Gifts at Christmas

Have you finished your Christmas shopping? Haven’t started? Got a few bits and pieces?

A Dad said to me recently that he was getting so stressed about Christmas. He’s a single Dad raising three boys and he can’t afford much. I asked him what his stress was achieving and he said that he wasn’t getting much joy from life. I asked what his kids really needed, and he replied “a Dad that’s not stressed and that is there for them”. That’s right, those kids need a parent that is present to their needs every day, not a parent that has a sack load of presents on Christmas Day.

At my place, we give “sharing” presents at Christmas. We give some thought to gifts that the whole family will enjoy doing together – a board game, some sporting equipment, toys that the boys have to play together. I know some families that give tickets or gift cards for family outings (museum, movies, aquarium, outdoor adventure, etc).

Years ago, I knew a Mum who thought that buying expensive “educational” toys would make her children do better academically. What she didn’t know is that children don’t need stuff, they need you, their parent. Research has shown that children learn more in social interaction with caring, interested, and more knowledgeable others. The more that parents talk with (not talk at) their children the better they do socially, emotionally, and academically.

So your child will learn more from sitting down with you with a world atlas poster that cost you $1, and exploring and chatting about what you both see and know, than she will from the electronic world globe toy that cost you 120 bucks.

When my kids were little I bought them a plastic fold-up house. It had furniture and people and a doorbell. I thought it was great. The kids didn’t touch it. Not once. One day they asked if we could make a house from a Weet-Bix box. We spent a few hours making the house with doors and windows to my kid’s exact specifications. And we made people and dogs from wooden pegs and pipe cleaners. And they played with that house until it disintegrated. Lesson learnt.

Those plastic toys will cause more mess and stress, and will sooner or later end up in landfill, but the gift of your time and energy with your children will last a lifetime.

I’ve seen this little poem doing the rounds. It is such a simple, lovely thing…

“Something they want

Something they need

Something to wear, and

Something to read.”

The “something they need” could be a bit tricky. They might think they need that iPod Touch. All I can offer is to ask yourself if the “gift” is going to create connection or disconnection? So many parents I speak to regret purchasing the electronic thing that has caused their child to become more isolated and withdrawn and then had the battle over having to place limits on it. People have asked me how I have avoided the demand from my pre-teens for Wii’s, Xbox, iPod, iPad, etc, and I say I simply say “no” and offer to take them to the park to play a game of cricket.

Wishing you much joy and connection this holiday season.

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Categories: Parenting Skills

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