Avoiding Holiday Hazards
By the middle of the holiday season – which seems to begin earlier every year – your child has been bombarded with countless TV commercials designed to implant in his mind the idea that he must have Gap jeans, Nike shoes and at least six new games for his Playstation, Gamecube, Xbox or Wii. Like it or not, the holidays in the western world are becoming as much an industry as an occasion to celebrate the meanings behind them. And as the keeper of the purse strings, the pressure to buy, buy, buy lands squarely on the shoulders of parents.
For those who have the means to do all that purchasing, it's hard to resist. Deep down, many parents are driven by the same mantra, that unspoken code that often has parents giving into their children's mistaken whines of need: I want my child to have the things my parents couldn't give to me. But really, when a child is quick to point out that "everybody else" has this or that item, we know it's not true. "You're not 'everybody else,'" we're quick to shoot back. But it's difficult to resist the urge to shower children with material items when we have the means to.
Admirable. Honorable. And completely natural. But when these "things" are always tangible items, it might be a good idea to re-examine just what we are giving our children -- and of what we are depriving them.
Material possessions do not provide happiness. We've heard that saying so many times that many of us almost believe it. When we already have emotional happiness, material possessions are merely icing on the cake. Most of us have learned this lesson many times over – perhaps the hard way. And so when the opportunity arises to equip our children with love and generosity – the real stuff of happiness – why do we instead show them that we will wait six hours in the predawn cold and dark, getting psyched up for the ultimate obstacle course to the latest shipment of this year's "it" item when the front doors of WalMart open? This is probably not the best way to demonstrate to kids the idea that we'd do anything for them.
This holiday season, when you're consumed with the desire to give your child the designer jeans you never had, encourage her to feel a variation on that same drive – to give other people basic necessities they might not have if not for another person's generosity.
Here are a few ideas to entertain. Talk about them with your child and think up some activities of your own.
- Go caroling at a nursing home. Many of the elderly either have no family or have no family living close by. The holidays can be particularly hard for them, and a visit from young people is enough to brighten someone's day.
- See if you can read to children in a local hospital.
- Donate an old coat that no longer fits to a local Salvation Army or Coats for Kids program.
- Have your child pick out one toy from her wish list and donate it to a local toy drive or Santa program.
- Encourage your child to work with his school in taking up a coin collection for a local homelessness shelter.
- Pick up some red velvet ribbon and wire from a craft store. Make red holiday bows for neighbors to hang on their front doors.
- Instead of making out a wish list, have your child make out a "grateful" list. Encourage her to think of all the things in her life for which she is grateful and to list them on paper.