"The gimmes" are all around us during the holiday season. It can be hard for kids — and parents — to look beyond all of the product-driven hoopla and remember what the holidays are really about.
It's not the gifts but what's behind them that's important — the spirit of giving. Help your kids learn the fun of giving, and how rewarding it can be to look for, make, and wrap something special — or do something special — for people they care about and others who are in need.
Here are five ways to curb materialism in your kids and reinforce the real reason for the season:
From the TV commercials during cartoons to the promos on the backs of cereal boxes, marketing messages target kids of all ages. And to them, everything looks ideal, like something they simply have to have. It all sounds so appealing — often, so much better than it really is.
The ads kids see around the holidays can help foster unrealistic expectations and lead to disappointment. After imagining their "wish list" items all around them, it's hard for reality to measure up when they actually open their gifts.
Of course, it's nearly impossible to eliminate all exposure to marketing messages. You can certainly turn off the TV or at least limit your kids' watching time, but they'll still see and hear ads for the latest gizmos and must-haves.
Explain, when your kids ask for products they see advertised, that commercials and other ads are designed to make people want things they don't necessarily need. And these ads are often meant to make us think that these products will make us happier somehow. Talking to kids about what things are like in reality can help put things into perspective.
Teach your kids that not everything they want can always be theirs and that a little "want" here and there isn't all bad. The key is to want things in moderation and to fully appreciate what you're given. Emphasize that the holidays are a special time, when a lot of love and thought is put into gift giving.
Traditions that focus on family or friends can be a great way to put meaning back into the holidays. Here are a couple of ideas:
Volunteerism, especially around the holidays, offers an ideal opportunity for families to have fun and feel closer to each other at the same time. Community service helps to drive home the message that giving is much more than laying down cash for the hot gift of the season or scrambling around to buy mounds of presents.
Volunteerism can show kids that giving your time, effort, and kindness is more rewarding than just expecting to receive lots of presents.
Also, if volunteering begins at an early age, it can become part of your kids' lives — something they just want to do. It can teach them:
Choose to help an organization or group that fits with your family's values and the things you believe in. Just a few ways you can help out in your community and beyond:
Community service can teach kids that giving comes in many forms, not just as presents. Emphasize that giving of their time, effort, and caring can mean so much more — and last longer — than any gift that money can buy.
Of course, gift giving will always be a large part of the holiday season. And with good reason — it can teach kids to really consider what might make others happy and what's important to people they care about. Watching loved ones' faces as they open presents that your children put a lot of heart and thought into can make the holidays more worthwhile for your kids.
But presents don't always have to be purchased in a store. Teach your kids how to put some real meaning and feelings into their gifts this year and beyond. Making their own presents can help show just how much kids care and can make the experience of giving more rewarding for both kids and their gift recipients.
Here are some ideas to get your family started:
Show your kids that the holidays can be joyous and fulfilling, not just a stress-ridden time that revolves around marathon shopping trips. Emphasize early on that it's not about tons of presents, but giving and receiving a few heartfelt gifts.
By starting early with traditions that emphasize the true meaning of the holidays and the caring thoughts behind gift giving, you can help to mold your kids' perspectives on the holiday season and what it means to both give and receive all year long.
Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: December 2013
|Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance This site offers information on more than 300 charities and whether they meet the Better Business Bureau's standards.|
|TOYSAFETY.net This site, which is a project of the National Association of State Public Interest Research Groups (PIRGs) provides toy safety information for consumers.|
|SERVEnet This site contains information on volunteering and community service opportunities.|
|Ronald McDonald House Charities Ronald McDonald House Charities provides comfort and care to families with children in the hospital.|
|UNICEF UNICEF is a leading advocate for children's rights.|
|Center for a New American Dream This site has a section with ideas on simplifying the holidays and countering the commercialization of our culture.|
|Community Service: A Family's Guide to Getting Involved One of the most satisfying, fun, and productive ways to unite as a family is volunteering for community service projects. It sets a good example for your kids and helps the community.|
|Donating Your Old Clothes Do you really need 20 sweaters from 7th grade? Giving away what you don't need helps people who are less fortunate and gives you a warm feeling too.|
|Choosing Safe Toys Toys are a fun and important part of any child's development. And there's plenty you can do to make sure all toys are safe.|
|Making the Holidays Safe Make the holidays fun and healthy by learning how to protect your kids from these common hazards.|
|Priceless Holiday Gifts At holiday time, kids have more than presents on their minds. Find out more in this article for kids.|
|5 Ideas for Eco-Friendly Celebrations Want to celebrate birthdays, holidays, or other big events in an environmentally sound way? Here are some ideas.|
|Gift Giving Do you need presents for family and friends? You can make them happy without spending much money! Find out more in this article for kids.|
|Volunteering Volunteering gives you an opportunity to change lives, including your own. Get ideas on things you can do and tips on getting started in this article for teens.|
|Gratitude Gratitude doesn't just feel good. Focusing on what's good in our lives can also be good for us. Find out how in this article for teens.|
|Are the Holidays Too Materialistic? Stressed out by what you'll give and what you'll get? Here's some advice on putting real meaning into your giving - and the holidays.|
|Getting in the Holiday Spirit Preparing for the holidays can help you to learn about yourself. It's a chance to get in touch with what makes you feel fulfilled and the things that put you in a great mood.|
|5 Ways to Stay Healthy for the Holidays Stay well and have a good time over the holidays - even if everyone else is falling apart. Our 5 tips will help boost your body's defenses.|
|How Can I Get My Kids to Donate Old Toys? Find out what the experts have to say.|
What to expect when coming to Akron Children's
For healthcare providers and nurses
Residency & Fellowships, Medical Students, Nursing and Allied Health
For prospective employees and career-seekers
Our online community that provides inspirational stories and helpful information.