Why it Matters What We Give Children at Christmas (Balancing Wants and Family Values )

christmas stockings animated empty

Does it really matter what we give children for Christmas? Your child will probably present you with a list of what he or she wants. There is nothing wrong with that. Many promote a wish list and it can be helpful. We want our children to tell us what they want and what is important to them. You can actually learn a lot about your child from their list.  BUT . . . I think there is more to consider as you select gifts for your children. So hang on for a sleigh ride down toy and game land as we consider all our choices as  parents.

First of all, why does it matter what we give our children? To me it has to do with the messages we send through our giving. Our society does put a heavy focus for children on “What do you want for Christmas?” or “What did you get for Christmas?” So they are a bit set up as we are. But still let us pause as we think through some considerations. It is complex and there is not a specific right or wrong. But by being thoughtful as a parent about this process, you can potentially have an impact on your child on his view of receiving and giving.

  1. CONSIDER as parents what kinds of messages you want to create about Christmas giving and receiving. This is a highly personal and different for people due to religion or culture or family traditions and many will have some definite ideas about this. If you do not, it may be a conversation to have as parents. Creating what makes sense for you and your family is better than what media may tell us it should be. It can be complex in that we want our children to fit in and feel a part of the general culture, so considering a balance can help too.
  2. CONSIDER “the wish list” and how it is gathered and what perimeters as a parent you put in place. One thought is to think about what you are setting up. You can ask a child to make a general wish list of all the things they want for Christmas or you can ask a child to create a list with a number boundary. For example: Let’s make a wish list of 3 things you really want for Christmas. Or what is the one thing you most want for Christmas this year? As children become older or with teens this conversation can include what the family budget can handle. It is a lesson in itself as to living within a budget. This conversation may need to happen even with younger children. If Santa is in the picture it may get a bit more tricky as to how you handle this. You can use the tact of how Santa has lots of children to give to and only some of the wish list items may happen.
  3. CONSIDER how to handle requests that you feel are not good for your children.  This can be hard. We all want our children to be happy and get what they want. BUT, when we see something that feels like it does not portray our family values it is something for us to stop and consider. As parents we are the leaders of our family, so we sometimes have to help children understand why it will not work as a gift. Trying to find out what is the next top things they want can help. Or finding a balance of what you can do in the area of what they are wanting. Maybe they are asking for a DVD of something you feel is not appropriate. Then you can ask for their second favorite DVD. Talking with your children and going past a “NO” can help. Help them know why you don’t think you or Santa can do it.
  4. CONSIDER helping children create a “give list” of what they want to give to others or what the family should give to others. This can create a nice balance of giving and receiving. Having children and teens have an active part in selecting or making things for others may be a perfect fit for those who want to encourage more than “What am I getting for Christmas?” So you have two lists to emphasize the balance of asking for what you want and for giving to others. This can be with others in the family and / or for those in need. This does not have to be an expensive shopping trip. A dollar store trip will do. Or better yet an arts and crafts or cooking time done possibly as a family activity.
  5. CONSIDER what you have learned from your child or teen’s wish list. You may find it uncomfortable that all your child wants is violent video games. Or you may find that your child has a strong interest in X, Y, or Z that you did not know about. You may find a variety or interests or just one solid focus. 
  6. CONSIDER the gift of YOU. That is really what our children need and want. They want to feel that “one on one” attention and focus that we all want and need. Spending enjoyable, personal time with your children will make their hearts sing. So don’t worry too much if your gift budget is low this year. You are the best gift ever!

Note: Next week’s blog will focus on: How to Select Toys, Games and Gifts for Children and Teens.

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