Thanksgiving is here and Black Friday is close on its heels. Slick, glossy ads extolling the need to shop showcase the difficult decisions faced by parents of young children.
Deciding what to buy, and when to stop buying, can be overwhelming.
Children themselves learn to scan the mail for catalogs, note the call of television ads and respond to the constant queries of well-meaning adults, “What do you want for Hanukkah?” or “What is Santa bringing you?”
It’s a time of disparate opportunities – opportunities for adults to show their love for their children with thoughtful gift-giving and opportunities to bemoan commercialism and “overdoing” it. There’s also a third angle, the vital opportunity for children to show their love and appreciation for others. Don’t leave all the pleasures of gift-giving to the adults.
Using Thanksgiving as a springboard, balance the approaching stress and anxiety of December with the joy of helping your children find the right way to participate in what’s good about the holidays.
Let them truly experience the warmth of doing for others and expressing appreciation for what they have. As preschoolers, they’re not shopping alone or using their own money, but they are dependent on your time and effort. When you help your children reciprocate the gifts they receive with one of their own, you’re conveying priceless messages of capability, sharing, altruism, responsibility and respect. It takes imagination and determination on your part, but the benefits are far-reaching.
How do you achieve that?
- Try simple cooking projects, everything from flavoring nuts and bagging dry soup ingredients to baking cookies. Find activities that lend themselves to help from a little person on a stool or some adult guidance from the other side of the kitchen.
- An afternoon with paint or fabric crayons can end with a variety of handmade ornaments, tea towels, aprons, magnets, bookmarks, calendars, flowerpots and even lunch bags for those who carry a meal to school or work.
- With a piece of felt, a tin can becomes a pencil holder and a simple pad becomes a personalized desk accessory.
- With a little imagination and a lot of promises, a piece of paper becomes a coupon for a table setting, a clean room or feeding the dog.
As the recipients of a multitude of handmade gifts over the years, teachers can tell you the value of a student gift is in direct proportion, not to the cost of the gift or the perfect execution of the project, but to the thought put into it by the child. Teachers, grandparents, friends and neighbors can all appreciate the joy a child gets from giving to others and the valuable lessons of caring that are carried into the future.
It’s not easy to avoid the excesses of holidays and birthdays or to ignore the call of commercials. But giving your children opportunities to give honors their capabilities and instills in them a desire to continue to recapture the warm feelings inherent in these appreciated efforts.
It also embeds quality time in your joint efforts — and that’s a gift on every child’s wish list.