In the past few weeks I have been asked by many whether I had more suggestions for the gift-giving conundrum that is, for many of us, Christmas. Of course not all festivities of the season revolve around presents, and naturally the “holidays” are also made up of many other wonderful occasions like Chanukah, Solstice, Kwanzaa and more.
However, this column is for those who have taken the time to email, send a Facebook message or stop me at the market. Together with my State-side Simplicity Parenting colleague Paula Hamma, I’ve come up with some helpful suggestions to get you and your family through the gift-giving season with less stuff, less running around and hopefully less drama.
As you read these suggestions keep in mind that there are about as many different ways to approach a given situation as there are types of people. One idea may work with mom, while a completely different one will appeal to the in-laws. Keep your finger on the pulse of the conversation and trust your gut — you know your relatives best.
Most importantly, remember that in your endeavour to reduce the holiday hangover, the only things you can truly control are your attitude and perception. If you are dead set against the consumerism and commercialization of the holidays, fine, but don’t make enemies in a time when the emphasis really should be on love and acceptance.
One mom I chatted with recently acknowledged she went too far last year when she put a ban on all gift giving for her two little boys at the yearly over-the-top family gathering.
“Mom’s face just dropped — it was like I punched her in the stomach,” she recounted. “Yet she still snuck something in for them anyways. I wasn’t happy about it then but I realize now that I was taking something away from her. It wasn’t just about how I didn’t want my boys to be overwhelmed with too much stuff; I need to take her feelings into account too.”
The first thing you need to do is have The Conversation. It might be hard, but it is possible and can have a positive outcome and grow the relationship in a beneficial way. Explain that the child loves them because of who they are and the time they spent together, not because of the gifts they give.
Give direction. Provide catalogues or links to websites that have items you prefer. Let them know whatever age-appropriate item they choose would be treasured and appreciated. Natural Pod, Nova Natural Toys, For Small Hands and Hestia all carry quality, natural, practical, and sturdy items.
Many gifts can be done at home and on a budget if the person is crafty. Knitting a cap or scarf, sewing a dress for a doll, building a wooden and wire-mesh bug catcher, building a toy boat are all things children treasure. For an older child, rather than making the item completely, ask if she/he might create a kit that the child and the giver can work on together to help the child learn the skill that person loves.
If the person enjoys nature, they can gather treasures — stumps/cut branches from the trees in the backyard, a ribbon tied bunch of fresh flowers, a cutting from a favourite plant to grow at home, a basket full of acorns, shells and pinecones. Even better is when the gift is an invitation to gather the treasures together.
They may want to create a classic book collection or give a favourite book or toy from their childhood. Or maybe they amass a collection of kitchen toys and utensils, real items found in their own home such as tiny glasses, tea cups, and small spoons. They could also put together a book of the child’s life or family. One year I created a game of Memory for our nephew of family pictures — and lots of him! I put a backing on the double prints and had them laminated. It was a hit!
Lastly, set your family boundaries and don’t try to change anyone. Realize that the gifts are given out of love. Accept it with love and gratitude. If it’s simply not welcome in your home, keep it for a short while and then pass it a long to someone else that will make use of it.
Kirsten Andrews offers Simplicity Parenting classes, which resume in February 2013. For details please visit www.SeaToSkySimplicityParenting.com. Like Sea to Sky Simplicity Parenting on Facebook for updates and inspiration.