Hi, I’m Julianna a contributor for Simple Acres. I am passionate about living a life full of purpose and intention while sharing ways to SIMPLIFY life! Are you simplifying the holidays this year? If you are changing your gift giving traditions, now is the time to start having conversations with your kids on what to expect. Simplifying the holidays with your kids is easier than you might think.
Culture has an influence on our kids, but what you have done years past has a larger impact on what they will be expecting for this coming year. If you have very little children, great news, you can set their expectations now and don’t need to undo anything from the past.
Discuss ahead of time
Begin conversations early. Have a family meeting and tell your kids what to expect. Let them know how you’ll approach gift giving, traditions, and activities. Also, let them know why you have chosen those things. If you are doing fewer gifts, tell them why. Let them know what you value as a family and what you want to focus on this holiday season.
As various things come up like ultra long wish lists or lots of event invites, remind them what the holidays are going to look like for them this year. If needed, have more conversations about your family’s priorities.
Kids have a tendency (like many adults do) to compare themselves with others. It is hard not to notice when your friend from school comes back from the holiday break talking all about the expensive new toys they just got. Kids aren’t always kind in their comparisons and may even point out how much more they got than their friend did. Kids don’t filter like most adults do, so they may even ask awkward questions like why did you only get 3 small gifts? They can also make incorrect assumptions based on that.
These moments are great learning opportunities for your kids. As much as may not enjoy the way kids compare, it is a good starting place for conversations with your kids on how comparing isn’t helpful. It’s better to begin to learn now about the downfalls of comparison before they are on social media comparing their lives to their friends. Here are some lessons that can be learned in this process:
- disappointment is part of life
- values and character are more important
- keep it positive and focus on what you as a family care about
Disappointment is ok
In life, we are going to experience disappointments. If we’ve accurately prepared their expectations that should help mitigate some of the disappointment that may happen. However, if your kids go back to school and are comparing their Christmas gifts with their friends, it’s possible they may feel disappointed and/or jealous that their friend received more than they did. This is part of life. It’s ok to feel that way and talking through it can lead to valuable life lessons.
Values and character matter more
As we navigate through conversations with our children, we must remember the point of giving less. The values behind it should be the focal point. We aren’t having less for less sake. We are having less so we can give more to others. We’re doing things more simply to keep the focus off of ourselves at the holidays. Motivations can be different depending on circumstances and values, but it should be about pointing our kids to a greater meaning and purpose. It’s not about trying to deprive our kids.
The character development matters more than the stuff. And if you believe giving too many gifts hurts their character more than helps it, keep your eye on the goal. The desired outcome is an appreciation for what we have. We can teach them about being intentional with what we buy and being financially responsible. Kids learning these important life lessons and building their character will help them to be much better prepared for adulthood.
Keep things positive
Conversations should revolve around why your family made the choices you have and what you value. This isn’t about judging people who make different choices. Don’t let the conversation turn into an us vs. them. Keep the focus on your family values and all the great experiences you get to enjoy over the holidays.
Set them up for success
Think through your words and actions heading into the holiday season. It has become so commonplace to tell children to put every blessed thing they want on their Christmas wish list. Just the other day in the Target toy aisle I heard a mom tell her kiddo that if he was good maybe Santa would bring him what he wanted.
Handing your kiddo an Amazon or Target catalog and asking them to circle everything they want may set them up for failure. You’re now introducing them to lots of things they previously may not have known existed. Those catalogs are designed to make your kids want the items being advertised.
If you decide to let them catalog shop, set the parameters ahead of time. Ask them to select the top 3 items they would want. Before doing this, make sure you have looked through the catalog and considered if subjecting them to the wants that will come along with it are worth it. Also, there may be some very high ticket items in there that you may not want in your kid’s top 3. That will mean having another discussion on the value of money and budgeting.
These can be educational conversations to have. Christmas shopping is an excellent time for kids to learn about budgeting. This year I took my girls separately on shopping trips for each other. We gave them a budget and then guided them towards things that were within budget and steered them back when they began looking at more expensive items.
Kids will adjust
Kids are more flexible and resilient than we tend to give them credit for. As you’re setting your kids’ expectations for the holidays, they may just roll with the changes and not have the epic meltdown that we expected. Even if they do get upset, that is ok too. It will get easier the following year as they have had more time to get used to the changes and readjust their expectations.
There may be some growing pains in the first year of simplifying. However, keeping the end in mind and knowing why you are doing it can make it a bit easier. Keep focused on the positive character traits and values you are teaching your kids. The holidays are a great opportunity to learn about giving, gratitude, managing money and the value of spending time together. As you minimize the extra stuff, you may experience a much more meaningful holiday season.
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