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Published on November 28, 2017

parent giving christmas gift to a child

Christmas Gift-Giving for Kids: How Much is Enough?

It’s December and the post-Thanksgiving holiday frenzy begins with a vengeance. Children are barraged with marketing campaigns designed to make them want every toy, game, tech item, trendy fashion, and fad item popping up everywhere on the television and computer.

One week, there is Breakfast with Santa at Dad’s service club, and each child receives a gift. Then the school sponsors a Secret Santa opportunity and each child gets another gift. After the church school program, more treats and gifts.

When Christmas Day arrives, gifts are exploding from beneath the Christmas tree. The children rip open gift after gift, look at them briefly, and toss them aside. Later, Grandma, Grandpa and the other relatives arrive bearing more gifts.

When it’s all over, many kids can’t remember what they actually received, much less who gave it to them.  Some kids will even ask, “Is that all?” With terms like “affluenza” and “privilege” floating around these days, maybe it’s time to take a look at holiday gift giving and what it teaches children.

Helping With Hopes and Longing

As adults, we typically remember two things about gifts in our childhood: the things we DIDN’T get, and the things that we waited, wished, hoped- and longed-for before we received them.

We want our kids to have more than we had, to be happy and fulfilled, and to have a better life in general. That’s a good thing. But when we carry it too far, we deny children the chance to develop appreciation and gratitude, and to learn to wish, wait and hope.

We fail to teach them that we don’t always get everything we want, and that delayed gratification can make us happier and more fulfilled than having too much.  As adults, they may never  understand how much is enough, or learn how to live within their means and manage their resources.

Well that’s all pretty depressing! Let’s look for some positives here, and find some ideas that can help us teach our kids about giving and receiving. Here are a few ideas you might want to consider.

Think about getting your child one big and one small gift. Then spread out other things over the year. You might start a tradition of a Valentine gift, or gifts for the beginning and end of school. This helps children wish and hope for things they want, delay gratification, and avoid being overwhelmed by so many gifts at one time.

Tips on Choices

Make a list and check it twice. Decide what gifts you will buy for your children this year, and stick to it. Avoid buying more gifts on impulse, because something is a “good deal”, or because it’s a new hot item that just hit the market. If you do buy those extra things, put them away for another day.

Try to involve your kids in buying gifts for others. Instead of just buying something for Grandma from the kids, ask their opinion and let them help pick it out.

Limit “extra-curricular” giving. Avoid gift giving with every group your child is involved in—scout troop, church school, etc.

Open gifts slowly, one person at a time. This allows children to look more carefully at the gift, hear others admire it, and thank the giver.

After Christmas, stash some gifts. The things that are not immediately getting played with can be put away. They may be more appreciated a few weeks later.

Consider drawing names with extended family instead of getting a gift from every aunt, uncle, and cousin. Or consider a gift exchange of things that are homemade or recycled/repurposed.

Include a gift that will be passed on – a bag of dog food to be taken to the animal shelter on a volunteer day, a grocery store or department store gift card to use to buy and deliver items to the food bank or to a hospital. Be sure these are things children can actually help buy and deliver.

As the holidays get closer, enjoy buying and wrapping gifts for your children. There is nothing like the joy of a child on Christmas! With a little thought and self-control, you can give your kids a fabulous holiday while teaching them important lessons about contentment, satisfaction and gratitude.

Live Better. Live Balanced. Avera.

Avera is a health ministry rooted in the Gospel. Our mission is to make a positive impact in the lives and health of persons and communities by providing quality services guided by Christian values.

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