How To Keep The Holidays from Getting Out Of ControlAs a child, I didn’t understand the fatigue my parents experienced during the holiday season.

Now I have two daughters, December has just begun, and I’m already exhausted.  My 4.5 year old began a Christmas list far before Thanksgiving, and recently it seems that I hear “I want for Christmas, I need for Christmas” on an (almost) hourly basis.

I’m trying to tone things down this year, and with that, adjust my children’s (in particular my older daughter’s) expectations. Not only does over-purchasing get expensive, most of those new toys are forgotten within days (in my experience).

Children aren’t born with a sense of perspective, it’s our responsibility to teach them. And although I have been known to indulge in the past, I’m trying to make some positive changes. I’d like my girls to understand the true spirit of Christmas; that of giving, caring, and compassion. It’s up to you to teach your little ones about the spirit of the season. Here’s how:

Have Discussions

Every time my 4.5-year-old tells me what she wants, I’m trying to remind her that Santa doesn’t bring everything. I’m not sure whether the concept is actually sticking, but over the last 5 years of parenting I’ve learned that repetition is a good thing.

Experiential learning is also meaningful for children – have your children participate in picking out items for a toy drive and collecting canned food – it’s a great way to start. For a list of more creative ideas, click here.

Donate & Clean Out

The holidays present an ideal opportunity to sift through items and pare down what you have.

Have old toys that aren’t being used? It may be the perfect time to make a large donation.

I’ve been quietly removing toys from our playroom over the last several months – things my older daughter doesn’t use on a regular basis. If after several weeks, she asks for them, I’ve been seizing the moment and having a conversation about how much “stuff” we need. Sometimes I’ll retrieve one item and leave the rest. The remainder has been either donated to a charity organization or given away on our local neighborhood Listserv.

The more involved your children can get in this process, the better. Older kids, especially, are ready to start digesting the concept that they don’t need everything (and there are items that can be passed on to those who have less). My goal moving forward is to have Gemma participate in the clean out.

Get Family Members on Board

Grandparents love indulging children. But there are ways to spoil a grandchild without actually giving them “things.” An experiential gift can be just as enjoyable for a child; a movie, a show, or an ice cream date. A few hours of one on one “special” time is beyond meaningful for someone small.

Have an open discussion with the grandparents in your life. As a parent, it’s your job to do so. Tell them what your expectations are, how much money you’d like them to spend (and on what). Together you can develop a plan.

Don’t Be Afraid to Enlist the Media

There are several great children’s television programs that address the concept of giving back. If the theme comes up, use it as a teachable moment. It’s much easier to talk about charity when Sophia the First has provided a bit of context.