Giving and delighting others can be such a satisfying experience, especially as parents. We all enjoy giving our children both what they need and what will support them in living happy, fulfilling lives.
At the same time, we want our children to appreciate what they have in a realistic context and not become entitled or worse, spoiled. The holidays can pose a dilemma for parents: how to role model generosity and thoughtfulness for others while demonstrating it’s not the “things” that make us happy, but the experience of love and togetherness that does.
Putting an emphasis on experiences rather than acquiring things at the holidays gives everyone the role of making the holidays special (which can relieve parents of the stress of having to do it all!). This is the gift of fewer gifts.
Here are three ways to incorporate family experiences into your holiday gifting traditions:
- Set expectations with your family that the focus of the holidays is on relationships and experiences together instead of stuff
- Shift the question from “What do you want?” to “What are you looking forward to giving and doing with your family?”
- Choose experiences as gifts. They are often gifts that keeps on giving. For example:
- Pair a book with an experience
- Make something together: give a gift of a recipe, some cookie cutters and sprinkles and then set aside time to bake together. Build and decorate a gingerbread house.
- Give a family membership to a loved museum
- Plan a special outing to a loved show that everyone is excited about. Invite each family member to help plan one aspect of the outing.
- Light candles, take walks in nature or under the stars – enjoy simple moments hand in hand
- Select a charity or cause that your family supports together
- Adopt an animal: World Wildlife Federation helps you to “adopt” an endangered animal and often sends a plush toy in return. Often zoos and aquariums will allow you to “adopt” one of the animals in their care. You can plan regular visits to see “your” animal and check how s/he is doing!
- Buy a gift for another family in the developing world (heifer.org enables you to buy a sheep, cow or goat for a family)
- Encourage the habit of giving all year. Teach your children how to set aside a little bit of money from their allowance.* At the end of the year, look at all of the charities in your area and invite them to pick one and go together to share their contribution in person
Many of us desire for our children to be curious, patient, modest, generous, resilient, and balanced in life. Let these qualities be your guides as you set holiday traditions and enjoy annual celebrations with your family.
Wishing you and your family the happiest of holidays!
*attend one of our classes and learn more about how to handle allowance and money management in your family.