Spend More Time With the Kids and Less Money This Christmas
As the stores fill with toys and more and more holiday catalogues arrive daily in the mail, many parents find themselves inundated with outrageous holiday gift requests from their kids.
"'Tis the season for kids to chant, 'Buy, buy, buy,' and for the media to encourage huge spending on the latest toys, games and electronic devices," says Brent Hatch, who co-authored the book Raising a G-Rated Family in an X-Rated World (Greentree Pub., 2006), with his wife, Phelecia Hatch.
In facing these demands, the Hatches advise parents to stay strong. "There are much better ways to celebrate the holidays and much better ways to show our children that we love them and care for them than giving in to their begging for materialistic things they've seen on television or in the newspaper ads," says Phelecia.
The Hatches, who are raising seven children of their own, share their tips that not only will make the holidays merrier, but will also help to balance the budget and de-stress the season.
1.Offer options other than TV.
'"Children have much less interest in the latest gadgets if television time is restricted and newspaper ads are thrown away," says Phelecia. " If they aren't spending time being bombarded with well-funded advertisements, they won't be enticed by things they may not really want anyway." Instead of cartoons, entice them by offering to play a board or card game.
2. Watch what you ask for.
Parents are the best example for their children. If you fill your wish list with expensive items or demand a sleigh full of things under the tree, your children will do likewise. Keep your own list simple and tell your children that you want non-material things for the holidays. Ask them to give you the gift of getting along with their siblings or of voluntarily cleaning their room for a week.
3. Make some memories.
"One year, before the holidays, we asked our children to make a list of the things they liked best about Christmas," Phelecia Hatch says. "The lists were quite revealing and gave us guidelines for how we wanted to spend our time and money from that point on." The Hatch children listed things like caroling together, going on a drive to see light displays, attending church services and other things that cost very little and created wonderful memories.
4. Give the gift of your time.
Spend time with your children, making cards, hanging decorations or wrapping gifts. Again, let the children choose activities that are meaningful and important to them. "We have weekly family nights with our children and, during the holidays, we use that time to focus on teaching about giving and about what we consider the true meaning of Christmas, but also to help our children know that they are loved and cared about," Brent Hatch says.
5. Give gifts that last.
Children love and appreciate gifts tailored to them, ones they can use again and again and that help them learn a skill or practice a talent. Give a camera, a craft item, a tool for their favorite hobby or a book about one of their talents.
6. Give it away.
Make it a practice to instill compassion and encourage generosity by involving your children in giving to others. Find a local charity where you can donate gift items or, even better, where you could go to help out or give service to someone who may be alone or particularly needy during the holidays.
7. Create a family store.
Talk with your children and let them help you plan – and budget – your gift-giving. You can even turn it into a game by setting up a "store" in your home and letting younger children practice "buying" gifts while staying within a budget. The Hatches set a limit of $100 each for the gifts they buy their children and it is up to the children to plan their wish lists accordingly. "It is fun to see them try to budget," Brent Hatch says. "They really prioritize what they want and they have learned what $100 buys. They see something they want and immediately want to know how much it is. It's surprising to hear them say, 'Oh, that's so expensive; I don't really want that!'"