I am always slightly disheartened by the intensity of the fever pitch for acquisition. If you ask my children what the holidays are about, they will tell you something to the effect of “togetherness, giving, light.” While many are capable of reciting that dignified line, not many actually live that pledge. Millions of advertising dollars are spent convincing you and your children that “togetherness, giving, and light” come at a price and look quite different than the true heart of that sentiment. It is a powerful engine that drives the point and picks us all up along the way. I encourage you to take control of your holiday season and create the ideal you desire within your family. Here are some tips on how to foster the true holiday spirit in your children, within the confines of this modern incarnation of the holidays.
This rings true for your life during what can potentially be a whirlwind holiday season. But especially for your children while opening presents – take your time. Allow your child enough time to really think about and appreciate each individual gift. If you are throwing a flash bang of presents at them in the course of an hour, it will become more about acquisition and quantity and less about appreciation and quality. Allow your child to open a present and play with it. They can slowly open presents over the course of an entire day, able to appreciate each one.
Discuss the gift.
Who is this from? Why do you think they thought it would be a good gift for you? How would you like to play with it? What do you like about it?
Thank the person who gave the gift in the moment.
Involve your children in the choosing of gifts for others.
Do you think Grandma would like this purple sweater or this blue sweater? What do you think your little brother would like? What makes you think he would like that (so he is not choosing something that he would like)?
Encourage your child to give.
Allow your children to participate in choosing the gifts you purchase, use some of their own earned money to purchase a gift or, even better, make a gift that is from the heart. A lack of abundant finances is not an excuse to opt out of the giving side of the holiday season. You don’t need money to be thoughtful. Have your children draw a picture of their friend’s favorite thing, make a nature craft as a family, or be giving of your time.
Donate toys and clothes they have outgrown (and any gifts that are not a good fit).
We currently have a pile of blankets, flannel pants, woolly socks, unopened toys, etc. ready to deliver to the homeless shelter.
I must add a strong warning to thoroughly vet any charity to which you donate. Sadly, there are many major charities engaging in shameful business practices.
Give to a stranger.
We pulled up to a street light and a man stood outside our window with a sign saying that he was hungry. My son asked if he could give the man his lunch. We asked if he was concerned about not having any lunch for himself. He responded that he was fortunate enough to know that his next meal will always come. He gave the man his entire lunch. The man was grateful. He beamed.
So often an “us” “them” mindset keeps us separate from people who live outside our everyday circles. Open your eyes to the people around you and around the world who could benefit from your generosity.
Experiences are better than things.
I could write an entire article on this topic alone. Your child would benefit so much more from a pass to a museum than another noisy plastic toy or stuffed animal. Think in terms of yearly memberships, day passes, lessons, admission tickets to experiences that will enrich their lives throughout the year. Best of all experience-based gifts – shared experiences! Give us a “day at the aquarium together” if you really want to give a gift that enhances our relationship while showing you care. Low budget/no budget experience gifts are wonderful! We would love to take you to a picnic in the park or on a nature hike! Things are exciting for the day. Experiences are exciting for the whole year. (Another perfect example: Giving someone the gift of support like Sage Coaching or a Sage Parenting book!)
You do not have to attend every event to which you are invited. Intentionally cultivate the season you desire for your family. You cannot control other people, so if settings or people are not adding to your joy in a healthy way, then close ranks tighter and focus on what matters most to you.
I will leave you with some wisdom imparted to me from my father: invest in people over things.
“Something you want.
Something you need.
Something to wear.
Something to read.”