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5 Ways to Help Kids Avoid “the Gimmees” at Christmas

Christmas, the time of year when it feels like the world is telling us what we need to buy to make us happy. As rational, grown people we know things don’t really make us happy and yet it is so easy to get caught up in believing “the perfect Christmas” is dependent on the perfect pile of gifts under the tree. Let’s just all agree right now that is not the case.

If it’s difficult for adults to fight the “I wants,” it’s even more difficult for our kids who don’t have the filters or self-control to push back against the advertisers’ messages. So how do we keep our kids, much less ourselves, from getting sucked into the Christmas frenzy? How do we help the little people in our charge fight the gimmees this season can quickly cultivate?

Here are a few practices I do to help my kids – because I want Christmas to stay a little more sacred and a little less about stuff:

1. Cut out the commercials.

The catalogs go straight from the mailbox to the trash. I don’t even open them because I don’t want to be tempted, and I certainly don’t want my kids thumbing through to impact their ideas of what Christmas is “supposed to be.” When possible I do movies and On Demand shows that are commercial free. Marketers know our kids are crafting their Christmas lists, but we can be the buffer between marketers’ messages and our children’s eyes and ears.

2. Watch my talk.

I admit I’ve been known to pull out “Santa is watching!” in December to help curb my girls’ naughtiness. Why not capitalize on the naughty versus nice motivation, right? Unless it’s emphasizing the gift opening as the most important part of the Christmas experience. I limit my talk about money, wish lists, gifts and shopping in front of my children even though it may be on the forefront of my mind. I want to guide my children’s hearts toward the true meaning of Christmas, and I don’t want my own words to be a barrier.

3. Focus on the meaningful.

Our kids follow our lead. Whatever we’re excited about, they’ll get excited about too. Choose the memories apart from opening gifts you want your children to enjoy and remember. Is it decorating the Christmas tree? Attending a special concert at church? Hosting an ornament decorating party? Create traditions around Christmas that aren’t about stuff, but about your family’s values, and then get really excited about those!

4. Help them give.

When kids are young it’s helpful to have them give to people they know. So making Christmas cookies for neighbors and delivering them helps kids see the process of giving from beginning to end. They learn when I think of someone, put in some effort, and give, I add joy to another person’s life. Siblings are a family’s built-in opportunity to practice giving. Save some of your family’s Christmas budget for sibling gifts. Take each child on a special shopping trip to pick out gifts for siblings, and then together wrap them up and hide them until the big morning.

5. Repeat the Christmas story.

From plastic nativity sets to board books, there are many tools to introduce the story of Joseph, Mary and baby Jesus to our children. When we reinforce why we celebrate Christmas, by telling the story,acting it out, or listening to Christmas carols, we are recalibrating our hearts away from the noise of the marketing machine to the Prince of Peace who came as a baby. This will not only help our children remember why we “do Christmas” in the first place, it will remind our grown-up hearts too.

Our kids will want all the things, but as the adults who set the tone in our families, we can make Christmas about so much more than stuff. Because it is!