Setting aside religious preferences, there are three things I believe parents need to promote with their children during the holidays: Gratitude, Giving, and Responsible Gifting. Having said that, the holidays are especially great for family fun! At our home, we had the ‘Elf’ leave small gifts under pillows or ring the door bell and vanish (leaving a gift behind) a few weeks before Christmas. Of course, the Elf came more frequently to children making ‘wise choices’ like doing their homework and going to bed on time! Frequently the Elf who was thousands of years old and some say lived on the moon during holidays-off, left games the family could play together! These games gave parents their children’s undivided attention for a couple of hours in the evening for discussions of gratitude, giving and responsible gifting.
It’s easy to gain agreement that the family has a lot to be grateful for when you not only have a roof over your head and food on your table but the Elf is dropping by with gifts now and then! The question is, should we as a family be doing anything to show our gratitude? Some family members may feel they don’t need to be grateful for anything because they got where they are through their own hard work! But a deeper look at the origin of their success may well reveal that an ‘opportunity’ was presented to them. A better job offer? Funds for college tuition? A job mowing neighbors’ lawns? Yes, they asserted themselves to take advantage of the opportunity, but that ‘opportunity’ could have gone to someone else, too.
Consensus on gratitude is a great segue into discussions on ‘giving.’ When possible, we want to engage the whole family in a ‘giving’ activity. Giving your time and expertise to help someone is much more rewarding all around than writing a check. More importantly, it lets your children experience heartfelt appreciation from a non-family member for their contribution—an experience they may never forget. Of course, you, the parent, must propose several ‘giving’ options from which to choose. Should we shovel snow off the sidewalk for the elderly couple down the street? Should we help a widow store her outdoor summer furniture and tools? Maybe bake some cookies and sing carols as you deliver them to a handicapped neighbor? Whatever you choose, make it an activity for several members of the family and when it’s completed, go out for hot chocolate or ice cream sundaes! Your children will relive the ‘giving’ experience over the hot chocolate and look forward to the next opportunity to give of their time and ‘expertise’!
Dogs Love Holiday Strudel too!
Have you ever seen a young child tear the wrapping off a holiday gift, throw it down, grab another gift, tear its wrapping off and repeat the process for every gift never even opening one of the gifts? Even though several of the gifts may have been on the child’s Gift Wish List, they will appear disappointed there weren’t more gifts to open! You can manage this situation by having children alternate gift opening and by helping them inspect each gift and determine how it can be used.
The more important question is how much should you spend on gifts for your children and what types of gifts should they be? The amount you spend for each child clearly depends on your disposable income, but even if you are flush with cash, you need to reign in your desire to give your children their every heart’s desire. Too many gifts will simply end up in the closet never to be played with again but taking up valuable space. Additionally, too many gifts can distract from the true meaning of the holiday. I liked to give my children gifts that required an activity, like a pair or skis, hockey skates or a skateboard. Added to that were clothing items like a cool new pair of sneakers, sweaters or ski jackets to complement their skiing activities but which were also suitable for school.
Your children won’t have a clue about what they got for Christmas two years ago. But, here’s what they will remember. Your 17-year-old football wide receiver son will remember his favorite aunt teaching him how to make the 100 year old family orange roll recipe and that he’s now the next-in-line Orange Roll King!
May you have a joyful and peaceful holiday with your family by your side!
FROM OUR HOME TO YOURS!