Have you ever found yourself dreading the holiday season? What new expensive toy or electronic will your child request of Santa? Unfortunately, some of us fear the holiday season each year as we want to keep from spoiling our children. This year, many parents want to give their children gifts that are meaningful — ones they will appreciate in time, even if not right away.
Dr. Julie Saflarski understands that pampering — or spoiling — a child is not encouraging to their development. This often results in social and behavioral problems that can escalate throughout the child’s lifespan. Have you ever found yourself buying candy or a toy at the checkout following a tantrum just to settle your child down? Or maybe your child tosses aside a toy they just HAD to have saying, “I can just get a new one.”
The holidays are about giving, not receiving. In today’s post, Dr. Saflarski suggests putting a twist on your gift-giving, allowing your child to get more than just the latest must-have toys or gadget. These four suggestions will help make presents more meaningful, encouraging and empowering for your child this year.
Something they want. One of the most exciting things to find under the tree is that one thing you really want. It is not bad to give your child something they want — it shows that you have been listening to them. But that doesn’t mean you have to get them everything they want. Find the one item that would mean the most. Limiting the “wants” that appear under the tree will help promote your child’s appreciation for what they did get versus what they did not.
Something they need. Many children are unaware of the things that they “need” versus “want.” Parents are more attune to what their child needs than he/she is sometimes. Parents can encourage a child to understand the difference between want and need by providing them with gifts that are useful such as a journal, art materials for a hobby or even fun bed sheets. This kind of gift promotes a child’s sense of security, knowing their parents are understanding of their needs.
Something to wear. Children grow. Fast. Buying kids a new outfit, pajamas, a hat or scarf shows a child you love and care for their warmth and safety. While this may seem “boring” to some children, it can quickly become a family tradition for others.
Something to read. There is nothing better than sparking your child’s imagination and creativity by finding them something they can read. Reading helps stimulate the mind and develop imagination. Surprisingly, imagination and creativity are often seen as key components to effective problem-solving skills and resiliency. Reading increases vocabulary, critical thinking and promotes intellectual growth. Whether it’s a book to read together or a chapter book for them to read alone, the gift of a book can promote learning new things.
This holiday season, start new traditions — and don’t feel pressured to keep up with the latest gifts. Make the holidays more meaningful by showing your love.
Dr. Julie Saflarski is a Clinical Postdoctoral Fellow at The Family Institute at Northwestern University. She has expertise in working with children and adolescents who struggle with symptoms of anxiety, depression, special needs and developmental disabilities. She works to help support parents and families to best promote healthy development and resilience in their children. Dr. Saflarski works with parents on areas such as parent-child relationships, parent skill building and co-parenting.
The Family Institute offers affordable, effective mental health counseling for families, couples and individuals in Evanston, Chicago, Northbrook and Westchester. To learn more about our therapy and mental health services, please visit our website.