To Buy or Not to Buy – Holidays.

If you are a parent trying to figure out what presents to buy for your children during this busy holiday season, you are definitely not alone. Countless parents are trying to handle the pressure to buy every “special thing” they see in stores and catalogues on a limited family budget.

Parental stress is only compounded by the many requests coming from children at this time of year. What should a parent do when their child’s hopes are all about a particular holiday present that the parent can’t afford or doesn’t think makes sense? There is no simple solution to this complicated question but here are some ideas that might help.

1. Try to remember that it is actually good for your children to want things. As parents we want our children to grow up and have their personal and professional dreams come true.
Many parents have had to give up on personal dreams that were important to them and want a less limited future for their children. If children have the opportunity to talk about their hopes and dreams when they are young if can help them become more confident, capable teenagers and young adults; more able to tackle the obstacles life invariably places before them.

2. Just because your child wants something doesn’t mean you have to get it for them. If your budget is like most families’ you may not be able to afford many of the things your child wants. You may also think that some of the things your child asks for could be ultimately harmful in some way. As difficult as it might be to say no, you might have to. Your children will probably get upset, but that is to be expected. Some of the following ideas might help ease everyone’s pain.

3. Find ways to listen to your children tell you everything they want as presents. An excellent way to find out what your children are dreaming about owning
/is to go through catalogues with them. Let them circle everything they are interested in getting. They can describe them, tell you about the details they really love, or jump from one expensive item to the next. They can tell you about the things they want more than anything else in the world and then tell you the things they could manage to live without. Make sure you maintain a respectful tone as they are talking. Try not to groan at the price or say, “Why would you want a thing like that?” In other words hold your adult tongue as much as possible.

You can also have your children make a wish list of everything they want. Tell them not to edit anything from the list. You will probably be surprised at some of the things they will pick when they are given unlimited possibilities. You might also get some good gifts ideas while they are happy telling you about their fantasy holiday.

When my daughter was a toddler she very seriously wanted the moon. She spent months talking incessantly about it. She was excited when she got to see it, confused and upset when it wasn’t there. My patience would be tried by her fascination with an object she obviously couldn’t control or possess, but that she was sure belonged to her. Putting aside my impatience, I decided to listen to her want it and talk about it as often as I could. She talked about the moon on a daily basis for months. We bought moon books, looked for the moon during the day and at night, and put stars and a moon on her birthday cake. She never got to “ have” the moon, it often wasn’t there when she wanted it to be, but it seemed exciting to me that she could reach so far for something that she loved. She had a sparkle in her eye and joy in her voice each time she did. Years later she had to take on some unexpected challenges, she handled them very well and spoke up for herself often. I believe the fact that I tried to listen to her dreams with as much respect as possible was one of the things that helped her gain the confidence that became invaluable as she got older.

Your children really want your attention more than anything else during this vacation. Studies such as the one published by the Carnegie Commission have shown that even the most “alienated” teenagers want warm contact with their parents more than anything else. Listening to your child talk about their dreams, even their commercial ones, can make their holidays brighter. Best wishes for happy, healthy and hopeful holidays.