Celebrating The Holidays With Family Moderation And Gratitude

images-3For many people, the closer it gets to the holidays, the more their stress increases. The holidays are supposed to be joyful and yet, so often in our culture, the focus is on what we are going to get instead of what we can give to others. Holidays such as Christmas should be an opportunity to exercise limits with children instead of overindulging them with possessions they don’t need. It is a time to teach them the value of family and to show gratitude and appreciation.

When it comes to gift giving, it’s normal and natural for children to request everything and the moon – it’s part of their development. In our consumerism culture, it is also “normal” for parents to believe that they have to oblige. Parents are often conflicted about limiting spending on children, especially when they can afford to overindulge their children. However, it’s not good for kids to have excess material items – even at Christmas – as it promotes focus on “things” instead of people and relationships.

Resisting excessive materialism is especially difficult today, when children have so much exposure to media messages. Parents must use their judgment and reason to exercise control over their desires to overspend on their children. It’s still difficult, I know. But it’s also true that problems can arise when parents give too much or do too much for their children without discretion.

Parents worry that if they do not buy everything on their children’s wish list, they will be disappointed on Christmas morning. It’s true that children may appear momentarily let down when they do not receive every new gadget they requested, but this is typical and fleeting. Once they absorb what they have received, they will enjoy their gifts and their time with the family on Christmas Day.

Many parents tend to struggle when setting limits, yet most children thrive with limits and moderation. Parents can establish appropriate expectations by asking their children for a list of their top three big-ticket items and three to five smaller items. Parents can let them know they will receive some of what is on their list, but not everything. Keep gently reminding them of these guidelines as the list grows and Christmas nears.

Parents can benefit from those reminders, too, and refuse to give in to their desire to buy “just a few more things” when you feel that last-minute panic about not having bought “enough” for your children.

During the holiday season, parents can set a tone before Christmas day that promotes the values of gratitude, family, giving back and the importance of moderation. Parents can frame Christmas as a time for giving, a way of showing gratitude for all that you have as a family, including everything your children already have.

It’s important to teach children to appreciate all they have and to be grateful every day. Studies have shown that people who are grateful are 25% more happy than those that are not grateful. This fact alone inspires me to teach an attitude of gratitude to my children. The concept of gratitude can be abstract for many children and teens. The challenge for parents is making gratitude a concrete, everyday experience.

Here are some ways to instill an attitude of gratitude in your children during this holiday season:

• Make the practice of gratitude a habit. For example, try to have a regular time, such as during dinner, when your family members share something in

their lives for which they are grateful. Expressing gratitude as part of
the routine can be habit forming, as it reinforces the message in a continuous way.

• Emphasize the use of “thank you” as an example of how to demonstrate gratitude. Communicate to your children that part of saying “thank you” extends beyond manners and etiquette to appreciation.

• Try to find ways to expose your children to diverse cultures and life experiences. One of the greatest benefits of children seeing how other people live is that it gives them perspective and a sense of how their lives compare to others, allowing a natural appreciation to develop.

• Acknowledge our veterans and other people who have committed their lives to service for the greater good. Do this by sending cards or thank you notes, as well as honoring them on days of remembrance. Sending them gratitude cards during the upcoming holidays is one way children can do this.

• Donate time and money during the holidays as a way of acknowledging those who don’t have as much – and try to find a way to incorporate the value of giving back into tradition.

• Whenever possible, offer to help those in need around you. Examples are holding the door for others, helping someone manage packages and being patient when the cashier makes an error in the checkout line. By acting in these ways, you are role modeling random acts of kindness as a way of giving back.

• Tell your spouse often and in vocal ways that you appreciate them and are grateful for what they do. This communication between parents, in front of children, demonstrates that parents appreciate each other and don’t take each other for granted.

Wishing you all wonderful holidays and a very Happy New Year!