Planning For the Holidays

If you are a parent you might be beginning to figure out what presents to buy for your children now that the holiday season is close at hand. You are definitely not alone. Countless parents are trying to handle the pressure to buy every “special thing” they see in stores and catalogs 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 it can help them become more confident, capable teenagers and young adults; more able to tackle the obstacles life invariably places before them.

2. Find ways to listen to your children tell you what 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 particularly love, or jump from one 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. You can also have your children make a wish list of everything they want. You will probably be surprised at some of the things they will pick when they are given the opportunity. You mi ght get some good gifts ideas as well.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.

3. Just because your child wants something doesn’t mean you have to get it for them. One of the main reasons we can’t listen to our children talk about what they want is that we can’t stand to tell them no and hear the inevitable upset that follows. Nevertheless, if your budget is like most families in this challenging world, 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.

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 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, even the ones that were out of reach, æ was one of the things that helped her gain the confidence that became invaluable as she got older.

Your children want attention from you more than anything else. 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 attentively as your child talks about their dreams, even their commercial ones, can make their holidays brighter. Best wishes for happy, healthy and hopeful holidays.