they can't accept as having passed.

The main difference here is the sheer scale of the event, which could make it trickier to accept, and give it a larger impact than a similar event of smaller scale might have. Having a college fund provided by a stranger is a very uncommon and unusual event, and is something that could completely change the course of ones life provided he seizes and takes ownership of that opportunity.

I would expect the immediate implications to be, generally, a sense of overwhelming joy and happiness, a rush of new "friends", and, potentially, a number of down-players (who are most likely acting entirely out of jealousy). Any long term outcomes, in my opinion, will depend entirely on the parents and the childs response to the event and their subsequent decisions.

There is no discrete answer to this; there are only possibilities. There will almost certainly be a mix of positive and negative outcomes (since no one is perfect), and I would optimistically expect them to weigh-in toward the positive overall (since I think most people want to be good in the first place).

Some likely negative outcomes I could see occurring

Inflated sense of importance/ego

Expecting such things to happen again

Feeling (overly) pressured to live up to some new standard or expectation so as to not "let down" all those nice people or to pay back something that really can't be fully repaid, and which shouldn't be viewed as a debt.

"Fake" friends

And a laundry list of problems stemming from any one of these "primary" issues, which I would expect could be nipped in the bud through a grounded approach to integrating this event back into daily life, accepting it graciously (and gracefully), taking full advantage of every opportunity it grants you, and owning both the process and the outcome of these actions.

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