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During the holidays, kids are bombarded by commercials and ads touting the latest "must-have" toys and video games, and it's easy for everyone in the family to get caught up in the commercial side of the season. Here are some ways to move away from the materialistic side of things, and keep your children focused on family by teaching them about the true spirit of giving.
When you examine your own childhood memories, it isn't usually the gifts you remember most about the holidays, it's the experiences. Shift focus away from the materialistic side of the season by turning off the TV and creating some new holiday traditions. Go to a play or a movie, bake and decorate sugar cookies, go ice skating, take snowboarding lessons, or grab a thermos of hot chocolate take a drive through the neighborhood to view holiday lights.
Material gifts. When it comes to exchanging material gifts, go for quality over quantity. Instead of showering them with dozens of presents, give each child just one gift that they really want. If necessary, pool resources with other family members to make it affordable.
Don't be afraid to slow things down. Instead of everyone ripping their gifts open at once, take turns. This allows everyone a chance to see each gift and gives the recipient an opportunity to thank the person who gave it to them.
Saying thank you is an important social skill (and one that should be taught), but to truly instill a sense of gratitude in a child, you need to lead by example. After the holidays, sit down as a family to write thank-you notes. Talk to your children about how grateful you feel for the gifts you received and talk about the things enjoy most about the holidays. Help young children write a note of thanks to each person that gave them a gift and tell them to explain to that person what they like most about it.
There are endless ways to get kids involved in helping others during the holidays. Present your children with several options and then let them choose how they would most like to help others during the holidays and you'll help instill the values of kindness and giving that will last throughout the year.
Instead of asking children "What do you want for Christmas?" or "What is Santa bringing you for Christmas?" I like to ask them "What are you GIVING for Christmas?' (to their Mom, sister, Grampa, etc). It helps take the focus off of the commercialism and "gimme gimme" attitude, and put it back on GIVING TO OTHERS.
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Because of the tough times we went through growing up, my husband and I know what it is like to grow up and not have presents at Christmas.
Every year we tell our children about some special Christmases that we have had and then we go out to our local mall that has angel trees with paper ornaments with a child's age and sex written on them. Each of my kids pick out a child their same age and sex and we go buy gifts for that child and return them to the tree. Our kids enjoy the gift of giving very much and if we had the money, they would give and give and give!
We also invite any of our single friends or friends with no family to come join us as well. Living in Alaska, not many people have family nearby and they make families of their own with their friends.
Thank You for sharing your story. I just got back from Christmas with the inlaws, and I was feeling drained from observing such greed and jealousy. It was nice to remember that such nice people exist! ;)
Thank you for sharing your family with the single folks. I am single and appreciate every invitation I get. I know people care when they remember. (12/03/2005)
What lovely ideas!! My daughter's neighbors had a fire last week in their home. One mother and her 3 year old son didn't make it out. Such a tragedy. Five children and one adult survived but lost everything they owned (it doesn't even begin to compare to the loss of life, does it?) Everyone is struggling to help them at this time of the year. May you be blessed in all that you do for others. (12/13/2005)
Now that's Christmas spirit! Bless your kind, generous heart, and Merry Christmas! (12/09/2006)