As parents, it’s easy to feel defeated before the gifts are even opened. Giving in to the commercialism seems inevitable, avoiding the materialistic bent of the season seems impossible.
Americans spend on average close to $1000 per family on gifts alone during the holiday season. That sum doesn’t include travel expenses, holiday décor, increased entertaining and grocery budgets or festive attire. Just watching prime television for an hour or two will reveal through commercials that every possible purchase a person can make has been twisted into a holiday necessity: from home improvement projects to the purchase of a new family car!
How can we stand against a culture that seems so much bigger than our sphere of influence could ever be?
We probably all wish we could cultivate gratitude and reduce complaints in our families. It’s no secret that Christmas has completely taken over our materialistic society and become a monster that steals our savings and our sanity. Many of us have fond memories of Christmas in a simpler time, before iPhones and Amazon Prime.
Is it possible to turn back the hands of time and celebrate the season in a more meaningful, less stuff-based way? Consider the following ideas.
1. Random Acts of Kindness Challenge
There are multiple ways to do this, and some great resources online. I love this post by Your Vibrant Family on a 30 days of kindness challenge! Whether you work on secret acts of kindness in your own home or branch out to kindness to strangers, this is a wonderful way of changing the conversation about Christmas from “what will I receive?” to “how can I give?”
2. Screen-free Commitment
Dropping television, movies and devices all together is a great way of mixing things up for the holiday season. We really do have great results when we get serious about no TV! If you aren’t ready to drop the screen altogether, think about switching from cable to Netflix to reduce commercials or just reduce your media consumption across the board. You might be surprised how your family responds!
3. No Shopping
The December when I chose to take a break from shopping was a great learning experience for me, and a very healthy holiday season for my family. Taking myself out of the consumer “fray” allowed me to focus on what matters so much more. And reminded me of how grateful I am for what I already have. The trickle down affect to my kids was noticeable and the experiment changed my perspective on Christmas for a lifetime.
4. Serving Others
This is something we haven’t done much with our children yet, but I would really love to change that. Opportunities to serve are abundant, especially at this time of year. I asked my friends for ideas and got some great ones including: packing bags for foster children, visiting and leading holiday music at local nursing homes, sending care packages or Christmas cards to soldiers overseas, and helping the homeless in our community. Remember, these needs exist beyond the holiday season!
5. Let Them Be Needed
It’s my firm belief that children need to have chores around the house. They want to be productive and need to be needed by the rest of the family. Although it’s sometimes (often) easier to do all the work ourselves, as parents we can’t take the easy way out. Teaching them they are an important part of the team helps them understand what hard work is all about. The more responsibilities my children are given, the more grateful they become.
Our “first world problems” in an affluent society include wishlists a mile long, grumpy attitudes and expectations that parents sacrifice their own sanity (and finances) on the altar of commercialism.
Where will it end?
It ends when you, as the parent, change the atmosphere in your home. If we want radical change in our lives, we need to be willing to make radical sacrifice. Someone needs to say it; parents are the leaders in their families and they are where the change must start. If we as parents are sick of the status quo, it is time to challenge it. It’s time to fight entitlement anyway we can!