When my daughter, Isabel, was four, her favorite holiday book was The
Berenstein Bears Meet Santa Bear. She quickly memorized Sister
Bears wish list for Santa, and shed chime in as I read it aloud.
Dear Santa please send me: a happy pink pony, a clown mobile,
giggly goo, a bubble pipe, a birthstone ring, and on it goes.
In fact, the list is so long, Sister Bear has to scotch tape eight
sheets of paper together to get everything in!
For many children the holidays mean just one thing: getting more
stuff. As parents, we want to change this perspective, but when we
try to modify our habits, we find ourselves controlled by unconscious
gift giving rules. These hidden rules keep the tradition
elaborate and expensive.
How many of these beliefs have a hold on you?
--I must buy a gift for everyone I might get one from;
--homemade gifts are more meaningful than store bought ones;
--gifts I give my children should be equal in number and monetary
value, while at the same time suiting the unique qualities of each child.
No wonder weve squeezed the joy out of gift giving! Think back
to a holiday past and a gift you received that was special to you.
Id be willing to bet that it was special because someone shared
in a personal way with you. My most memorable gift was a sled my
grandfather made for me when I was eight. He designed the sled
himself and made it in his basement workshop.
The sled was really just a little box on runners. It in no way
matched the splendor of the shiny red one I had my eye on in the
Penneys catalogue. But oh I loved that sled, and all those
Saturday afternoons when my grandfather shooed me out his workshop
made it just that much more special when the day finally arrived that
I unwrapped it.
Simplify Gift Giving
How can we simplify gift giving and at the same time make holidays
more meaningful for our children?
Here are a few suggestions:
--Put the names of family members in a hat and draw the name of just
one person to buy or make a gift for. Be sure to set a price limit
for this gift.
--Keep gift giving to young children only.
--Take a family trip in lieu of exchanging gifts.
--To make room for gifts they will receive, ask your children to go
through their toy boxes and choose several toys to pass on to other children.
--Jointly, as a family, do a community project such as sponsoring a
family in need in your community and providing gifts and food for them.
--Serve a holiday meal together at a shelter for the homeless.
How to Handle Grandparents
For many families whove had the courage to limit gift giving
themselves, they must deal with grandparents who insist on showering
their grandchildren with gifts. What can you do?
--Months before the holidays ask them to please limit their gift
giving to two or three items per child.
--Suggest that grandparents spend a day with each grandchild taking
them somewhere special such as the zoo, lunch or a movie in place of
--Put the gifts away and open them later in the year on a special occasion.
Holidays become meaningful for children when they are a warm and
close family celebration. Our children will recall happy times shared
with the people who love them, and they will fondly remember the
gifts chosen especially for them.
Written by: Lauren Bradway, Ph.D., Neptune Beach, FL, USA