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Making Holidays Meaningful for Children

  By Lauren Bradway, Ph.D. 

When my daughter, Isabel, was four, her favorite holiday book was The Berenstein Bears Meet Santa Bear. She quickly memorized Sister Bear’s wish list for Santa, and she’d chime in as I read it aloud.

“Dear Santa please send me: a happy pink pony, a clown mobile, giggly goo, a bubble pipe, a birthstone ring,” and on it goes. In fact, the list is so long, Sister Bear has to scotch tape eight sheets of paper together to get everything in!

For many children the holidays mean just one thing: getting more stuff. As parents, we want to change this perspective, but when we try to modify our habits, we find ourselves controlled by unconscious gift giving rules. These “hidden rules” keep the tradition elaborate and expensive.

 How many of these beliefs have a hold on you?

--I must buy a gift for everyone I might get one from;

--homemade gifts are more meaningful than store bought ones;

--gifts I give my children should be equal in number and monetary value, while at the same time suiting the unique qualities of each child.

No wonder we’ve squeezed the joy out of gift giving! Think back to a holiday past and a gift you received that was special to you. I’d be willing to bet that it was special because someone shared in a personal way with you. My most memorable gift was a sled my grandfather made for me when I was eight. He designed the sled himself and made it in his basement workshop.

The sled was really just a little box on runners. It in no way matched the splendor of the shiny red one I had my eye on in the Penney’s catalogue. But oh I loved that sled, and all those Saturday afternoons when my grandfather shooed me out his workshop made it just that much more special when the day finally arrived that I unwrapped it.

Simplify Gift Giving

How can we simplify gift giving and at the same time make holidays more meaningful for our children?

 Here are a few suggestions:

--Put the names of family members in a hat and draw the name of just one person to buy or make a gift for. Be sure to set a price limit for this gift.

--Keep gift giving to young children only.

--Take a family trip in lieu of exchanging gifts.

--To make room for gifts they will receive, ask your children to go through their toy boxes and choose several toys to pass on to other children.

--Jointly, as a family, do a community project such as sponsoring a family in need in your community and providing gifts and food for them.

--Serve a holiday meal together at a shelter for the homeless.

How to Handle Grandparents

For many families who’ve had the courage to limit gift giving themselves, they must deal with grandparents who insist on showering their grandchildren with gifts. What can you do?

--Months before the holidays ask them to please limit their gift giving to two or three items per child.

--Suggest that grandparents spend a day with each grandchild taking them somewhere special such as the zoo, lunch or a movie in place of a gift.

--Put the gifts away and open them later in the year on a special occasion.

Holidays become meaningful for children when they are a warm and close family celebration. Our children will recall happy times shared with the people who love them, and they will fondly remember the gifts chosen especially for them.

Written by: Lauren Bradway, Ph.D., Neptune Beach, FL, USA

How to Maximize Your Child's Learning Ability is a complete guide to choosing and using the best games, toys, activities, learning aids and tactics to maximize your child's learning ability. Here is a book that offers parents hundreds of practical things they can do in daily life to influence, encourage, and-best of all-maximize their child's learning ability. .

About the Author

Dr. Lauren Bradway has a Master's Degree in Communication Disorders and a Ph.D. in Human Ecology. Dr. Bradway has specialized in working with children for over 20 years. In addition to running a successful clinical practice as a speech language pathologist, she is a consultant to pre-schools, elementary schools, and bilingual programs. She trains teachers to develop Individual Learning Style Profiles for classroom use.


Other Articles By Lauren Bradway

Cornucopia Kids Children's Learning Styles: From Crib to Classroom


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