- Less Materialistic Holidays: Teaching the true meaning of the season
There are few people who would disagree that the holidays are becoming more and more materialistic. For starters, have you noticed that stores and malls begin hanging lights, wreaths and decorations earlier and earlier each year? Is there a commercial reason for that? You can be sure of it.
Keeping kids from getting all caught up in the materialistic side of the holiday season can be a challenge. (Just for the record, I’m not saying gifts are bad. I’m saying a relentless focus on things can take away the true meaning of the season.)
To be fair, our children are bombarded with sales messages everywhere they turn, from TV, radio, and magazines to their friends and classmates. Bottom line: companies can be callously profit-driven and kids can be relentlessly competitive, all to the detriment of the season’s spirit.
Before you know it, kids start to sound like broken records with their gimme, gimme, gimmes. And, as a result, parents often spend way beyond their means to cater to this mindset. It’s not a good combination.
Yet, teaching children generosity during the holidays is really not that hard. It does, however, have to begin with you, their strongest — and most influential — role model. Here are some helpful tips to get you started:
Explain Advertising 101. Teach your child that companies pay really big bucks to make people want to buy their products. TV commercials, billboards, radio spots and Internet ads are not cheap. In return, companies want to see a return for their investment: sales. But that doesn’t necessarily mean your child needs the item or will be happier with it. (Play make-believe and have your child act out a commercial for a silly object, say a rock. Afterwards, they will be able to more easily see how advertising is not always in the best interest of the consumer.)
Return to family traditions. Each family has its own special holiday traditions, either passed down from earlier generations or newly created. Try to re-focus your time and energy on these traditions which bring family members closer together. (To spark some ideas, consider going to a tree farm and picking out your own tree, baking cookies together, going ice skating, caroling, creating an Advent book calendar or lighting a menorah.)
Promote altruism. Try to take the focus off material things and turn to volunteering activities instead. After all, helping others and giving of oneself is always more rewarding. It also teaches that giving comes from the heart, not necessarily from the wallet. (For instance, participate in a toy or food donation program, visit the elderly in a nursing home, help out at a children’s hospital, serve meals at a homeless shelter, send a care package to a soldier overseas, etc.)
Show that gifts need not be purchased. Although gift giving can be thoughtful and rewarding, presents do not have to be bought to be considered worthy. Help kids make their own gifts, donate to worthy charities in people’s names or give the gift of time in the form of a gift certificate. (Think artwork, a check to Feeding America or a coupon for setting the table.)
Walk the talk. Be sure to set a good example yourself by showing your kids the holidays do not have to be stressful or gift laden. Avoid shopping marathons and overindulgences. Instead, display a sense of happiness and calm. (When all else fails, just make a cup of hot chocolate and put on some cheerful holiday music.)
The joy of giving is a valuable gift in itself. From me to you, happy holidays!
Suggested children’s books about the true spirit of the holiday season:
The Spirit of Christmas by Nancy Tillman
Legend of the Christmas Stocking by Rick Osborne
The Light of Christmas by Richard Paul Evans
The Christmas Gift: El regalo de Navidad by Francisco Jimenez
While the Candles Burn by Barbara Diamond Goldin