The holiday season is upon us, and this has many parents feeling less joy and more stress about all those inflated credit card bills and meltdowns that come along with it. In our increasingly consumer-based culture, kids have come to equate December 25th with presents, presents and well, more presents.
Often forgotten in the mix of treats and toys is the reason behind why this date is even celebrated. According to Statistics Canada, Canadians spent $551 million on toys and games (including electronics) in December 2009, and it’s safe to assume that the majority of those dollars were directly related to gifts. Given the holiday season seems to get longer every year, it’s no wonder the true meaning of Christmas is becoming lost.
Carleton Kendrick, Ed.M., LCSW is a licensed psychotherapist, author, noted national speaker and broadcast commentator. Kendrick has also been an educator and consultant on parenting-related issues for more than 30 years. As part of his practice he has seen the increase in materialism and the dismay felt by parents who feel that their holiday traditions have been co-opted by society’s focus on physical items. Fortunately, he notes that the current state of affairs doesn’t have to be a “fait accompli” in terms of how families choose to move forward with holiday traditions. A strong believer in the strength of the family unit in providing a positive foundation for children, Kendrick urges parents to step back and reevaluate their current situations if they feel that something is lacking.
“The holidays have become a time where the emphasis on what’s important is lost to the more material aspects of the season,” says Kendrick. He notes that a variety of factors—from “the whine factor” where marketers target kids to coax their parents into purchasing particular items, to the pressures kids feel by their friends and peers at school to have the right things—add to the diminishing value of the season as well as further distancing families from opportunities to really connect during this yearly event. Fortunately, there are ways to overcome the growing trend towards the material.
As part of a return to the core values that define the holiday season, Kendrick recommends that parents engage the following actions:
Introduce family traditions when the children are young:
Family traditions are ones that are built upon year after year. In this age of mass consumerism, Kendrick suggests starting the emphasis on holiday charitable giving when the children are young. It’s never too early to instill values that exemplify the spirit of the season. Small children can help their parents shop for groceries to be delivered to a food bank, or accompany their mom or dad to a senior’s home to provide companionship to its residents.
Reevaluate your family’s core values:
If the spirit of the season has gone astray in the past few years within your own family, stop, reevaluate and regroup. Sit down together and have a family meeting where you discuss what values are important to you collectively, and what each member of the family can do to institute the values moving forward. Reflection and introspection will help to determine how you’re all doing and what can be changed for the better.
Add new family traditions that focus on ‘giving back’:
While holiday traditions are often passed down through generations, parents should not feel tied to the tried and true. The spirit of the season provides a great opportunity for families to institute new traditions each year. Keep the valued events and rituals that have been followed in the household but perhaps add one new tradition yearly that focuses on the spirit of giving back as well.
Reclaim the season!
As part of a family “reclamation project,” draw a line in the sand and pledge together that you as a group will be using the spirit of the season to start anew. With a refreshed view of what is really important, such as family, kindness to others and giving back, the holidays will take on a whole new meaning, in spite of external messages of materialism.
Make the Holiday Spirit last year round:
What a great opportunity to instill core values of kindness and giving into your children. The holiday season allows families to have a yearly “jumping off ” point where they can start the year anew. The activities that include selflessness and helping others can continue throughout the coming months with the holiday season as a “checkpoint” for giving from January to December.
“Charity begins at home,” says Hendrik. “Make gratitude and giving a priority and the holiday season will have much more meaning.”
TIP: Introduce them to other December holidays…
Talk to your kids about other special holidays celebrated in December. Making them aware of these holidays (and their meanings) is a step toward instilling the values of acceptance, kindness and compassion in your kids.
Celebrates the birth of Christian saviour, Jesus Christ, celebrated on December 25th. Traditions involve the exchange of presents, family feasts, and the decoration of a Christmas tree.
Also known as the Festival of Lights, this Jewish holiday starts on December 21st and lasts eight days. A Menorah is lit nightly during this period.
An African-American celebration from December 26th to January 1st. Focus is on family, unity and African heritage.
Written by: Samantha Kemp-Jackson