A survey released by the Australian National Retailers Association this week (week ending 20/11/09) reported that 34% of people intend to spend less on gifts this Christmas than they did last year.
Frankly I welcome this news, particularly for parents, because a ‘tighter’ Christmas is also the perfect excuse to keep things simple and less stressful for children during this silly season.
For cash-strapped parents, the very best gift they can give their children is time. That might mean going away on holidays together or just spending time at home. It may even be a good time to put up a tent in the back yard, and go camping with the family – just for fun.
Fun doesn’t have to cost a lot of money: but it does take some effort. You don’t need to spend heaps on gifts for children (the survey said most people would spend $50 per child), however you do need to spend energy creating the spirit of Christmas in your home.
Christmas is supposed to be a magical time for children, and for adults, but for many it is a time of stress, family conflict and pressure to be all things to all people. It feels more like a marathon than a festival.
I urge parents to think of their kids’ needs above everyone else’s during the Christmas season.
Children get exhausted going from house to house, meeting with different rellies. A good way to overcome this is to get everyone to meet at a park, or at one central house — preferably not yours.
Kids get tired easily when they’re excited and stressed, and more easily upset when they’re out of their familiar environments or surrounded by lots of people in their home. So keeping things as simple as possible – and being relaxed yourself – is the best way to help kids be calmer and happier while the festive flurry goes on around us.
As adults, it’s really crucial for us to remember how magical Christmas can be for a child and to try to foster this spirit for them and for us.
The prospect of the elusive St Nick arriving is actually a wonderful stimulant for children’s imaginations.
While an imaginary character may not seem to have many life lessons to offer, Santa and the Easter Bunny play a critical role in developing children’s imagination. A healthy imagination is essential for flexible thinking and creativity. It actually helps us to be more resilient as adults as we can imagine other solutions to our problems.
The waiting for Santa is also a key ingredient – children need to learn about patience, anticipation and the joy that comes with receiving a reward for this patience.
It is also an excellent opportunity to teach children early in life the joy that comes from giving to others, especially those in need. Involving kids in baking biscuits, preparing pickled onions and even making homemade chocolates is a great way to develop the art of “giving.”
The giving can be the hardest part of Christmas, trying to find the ideal gifts to buy or make within a budget, with the deadline of 25 December looming. Giving and receiving can be a big source of conflict and stress for mum or dad, or a disgruntled sibling.
I prefer to see gift-giving as an opportunity to enhance someone’s life and so ask the following 10 questions when making or purchasing a gift:
- Will the gift create conflict through sibling rivalry?
- Does the gift meet a special interest in your child’s life?
- Is the gift honouring Earth or does it build respect for our natural world?
- Does the gift allow for the growth of creativity?
- Does the gift stimulate sharing or promote building emotional competencies like patience or learning to lose?
- Does the gift numb or stimulate the imagination?
- Does the gift encourage laughter and lightness?
- Does the gift honour childhood rather than promote getting older quicker?
- Does the gift encourage being outside and off the couch, getting physical?
- Could the gift encourage personal responsibility and empathy, like a guinea pig, rat of goldfish?
It’s important not to be swayed by advertising and commercial pressures, but rather to give your gift with the intention of helping your child grow a little, and to enjoy a little of the magic that comes but once a year.