The Blog

As a newspaper columnist, Nancy Devlin, Ph.D. has written over 700 articles on subjects related to education and parenting. Welcome to her Classroom!

Making Christmas a Time of Harmony

It  takes a great dealing of planning and hard work  on  the

part  of  parents to make Christmas a season of  joy  and  giving

instead  of  a  season  of  disharmony  and  getting.   The  most

successful  strategy  is  for the family to  develop,  while  the

children  are very young, traditions that embody the  concept  of

good will and sharing.
One  nice family tradition to encourage is for  each  family

member to make gifts for every other member.  Children should not

buy  ready-made  gifts  at the store.   Instead  they  should  be

encouraged  to  contribute  gifts  of  their  own  making.    The

expenditure of money for things mass produced cannot compete with

the loving investment of one’s own time and imagination on a gift

which  becomes very personal.  Even very young children can  make

pictures and cards for each member of the family.  Older children

can  write  stories  or  poems  or  make  something  at   school.

Preparing for Christmas in this way also makes a nice alternative

to watching television.
Of  course,  it  is difficult  to  abandon  purchased  gifts

entirely,  but  there should be a traditional limit on  how  many

gifts  will  be bought.  Some parents have difficulty  with  this

idea  because  they  feel  they have the money  so  why  not  buy

everything  the child has on the wish-list.  They are  afraid  of

disappointing  the child.  There are several reasons why  I  feel

differently.   For  one  thing,  the  child’s  list  is   greatly

influenced  by what he or she sees on television.  In many  cases

it is false advertising and children are often disappointed  with

the real thing.  Many parents realize this, and feel the gift  is

inappropriate,  but  buy  it anyway because  the  child  insists.

Since  many  of the toys advertised this year  are  for  solitary

play,  the  result  of the parents giving in  might  be  that  an

opportunity  is lost for parents to introduce  more  apppropriate

toys  for  the child’s social development.  Also,  the  child  is

learning to manipulate the parents and the parents are losing  an

opportunity to help children become informed consumers and not be

influenced by advertising.
To  avoid disappointment, parents should let  children  know

early  that  they will use their own judgment in  choosing  gifts

that  are  appropriate  and limited in number.  Children  may  be

disappointed  the  first  time  around, but  if  the  adults  are

consistent  and firm, the children learn to abide by  the  rules.

Do  not be swayed by crying and the fact that everybody else  has

the  toy.  If you as an adult feel it is inappropriate,  then  do

not  buy  it.   Act as an adult, not as a  child.   It  is  adult

behavior children must see as a model for their own development.
When   children   receive  gifts  from  many   adults   like

stepparents,  grandparents,  aunts, uncles, and so forth,  it  is

important  for the adults involved to understand how  gift-giving

to  children  is viewed in your family and what  your  traditions

are.   Children and adults learn quickly that gifts can be a  way

to  manipulate people and situations.  I have known  children  of

divorced  parents who have skillfully played one  parent  against

the other so that they received everything they wanted on a  very

long  usually inappropriate wish-list.  This completely  distorts

the message of the season.
Another  tradition  your  family might develop  is  to  give

family gifts.  It could be something that is needed for the home,

or it could be a game that they whole family plays. Some  choices

are  Monopoly, Legos or cooperative games like Mountaineering  or

Maze.    Also the giving of books is a nice tradition.  When  the

book is inscribed by the giver, it makes it very personal.
One  family  I know makes it a tradition to give  the  money

most people spend on gifts to a different charity they all choose

each year.  This family also has a tradition of making  different

decorations for the tree each year.
Each family is unique and special.  I encourage you to  keep

and  perhaps  add  to the family traditions  which  enhance  this

season for your family and discard those which do not. 

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