The holidays have a peculiar way of bringing out the best and the worst in each of us. The arguments in our house begin at Thanksgiving with Black Friday.
Every year, my husband graces us with a diatribe on the incivility of shopping on the heels of giving thanks to God for all the blessings He has given us.
I, on the other hand, defend those who are excited to use gift-giving as a means to express their love to friends and family. And though no one in our family shops on Black Friday, arguments about giving, spending, worship, and materialism stir deep conflicts in everyone.
What I’ve learned is that this overall season of shopping madness doesn’t have to be stressful or difficult. It can be used as a valuable time to teach your kids about the meaning of giving and receiving.
You just have to shift your focus a little.
Pray for the people you buy for.
The culture most of us have been raised in teaches that giving gifts is a means of expressing love — and personally, I don’t see anything wrong with this. Do the gifts have to be expensive and perfect for the recipient? Of course not — what matters is the heart of the giver.
When buying gifts with your children, have them think about the person they are buying for and say a prayer for them. Talk with them about that person’s needs, personality, and possible struggles. Let them know that what matters with the gift is the intention — not the price tag. It is never a substitute for love; the gift is simply an expression of it.
The shift from money to time will make a huge difference for others.
Give a ‘gift’ to Jesus.
Christmas is Jesus’ birthday and therefore, gifts should be given to Him. This notion may confound adults, but not children.
In the weeks leading up to Christmas, ask your kids (even teens) what they can give Jesus this Christmas and see what they come up with. Since they can’t buy Him anything, their creative juices will begin to flow.
They could write him a letter of gratitude, perform a random act of kindness for a stranger. Or, they may want to serve a local ministry or outreach program. Which brings me to my next point.
Focus more on giving time than spending money.
Rather than doing the mad Black Friday dash and spending the days until Christmas stressing over your budget for your kids’ Christmas presents, consider how you could spend your time with them. Block out Black Friday afternoon or a Saturday in December to serve somewhere together as a family. Take your daughter out for a daddy-daughter date, or your son to see that movie he’s been wanting to see.
Perhaps spend an afternoon making cookies together from scratch as a family and pay a surprise visit to an elderly neighbor to deliver them.
Whether you spend your time on your kids or spend time together serving as a family, that shift from money to time will make a huge difference for you this holiday season. After all, it’s pretty hard to argue with one another about shopping and the cost of gifts when you’re giving the gift of your time and energy to people who really need it.
Dr. Meg Meeker has practiced pediatrics and adolescent medicine for 30 years. She is the author of the online course, “The 12 Principles of Raising Great Kids,” which is part of The Strong Parent Project.