Thinking About the Holidays in Challenging Economic Times

Dear Sharon,

With the holidays here our children are naturally expecting the usual gifts and probably even more than last year. Any ideas for how we can cut back on some of the gift giving without making them feel deprived or worried about things.

Dear Parents,

Most parents (including myself) love giving gifts to their children. The joy of seeing a child light up when they open a cherished present is an age-old reward of parenting. Sometimes I even think the thrill for the parent is deeper and more long lasting than it is for the child.

In a world where parents are over worked and time is precious Mom and or Dad can also get much needed practical help from well thought out holiday gifts. A new engrossing toy that happily and safely engages a child can help a parent have more time to tackle the seemingly limitless tasks they need to get done.

Unfortunately this year many parents might have to tell their children that they will not be buying the fancy gadget that they “really, really need” (I suggest doing so sooner rather than later as disappointments can grow large when the holidays arrive.) Most children get upset when they are told no and that moment will not be easy for many parents. I suggest that Mom or Dad takes a deep breath, remembers the countless children who grow up to be healthy, confident, caring adults without the benefit of material wealth and appreciates what a good job they are doing. With those thoughts and the love for their child in their minds they can put their arm around their little ones and figure out a way to communicate that it is fine not to get everything they want.

It can be easy for parents to turn holiday presents into the central expression of their care or even an appraisal of how successful or “good” a job they are doing. Anyone who has read this column before knows that I believe that the most important and long lasting present you can give a child of any age is loving, relaxed time with their parent; in the “hub-bub” of today’s world often a hard gift to find.

Whether any individual parent supported our president elect on November 4th or not, I am hoping that many might feel that the world could be different, that the near future could be a time for fresh thinking and opportunity even in the midst of harsh economic realities. Whatever the details of any individual family’s economic situation might be, I think parents could think similarly about the weeks ahead.

I am sorry you may not get to see your child light up with an expensive gift you have worked hard to buy, but I strongly believe that YOU are the gift your child actually wants.

The fabric of our society begins and rests upon the relationships that occur in our homes. I suggest that for this holiday season parents make spending time with their children the gift that they offer. They could get a puzzle, a game, or a ball to enjoy as a family. They could bake cookies, make decorations, watch a fun DVD, or play a video game together. They could even give their little one a really special gift: a future day off from school to have fun with Mom or Dad.

In short, I suggest you make this holiday a time to laugh, a time to love, and a time to talk about what might be possible in the future for you and for others you love. If you do, it might be a holiday you and your family will always remember.