Is it just me who finds the consumer-focused gifts galore side of Christmas a bit dispiriting? Maybe I’m a bit of a Grinch, but I don’t believe the magic of Christmas is bought with a credit card. In my experience, all that present-buying and over-consumption can actively get in the way of the Christmas spirit. So, this year, I challenge you to give your children presence (not just presents) for Christmas.
What does that involve? It means not prioritising present sourcing, buying or wrapping over spending time with your children. It means not slaving in the kitchen for hours at the expense of relaxing with your children. It means slowing down and tuning in for some high quality family time.
Possessing an excessive quantity of toys and gadgets is not good for children. It isn’t number of toys that drives child development or wellbeing. Making up games from string and cardboard boxes is what’s good for children!
Being in a positive relationship with their parents in which they feel loved, wanted and valued is what’s good for children.
And stopping, chilling out and playing with children is good for parents too. Spending Christmas manically trying to meet unrealistic expectations is stressful. And stressed-out parents are less tolerant and more likely to snap – hardly conducive for the Christmas spirit!
So this year, take the easy route. Don’t compete for the best dressed Christmas award. Say no to that invitation. Buy the brussels sprouts precooked and just heat them up. Take short cuts that mean you can sit down with your children and play with them. Or snuggle up for a Christmas movie. Prioritise presence over presents. Spend time in the present moment with your children rather than fretting your time away buying stocking-fillers (and dreading the bill afterwards).
Here are a few ideas for how you can give the gift of time to your children this year.
Rather than another plasic toy or even more chocolate, why not fill their stockings with promises. Write them a dummy cheque or an I.O.U for activities you know they love – a kiss, an extra bedtime story, a bike ride, cookie-making, a trip to the swings. You can design a mummy/daddy cheque yourself or download a template.
Camp out next to the tree
There is something truly special about Christmas tree lights in a darkened room. And if you happen to have a real tree, this smells wonderful too! Roll out the sleeping bags, snuggle up with storybooks and have a Christmas family camp out.
Have a homemade Christmas
Now, I don’t mean the sort of Kirsty Allsop crafty Christmas where everything looks amazing. I mean, spend time with your kids making things instead of spending time away from them buying or ordering things. You can make the cake together, the decorations, the cards, the presents – no, your house won’t look like the John Lewis window display but making all or just one of those things will mean spending time together. And that’s the point.
Make a Yearbook
Create a memory book with your children of family-related things that have happened that year. You can use photos, postcards, drawings, newspaper clippings… It’s a wonderful way to look back over the year, create memories and tune into the things that really matter to your children. (And you can look back at it year after year). No perfectionism allowed – this is a child-led activity!
Be charitable together
Whether it’s formal volunteering or just de-icing a neighbour’s drive, refocus away from having too much onto helping those who don’t have enough. Helping out at a homeless shelter is a great way to give back whilst also dragging the teens from their bedrooms. Let them research the activity and chose the cause. Then commit as a family to making a difference (while also doing something together).
There are so many ways you can give the gift of time to your children. If you have a story to tell or an idea to share, please comment below so we can spread the magic.
Sign up for monthly newsletters for lots more parenting thoughts!
©Anita Cleare 2017