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Giving vs. Getting: Finding balance during the holidays

by Maxine
Posted January 3 2012 11:21pm
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The centre of many holiday celebrations is giving and receiving gifts, especially for children. Children fantasize about it, and most hope to receive lots of big, expensive gifts. Parents, for their part, worry that the mid-winter holidays will spoil their children or make them greedy. Most parents will probably have to provide a healthy reality check, providing some guidance for what are more reasonable dreams.

But what about your child's natural desire to receive lots of gifts? Does this promote greed? As long as your family also highlights the true meaning of the holidays, such as giving to others and celebrating cherished rituals together, you do not need to worry too much about your child's materialistic desires.

Here are some ways you can use Comfort, Play & Teach: A Positive Approach to Parenting to set the tone for raising kind and caring children, regardless of how many gifts they ask for or receive.

 

heart Comfort

Nurturing close relationships within families and among friends is the core of healthy social and emotional development for young children. Parents can set the tone for the holidays by emphasizing their true meaning – that of giving to others. The very young child, who has been at the receiving end of love, comfort, and attention to his needs from the earliest days, will replicate giving to others naturally and spontaneously. An infant as young as nine months will lovingly offer a parent his pre-chewed food in the spirit of sharing. A toddler as young as eighteen months will either hug or offer up a cherished stuffed toy to comfort another person who is crying. A child's capacity for empathy and concern is developed through the consistent and sensitive responsiveness shown them throughout the early years. When you focus on the "giving" part of the holidays, this teaches children to care for others and to reach out to people who are less fortunate.

  • Take a little time to help your children make their own "gifts". It doesn't have to be fancy. They can make drawings or colour pictures and put them in envelopes to give Grandma, Daddy and other people they care about.
  • Many fire halls and charities collect toys for children whose parents can't afford to buy them. Encourage your preschooler to choose a toy for purchase and let her give it to the charity.
  • When grocery shopping for your family, take time with your child to fill a special bag for the Food Bank, and drop it off together. Toddlers are great at stuffing bags.

 

star Play

It is through the power of play that a child explores and makes discoveries about things and people in his world. Consider how your family's own traditions can be emphasized during the holidays. When children are little, it is a prime time to start family traditions that will last a lifetime. This helps children feel grounded and connected to the people who care for them.

Here are some ways that family values can be celebrated through play:

  • Preschoolers are very capable assistants in the kitchen during the preparation of the special foods that are part of the holidays. Young children enjoy the baking experience and are learning many important science concepts and motor skills in the process.
  • Toddlers and preschoolers will enjoy the activity of decorating a tree. This is an opportunity for them to help make decisions about what ornament goes where and for you to engage them in a conversation about the ornaments. But remember, toddlers enjoy taking things off as much as they like putting them on.
  • If your family participates in special ceremonies such as lighting candles on the Menorah, let your preschooler count out the candles each night and help put them in place.
  • Sing seasonal songs, read seasonal stories and play traditional games as a family.
  • Turn on the outdoor holiday lights with your little one each night.

Nothing is too insignificant to delight a young child. And many times it is the little things that they will remember the most.

 

triangle Teach

Young children need to learn how to communicate, interact with others, solve problems and express thoughts and feelings. The holiday season presents a wonderful opportunity for children to learn about themselves in the context of family and the community around them. Take this time to model for children how to think about others and to reach out to people who are less fortunate:

  • Be sure to talk about everything you are doing. Infants and toddlers may not understand every word, but your tone will communicate volumes. Preschoolers' capacity for language is growing exponentially and they love to listen to stories about people and traditions.
  • Talk about the importance of sharing and how it makes people feel when they receive a gift.
  • Take photos of family rituals and make a special holiday album. Use it as a vehicle to discuss with your child what was happening in the photos and what emotions were experienced. Discuss the importance of celebrating cherished rituals together.
  • Take picture books out of the library that explore themes of poverty. Engage your preschooler in a discussion about what things would make it better for that child or family. Follow through with any reasonable suggestions to demonstrate to your child, that even at a young age, actions can help to make a difference in someone's life.

Spending time with your children in these ways will help to outweigh the material aspects of the holidays, and your actions will build fond memories and positive values that will stay with them for a lifetime.

If you found this article helpful, please download the tip sheet (PDF).  

 

How do you help your preschooler understand the true meaning of the holidays? Do you find it difficult to dissuade them from being greedy? Share your experiences by leaving a comment below.

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