This holiday season, children will be surrounded by a mountain of gifts and anxious parents hoping that the presents will be up to snuff. And, while it is completely natural to want to give children the ‘perfect’ holiday, the increasing pressure to purchase bigger and better gifts can leave parents wondering if this yearly tradition is getting out of control. So how do we find the balance – allowing our children to experience the joy of receiving holiday gifts while imparting values that will give them an appreciation of non-material things?
Here are five ways to re-define gift giving and help minimize consumerist ideals so that you and your family will have a truly magical holiday.
1. Prioritize contribution over consumption, collaboration over competition.
Kids who are provided the opportunity to contribute to family activities and collaborate on the decisions that will affect the family tend to shape an identity that is based on character in lieu of status. Encourage your child to demonstrate their opinions, skills, and talents at home, and emphasize the value of sharing, so that he/she can build confidence in assets which have nothing to do with clothing or material possessions.
2. Broaden the meaning of ‘giving’ to include energy and time.
Because material gift giving is a major characteristic of the holiday season, we tend to overlook gifts of energy and time – both of which are significant ways to combat materialism. Teach your child about the issues that affect their community, and allow them to participate in ways that they can serve through volunteerism and acts of kindness. Homeless shelters, soup kitchens, and family service organizations all offer a host of opportunities for young people and their families to get involved.
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3. Opt for socially conscious and alternative giving.
When material gift giving is unavoidable, try making purchases from vendors that positively impact the economy. International websites like Etsy support independent business owners, while many non-profits, like Raising the Village, host campaigns like ‘Gift Outside the Box’, where families can invest in things like healthcare, food security, and agricultural opportunities such as an elephant-deterring beehive fence. Also see Center for New American Dream’s Simplify the Holidays campaign with dozens of ideas for a holiday season with more meaning and less stuff.
It’s important to remember that children tend to retreat to their material items when they’re not engaged by experiences; namely those that surround family life. Over the holidays, invite friends or family to spend time with your children instead of purchasing gifts, or consider buying gifts for your children that require his/her attendance and devotion: dance or music lessons, a family vacation, or ticketed event. This kind of giving builds everlasting memories – not momentary satisfaction.
5. Foster creativity: Make it if you can.
Re-introduce the sentiment of exchanging handmade goods. Empower your child’s creativity by inviting them to make (or bake) gifts for family members, which teaches them the value of hard work and distracts them from the belief that store-bought goods are integral to satisfaction.
Ultimately, there are a variety of ways to curb your child’s materialism and many perks that come along with doing so – sanity, for example, as well as some extra coin for a bottle of wine that you’ll likely need in hindsight of mandatory visits with the in-laws.