Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D.
on December 21, 2009
As everyone is aware, the holiday season finds America in an economic slump.
The recession places additional stress on parents as they struggle to explain to their children why there aren’t as many presents under the tree this year.
An expert, Christy Buchanan, professor of psychology at Wake Forest University reminds parents that “children, in their heart of hearts, don’t want a lot of things from their parents as much as they want love from them and time with them. In the long run, it’s love, shared time, and quality interactions that they’ll remember.”
“The problem is we often express love through gifts,” says Buchanan, who studies parent-child relationships and teaches courses on effective parent-child relations.
“We worry they won’t feel loved if we don’t provide material things.”
She offers a few suggestions for families who are cutting back this holiday season:
- Don’t be overly apologetic for what children are not getting. Although it’s okay to acknowledge a child’s desires or even disappointment, parents are encouraged to focus on those things for which the child and family can be grateful.
- Parents should try to be upbeat and positive. If they are, children are more likely to be positive. Focus on the gift of time. Think about what the family can do together that is fun and memorable and treat it like a gift.
- Leading up to Christmas… Instead of going shopping, design time around what your kids enjoy and make that special. Make plans to bake cookies and drink hot chocolate, play a favorite board game, or shoot hoops at the park.
- Try to minimize exposure to commercials and marketing. The more children see, the more they think they want and are more likely to be disappointed.
- For younger children who expect Santa to bring lots of presents, small, inexpensive gifts like a ball or a game can be the basis for fun, family time on Christmas Day. Shift the focus to a fun activity and away from items that may be missing from under the tree.
- For teenagers, things often become more important. But, teens are also old enough to understand when parents explain that money for expensive items just isn’t in the family budget this year. For the items they most want, parents can work with them on a longer term plan to save for those things.
- At all ages, parents should convey a confidence that things will be okay.
- Parents should not make promises they cannot keep. They should be honest with children about what they can or cannot afford.
- If a family is having to cut back, a parent can use the opportunity to emphasize that their relationships are the most important thing.
“It comes down to communication,” Buchanan says. Parents can look for ways beyond presents to convey their love for their children.
Source: Wake Forest University
Nauert, R. (2009). Managing Children’s Expectations During a Holiday Recession. Psych Central.
Retrieved on March 8, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/news/2009/12/21/manage-a-holiday-recession/10328.html