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  • Writer's pictureJennifer Licate

It's Holiday Gift Season...How do Parents Handle That? Where did the True Spirit of Giving Get Lost

As a parent, I worry that receiving too many gifts on Christmas morning or during Hanukkah creates a materialistic view of the holidays. If too much emphasis is placed on the number of gifts children get or the value of these gifts, children can miss out on what makes the holidays special? There’s more to the holidays then crossing everything off a wish-list.

Your kids are happy when you are happy!

Children are most happy when parents are happy and they’re spending quality time together. It’s a bonus if you’re doing special activities together, such as baking cookies or looking at holiday light displays. Families are so busy, it’s important to carve out this time over the holidays.

Simplify Gifting by Setting Expectations

In order to have free time to do these family activities, gift-giving needs to be simplified and children’s expectations need to be set. This teaches children that the holidays are about enjoying time together and the spiritual significance your family places on the holidays. As a parent, I also don’t want to be bogged down by the materialism of the holidays…spending so much time buying and wrapping gifts and then on Christmas morning being too busy putting these gifts together and cleaning up all the packaging that I miss experiencing the magic of the season.

Don’t Forget to Enjoy the Spirit & Magic of the Season

So, what should you do when you want to create a special and memorable holiday for your children? I think it’s smart to come into the holidays with a plan for gift giving? Now, it’s ideal when you’ve created this plan when your children were little, but for those of you who are like me, and didn’t…it’s not too late. My children are 8 and 10 years-old but I want to set their expectations for the future.

Present Rules

I’ve heard of the Present Rule of 3, that three presents are sufficient because that’s the number of presents baby Jesus received…gold, frankincense and myrrh. Some parents go as far as determining that each of the three presents should fall into a category of special significance: gold, meaning something special the child will treasure for years to come, such as a special earrings; frankincense, which represents a spiritual gift such as a journal, a Bible or jewelry with spiritual significance; and myrrh, a gift for the body, such as clothes or a bath soap. I’ve also heard of the Present Rule of 4, giving children something they want, something they need, something to wear, and something to read.

My Gift-Giving Plan

My plan is to aim for 5 gifts per child this year and in the future. This way, I’ll know I’m finished buying after a certain point, regardless of if my children add to their wish list. And be careful, it can really tug at your heartstrings when your children tell Santa something they want that they haven’t EVER talked about before!! Sadly, I know this from experience.

When & How to Phase Out Santa?

For those who celebrate Christmas...who gives the bigger gifts, Santa or parents? As my children get older, Santa will move away from giving the more extravagant gifts. That way, it’ll be less disappointing for them when they learn Santa won’t be playing center stage in the Christmas’ to come. Also, we’ll avoid the possibility that my children are manipulating us by pretending they believe in Santa, only to ensure they’ll receive more gifts!!

I wish I figured this out as a new parent, but we all learn as we go.

Happy Holidays! Please share your gift giving plan!

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