The holidays come with a lot of pressure for parents. Too often they overextend to give their children the gifts they ask for and to "keep up with the Joneses." Parents need to beware of falling into the overindulgence trap during the holidays.
Overemphasizing gift-giving with children not only can turn a joyful holiday into a shopping frenzy, it can desensitize children from the concept of "enough." Studies reveal that providing a child with too many gifts at once leads to overstimulation and decreased concentration, and can cause children to value themselves based on their material possessions.
Instead, parents can capture the spirit of the holidays with their children through more meaningful expressions of giving.
Spend time, not money
More than gifts, children love when their parents give them their undivided attention. Make coupons for "a morning at the park with Dad," or "a visit to the museum with Mom." Parents convey their love more through their presence than their presents.
Emphasize "gifts" rather than presents
Explain to children the difference between "gifts" and "things," and between "needing" and "wanting." Help them understand that many nonmaterial things, such as having a loving family, are the most important kinds of gifts. Ask them to list some things they need and some things they want.
Make homemade gifts
Show children how to make their own gifts - stringing beads for a necklace, gluing pictures for a bookmark or other age-appropriate projects. Making gifts by hand is fun entertainment and gives children a chance to be creative. It also teaches them that taking the time to make a gift for a special person is a way to express their love and affection.
Give one special gift
Rather than giving an excess of gifts, give one special gift. Help children understand that the holidays are not about getting everything they ask for, but receiving something special among the things they want or need. Smaller, supporting gifts can make the special gift into a theme - for example, if the special gift is a guitar, smaller gifts could include sheet music or tickets to see a guitarist in concert.
Value giving over receiving
Make the emphasis during the holiday season on giving rather than receiving. Ask your children: "What are some ways we can give to others during the holidays?" Encourage them to pick a charity to support, or to help pick out food and gifts to give to a needy family in the community. Help them to understand that giving to others is the true meaning of the holidays.