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More JOY & LOVE with less things this Christmas

By Sophie Barcant, BA (Psyc), B.ED. Trainer, Facilitator, Parenting Coach/Consultant

Budgets are super tight. The pandemic has impacted more people than not economically. Yet the children will be expecting gifts as they do every year.

It is time to wean them off of material things and guide them to find joy and meaning in other ways. Happiness comes from connection, meaning and contribution, not from things.

We say this all the time, but we now have an opportunity to actually LIVE it, to walk the talk.

Let’s take the focus off presents and put it back on the love between you and your child. Children love TIME, so let’s make it tangible by coming up with special ways to connect.

We can start by asking them how they want to spend time with us, where they would like to be taken to, what games they want us to play with them, what they want us to build, create, bake, explore, research with them.

Depending on the age of the child they will have lots of ideas, but some will literally say “nothing”… most likely it’s the younger teens, with still immature cognitive development who will claim they do not need us to do anything with them.

Do NOT listen to their resistance. The more mature teens are able to reason a little better and see the benefit of new experiences and acquiring new skills.

What do we do in this instance of resistance? We insist. Yes, we force them to do things with us.

Once we generally have a good relationship with them, without intense tension or angst they will gain from the experience.

I have insisted my children attend events, watch documentaries, help me do tasks around the house that teach life skills and just broaden their knowledge and experience when there was much resistance, and I was told after how much they appreciated the experience and benefitted from it.

Many things, places, activities are unknowns for our children, so how can we possibly allow them to decide to participate in it when it is completely unknown? This is senseless.

In one study, children were asked what they liked best about their vacations. It wasn’t the fancy vacations or even the time off from school. It was the simple connection time with parents when the parent was able to relax and enjoy the child without being stressed.

What were your most memorable moments when you were growing up? Are you providing these for your children?

The presents we buy our children will be quickly forgotten as always. Let’s gift our children with the best present they’ll ever get—our focused time. Instead of feeding the dopamine-craving cycle, these gifts of our time give children lasting pleasure, from the anticipation to the loving connection to the savouring afterwards.

Here are some simple ideas

to get you started.

  • Go on a hike and picnic with the parent of your choice
  • Bike ride together
  • Go for coconut water, ice cream, sno cone, doubles, include your child on things like this that you normally do on your own
  • Choose recipes and bake or cook together, teens and parent, the family has to eat, parent has to cook, why not include the teens, and teach life skills and appreciation for flavours at the same time….
  • Each person gets to choose a movie for family movie night

Have a day this week where each member of the family contributes more ideas of parent-child activities and type up the list and post it on the fridge for each person in turn to choose from when schedules can be organised to allow these.

Finally, shift the focus to connection and giving and gratitude. Instead of encouraging kids to create lists of material things they want, have them make lists of what they can give.

They may not have treasure to give but they sure do have talent and time. Time to connect with lonely relatives, be it virtually or in person keeping protocols. Writing letters, messaging, virtual visits to being joy to those isolated and shut in.

Teenagers are very capable of making cakes and sandwiches for those in need. If you can’t afford to buy the ingredients, then ask a friend or relative who can purchase the ingredients and have the kids make them. Win-win for all.

Don’t forget to take photos of the two of you together—making Granny’s present, decorating for the holiday, or baking treats. Sending the photos to grandparents or distant relatives will bring joy. Children can even compile them in a video or print them to make an album as a gift.

And let’s end with one of the most powerful ways to happiness: GRATITUDE.

Every day at mealtime, each person can write on a post-it note or strip of paper (pull out the old copybooks) something new they are grateful for and place it in a designated bowl, vase, pretty vessel, a gift to God our Saviour, provider of life and all we have.

In case you forgot, speech, sight, hearing, legs, arms, fingers, toes, food, shelter, bed, relatives, friends, ability to think, education, talents, work, nature, animals, and the list goes on.

And when writing being grateful for members of the family why not verbalise it. The bond and healing this bring is invaluable. This creates long-lasting feelings of gratitude, connection and meaning, which research shows makes kids and adults happier and more grateful even months later.

Follow Sophie’s parenting approaches drawn from Love and Logic and Positive Discipline on, FB and Instagram. For personal coaching,