By Stephanie Gomme
The holidays are coming and they are coming soon! As parents, caregivers, family members and friends, we are preparing our lists and pondering how to get everything done. What was once seen as a loving, genuine tradition of gift-giving now feels riddled with clearance specials, Black Friday deals, and endless advertisements. Children are being bombarded by commercials on TV, ads on their tablets, and elaborate store displays. Of course, it is natural for children to want the latest toy or computer game, but for adults, it feels like the pressure is on!
An important question to ask yourself is: “What matters most?”
During the holiday season we, as adults, can look back on times during our childhood and young adulthood where specific gifts meant the world to us. These gifts usually fit with who we were and what was important to us, and somehow the gift-giver zeroed in on something that we would love but would not have thought of buying for ourselves. I still remember receiving my first interactive drawing book when I was young and how much it meant to me that someone noticed that I enjoyed drawing. We certainly do not remember every single gift, but we definitely remember the ones that made a difference.
Special gifts that are personal and loving are still the most treasured by anyone, at any age. As a parent, getting all the presents your child wants may seem ideal, but is it actually making a difference? You and I both know that at least half of those trendy toys will be broken or missing pieces by the end of January if not sooner.
Now, I am not suggesting calling off all presents. However, I am suggesting being more mindful in many ways. Regardless of how old your child is, giving him or her a present can be a teachable moment. Giving your child something that speaks to who he or she is versus an “awesome cool-looking action figure that shoots his arms out until the battery wears out” may make a difference in your relationship. Consider what matters most to your family and what values you want to teach. Don’t assume everything children point at will matter to them. A lesson in self-regulation—the ability to manage one’s emotions and behavior according to the demands of a situation–can occur when children don’t get everything on their list.
Decision-making skills can also be developed around the holidays, for example by having children sort their toys and donate what they no longer use prior to receiving new ones. This practice can become a heart-warming tradition as your children learn the value of giving back to those in need. And it not only helps with organizational skills, but can also allow children to recognize what is important and meaningful in their lives.
They will likely want to keep the items that speak to who they are.
Through my work, I have known many families who stress over holiday spending and gift-giving because they want to give their children the world, which is all any loved one wants for another. However, as caregivers and parents, we need to know what is meaningful and valued by our children. One lasting gift could be to start a family tradition of spending time together and creating memories that will never be lost or forgotten in a toy box. Families can also spend time making gifts for each other. Photo-collages, letters, cards and home-made puzzles are things you will want to hold on to for many years. Through these different activities you are spending time, valued time, with your children. You laugh, you play and you connect with them. This is the gift that matters.
Stephanie Gomme is a Parent Partner in the Family Empowerment Program.