Posted on December 1, 2023
There’s no denying it: the season of giving is an emotional time. In fact, for most people, it’s probably the most emotional time of the year. And when kids are involved, those feelings tend to go into overdrive. Just about any expense can be rationalized because it’s being done in the spirit of creating an amazing holiday experience for the young ones.
Ironically, debt created by high expenditures around the holidays can make home life more stressful for months after the holiday season, making it harder to create a warm and positive environment in which kids can thrive.
So, the question becomes: does it make sense to deplete your resources for a celebration that lasts a few days but could make the entire rest of the year more of a struggle? And what message is that sending to the children?
Experts in child development agree that the things kids need most as they grow up include:
• Quality time
• Emotional support
• Positive discipline
• Physically healthy lifestyle
• Positive role models
• A sense of belonging
You’ll notice that the list doesn’t include “lots of expensive gifts.” No one is expecting you to check all of these boxes with your holiday celebrations this year, but emphasizing these kinds of needs instead of what might be on your child’s wish list can leave you feeling better about the holiday season on several different levels.
Similarly, it can be helpful to think about what kind of person you want your child to be. Do you want them to equate happiness with material possessions and pricey experiences? Or do you want them to be someone who finds meaning in activities that aren’t based on immediate gratification or materialism?
Here are a few ways to tap into holiday experiences that create beloved memories without breaking the bank.
Ask what they want
It can be as simple as, “Hey, what do you want to do for the holidays?” By emphasizing activities, you can help your child focus on the moments that mean the most to them instead of teaching them that happiness only comes with having the latest and greatest consumer items.
You can also use this conversation to set reasonable expectations for the holiday. By asking what 2-3 items your child wants, you can help them understand that you’re not an endless font of gifts.
Pay close attention
Depending on the age and disposition of your child, they may only spend a little time talking about their emotions or even their preferences. But as much as possible, try to pay attention throughout the year when they express a desire to do an activity or an interest in a particular topic. For example, if your child expresses concern about a specific issue, ask if they’d like to spend some time around the holiday volunteering for that cause.
Spend time exploring
A recent study found that 73% of kids wanted more time to bond with their families. Notice the word “bond.” Kids want quality time, not time rushing from school, practice, work, etc. Young people constantly explore new activities, ideas, and means of expression. Do some research to find inexpensive museums, natural attractions, festivals, or other enriching events your child would like to sample. By researching and participating in these quests, you demonstrate to your child that you care about their interests and want to spend excellent bonding time together.
Make a new tradition together
Undoubtedly, there are existing family traditions your child cherishes. But some may seem old-fashioned, tedious, or just plain dull. This could be a good time to demonstrate that you care about your child’s input, boosting their confidence and making them feel valued. What old tradition would they like to replace with a new one? Asking your child to take the lead in creating a new family holiday activity can help drive home the point that the season isn’t just about getting gifts but also creating memories.
Children often struggle to find the best way to express their feelings. By giving them some structure for putting their emotions into action, you can help them channel their inner life into the outside world in a healthy way.
Create “flower” videos
Today’s kids live in a video-heavy world. Even though to many parents, making a video might seem a little unnerving or invasive, young people today tend to be more comfortable communicating in short clips. This holiday season, consider using the format to create flower videos. What’s a flower video, you ask? It’s a short recording in which you talk about how much the recipient of the video means to you. You’re giving them verbal “flowers” to show how amazing you think they are.
Rather than posting it on social media, send the video directly to your child. While it may feel awkward for your child to sit down and have a heart-to-heart with you, a video can get across the same feelings while giving your child the ability to experience it in private. You can also start a discussion with your child about the people in their life they’d like to make a flower video for.
This process can help reinforce the idea that true love and generosity aren’t necessarily about spending lots of money. By delivering this sentiment during the holiday season, you can help your child have a much more positive relationship with money and the idea of what they “deserve” in life.
There’s no need to buy a great holiday season for your kids this year. There are plenty of ways to create feelings of warmth, love, and connection that cost almost anything. It may be a transition for your family, but it can pay off big in more ways than one down the road.
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