How To Give Your Kids The Best Christmas Ever
And, sure you can spend time feeding the homeless, do more as a family... yada, yada, yada. Those things are all awesome, and you're an awesome parent for doing that. This is strictly how I'm planning on making the gift-opening portion of Christmas the best ever.
1. No kid-curated wish lists
First and foremost, we're skipping the kid-written "wish list". They key to happiness is to focus on what you do have, not what you don't have. That's right. Hide those toy magazines the minute you see them in the mail. From now on, those aren't for the kids. They're for you. Look through them. Circle what you think your child will like. When you ask a child to create a wish list from a massive magazine full of toys, you're asking them to spend their time thinking about things they want that they don't have. happiness doesn't lie in accumulating material possessions, it lies in being thankful for everything you already have.
I remember one time my husband asked me for a wish list. I didn't know of anything I wanted at the time, so I spend a good chunk of time figuring out something I wanted. I created a nice list, just like he asked. In fact, I actually started wanting some of the things on my list. I eagerly awaited the day, curious as to which one of these things on the list he will have decided to get me. So, when the special day came around, you can imagine my... uh... surprise when he didn't get me something on my list. In fact, he never even intended to get me something on my list. 😲 He said it was just a trick, so I would be surprised with the actual gift. I went from literally wanting nothing, to wanting a handful of things, to disappointment I didn't get what I had wanted.
The thing that really upset me was that I was disappointed. The mere act of creating a wish list that was ignored upset me. It was a super-busy time in my life, and there were a million other things I could have been doing, and I remember that the most.
I tell you this story to illustrate how creating wants where none had previously existed can quickly turn to unnecessary disappointment. Now, as a parent, I'm trying to be careful not to do this to my own children. First and foremost, I don't show them toy catalogs.
2. Pay attention
Without wish lists to guide me, I simply pay attention to decide what gifts are right for my children. Around October, I start a list of things my kids say they like. I keep my list in Evernote, and keep a separate list for each one of the kids, but do whatever works for you.
3. Photograph in-store ideas
Sometimes when we're out, the kids will find something they want in the store. My go-to reply is that we'll take a picture of it, and ask for it for Christmas. Somehow, the mere act of me taking a photo of a toy for them gives them some strange sort of fulfillment. This picture then goes in the Evernote for that child. This allows me to quickly recall of of those "ooh, I'd love this" moments that happen when we're out and about.
4. Reframe the "What do you want for Christmas?" question
We're bothered that our kids are obsessed with presents, but we're often the ones creating the obsession. They're constantly being asked "What do you want for Christmas?" giving them a lot of opportunities to think about the answer. Parents ask them. Every single family member they see asks them. Every stranger they see on the street asks them. Like, no joke. They get asked this question 100 times between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
As a parent, you need to know what they asked Santa for. Besides that, just pay attention. You'll see what they want. You don't need to ask them. Encourage family members to ask you directly. Not only can you keep a running list of your child's wants, you can keep track of the ones that are being taken care of to avoid doubles.
Often, I think adults ask "What do you want for Christmas?" because they don't know what else to ask kids. Well, here's a simple twist on that question. Instead of asking them what they want, ask them what they want to give this year. You'll likely get a more excited response, as they may very likely play an active role in giving someone special to them a gift. And, this obviously shifts the conversation from one of materialism to one of generosity.
I know, it seems simple, but I'm really hopeful that we're going to have a great Christmas this year by having kids focusing less on lists and lists of what they want, and instead, just listening a little bit more.