Sunday, November 8, 2015

A Minimalist Guide to Simplifying the Holidays with Children

I am going to start with a story about a five year old little girl. Christmas was coming up and money was tight. Her parents didn't want to deprive her or her little sister of a glorious, bountiful Christmas, but they only had the money to get her one gift. A little kitchen set with a pretend stove and a little sink. They placed it under the tree Christmas eve. The little girl's eyes lit up when she came down stairs and saw that kitchen set sitting there. In her joyful little voice she exclaimed, "I got everything I wanted!"

That little girl was my first born daughter. She is now grown with her own son. She may not even remember saying that, but I will never forget that Christmas because her wise little words shined a light on the truth about over consumerism and Christmas. She clearly was not deprived by her lack of gifts. That one gift meant the world to her and to share it with her family was all she needed.

Friends and relatives who do not grasp this, who feel it isn't Christmas unless their are stacks of gifts under the tree, they will be the hardest challenge to getting through the holidays. "Don't you feel like you are depriving your children?" they'll ask. "But part of the joy of Christmas is giving," they'll exclaim, "and I enjoy giving." Let these well meaning folks know they may still give gifts to your children, but to please limit them to experiences or time spent together. Ideas might be a cooking class for your son who likes to cook, a museum pass, tickets to a special event the child can attend with grandma and grandpa. There are endless possibilities and memories last far longer than any soon to be broken toy will.

If they must give a physical gift, guide them toward purchasing something used. Last year I purchased a child sized table and chairs set for my son off Craigslist. It would have cost me a lot more new. I've also picked up books and old record albums at the thrift store. Gifts don't have to be new to be loved and appreciated.

Children love to participate in random acts of kindness, and the holidays are a great time to get your kids on board. Again, the list is endless. Bake cookies together and deliver them to neighbors. Leave random good wishes on windshields. Last year I took my youngest son to a nursing home where he handed out goodies and visited the residents. He and the residents were beaming when we left.

Kids also love to make presents. Some of the things I've helped my kids make in the past are little stuffed monsters, tied fleece blankets, pretty recycled jars filled with hot cocoa mix, and clay ornaments. Guide them on some options, but ultimately if it is their idea they will be more excited about it. Your time is much better spent helping them make these gifts than fighting crowds at the store.

For more ideas on simplifying the holidays with children, I recommend going to The Center for a New American Dream. They have many resources and ideas for a commercial free holiday. They have printable coupons and a booklet full of tips for less stress and more joy. You can also find them on Facebook and Pinterest.

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