By Sophie Barcant,
BA (Psyc), B.ED
Did you know that the experience of giving actually activates an area of the brain that gives us physical pleasure? I wonder if that is why some overindulge in Christmas shopping for their children?
Do you ever feel guilty on Christmas Eve realising you over did it with the shopping? Or guilty that you believe you aren’t giving enough? Depressed that the budget for gifts wasn’t quite what you dreamed of?
The pressures of commercialisation do a disservice to these sacred days, to our wallets, and to our children. Our children have been trained to think of Christmas time as a time for getting, beginning when we have them write lists of possessions they covet and putting them on Santa’s lap to receive.
Children who watch TV have it even harder as they drool over enticing ads for deceptively presented toys and games. Then the first question they hear upon returning to school is usually “What yuh get?”
Do we have it in us to limit the indulgence? It’s all up to us, the parents, what and how much we buy, not the children.
Let’s be ruthlessly honest with ourselves and tune into what is really best for our children’s character and ours as we exercise self-control and prudence.
What are we valuing as we overindulge them? Satisfying ‘wants’? Materialism?
Are we of the mindset that happiness lies in having things?
Happiness lies in being grateful, acceptance and contributing. Much brain research has shown how positively altruism affects us.
Imagine a child or young person saying “I don’t really need anything!”
Let’s get our children to make lists of what they want to give, who they want to give to and what they want to do for others this Christmas.
Let’s get them to open their eyes to SEE all that they already have so when asked by relatives what they want they can genuinely struggle to find something they need and reply with a humble response.
I know families who give four presents to their child for Christmas: something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read. Others give a present from the parents and a present from Santa. Add a stocking, time to play with your child, and a few annual traditions, and it’s plenty. The gifts you do give will be treasured.
Remember to a child Love is spelt TIME. Let’s be mindful to not run ourselves ragged; know ourselves, set boundaries and limits and only take on what we are sure we can handle.
Making time to involve the children is worth it for their character development, making or baking gifts, decorating, even choosing gifts for relatives. If time does not allow to have them shop with you, well at least having discussions or asking them for their opinions meets their need for feeling important, listened to and valued. Here we model mental processes of decision making and thinking of the right gift for others.
On an amusing note, for those whose budgets are tight, like mine has been many a year, I wrapped boxes of their favourite cereals (rarely provided during the year) to put under the tree.
What shrills of delight and amusement upon opening these! Their own favourite cereal to savour! Favourite foods and snacks fill stockings every year, not cheap faddish gimmick merchandise to be tossed out at the next garage sale. And for those who have everything, gourmet food items or specially baked goods are always a winner.
It’s so sad to hear people grumble about gift giving at this time of year. Maybe it’s because budgets are tight and one feels a duty to give. I’ve received cards from relatives saying they will offer up a Mass for my family or donate to charity in lieu of giving gifts. What a noble gesture. Here again is an example of living what one values.
Let’s also develop family traditions of giving food, basic needs, surplus items to senior citizens homes, orphanages or poor families in our community. Not just at Christmas time but throughout the year.
It takes almost no effort to have our teen children make and donate a casserole or one or two loaves of sandwiches to a needy family per week.
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