Holiday Heartaches: How to Help Kids Enjoy the Holidays without Overindulging

The holidays are here! What a magical time of year for young children. The traditions, the family gatherings, the food, the fun, the merriment and…of course…presents.

Christmas presents

The latter can be tough for many parents. In a season filled with the pressure to produce unending joy, never-ending smiles and happiness for our children, it’s easy to get carried away with overindulging them. Every television commercial, story, song and signal from the media includes children being greeted by plethora of shiny wrapped presents. Of course, this is what retailers would like us to believe is what the holiday season is all about.

Yet that’s probably not what most parents want for their children. Parents want to foster a sense of joy and happiness that doesn’t come from a Toy ‘R Us or Amazon. So how do we demonstrate that value to our young children, while still keeping them happy and maintaining our sense of sanity? Here’s a few tips to follow:

1. Stop thinking that being unhappy is a bad thing. All year long, but especially now, we do whatever we can to avoid letting our children feel a little blue. But feeling down or sad is actually not a bad thing. Sadness is a very real, human emotion that we all have. It’s better to let kids feel sadness, anger and disappointment and help them learn how to cope with those feelings, than try to avoid them. So, when they don’t get everything on their holiday wish list and they feel a little sad, it’s OK. Really, it is.

2. Think about giving experiences versus material items. Try to plan outings with the kids during the holidays with family. These trips – to the tree at Rockefeller Center, a local performance of the Nutcracker or even ice skating – will be the cherished times they remember as they grow up, not the present they did or didn’t get. And, yes, we all have at least one memory about the time we asked for a horse and instead we got a pair of socks, but, aren’t those the stories we share with our adult siblings and laugh about now?

Chanukah Cookies

3. Books, songs and activities help explain the season. It’s the little things that help kids understand the reason we celebrate holidays. It’s the songs we sing, the types of books we read and the little activities, like baking Sufganiyot at Chanukah or cookies at Christmas, that reinforce the message: it’s about a belief and tradition, not a gift card, that makes this time of year special.

4. Don’t be afraid to limit the amount of gifts. When Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles, cousins and friends bring over bundles of gifts during the holidays, it’s OK to limit the amount you give your kids. Keep some items in storage and let kids unwrap them during other times of the year (you may want to change up the wrapping paper). They don’t have to be given everything at once. Especially for smaller kids, this can be very overwhelming.

Remember, as a parent, you have the power to set the tone for the holidays. The more we keep routines, stand firm with discipline and control the chaos, the happier the holidays will be for everyone. Don’t forget to treat yourself, too! Plan some quiet moments with your partner of just do something to relax and enjoy. The holidays can be stressful, so pace yourself and don’t forget to breathe.

hot chocolate

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