Try a "less is more" Christmas

If you ever had even the slightest bit of guilt about saying “No" to your kids materialistic whims, you can kiss those feelings away. A University of Minnesota study out just last week confirmed what every parent has instinctively known deep down: we're not doing our kids any favors by giving in to their every whim and spending urge.

Deborah Roedder John and Lan Nguyen Chaplin, the lead authors of the study, found that materialistic kids are less happy, more anxious, feel less secure, have lower self-esteem, are less able to handle adversity, and are less generous and charitable. Wow! And if that doesn't convince you to hide that ATM card, the study also found that materialistic kids have lower opinions of their parents and argue with them more.

Get a plan now to halt the gimmes in your home -- and stick to it! Think of it: you'll be saving money, be less stressed, save hours now that you don't have to shop, and boost your kid's self-esteem! Sounds almost too good to be true. And what better time to start than during the holidays.

I'm not suggesting you do a complete about-face and cut out the presents altogether . Every American kid will be out waving white flags on Christmas morning. But here are a few tips to help you put a little less emphasis on the $$$$ (i.e. "getting") and a little more on "giving" this season.

1. Give things that boost "togetherness." Think of gifts you do "with" one another. Board games, certificates to a movie, skating rink, tickets to a concert, exercise equipment.

2. Set limits. Put a dollar limit on just how much you're going to spend and stick to it.

3. Require prioritizing. Set a cap on the number of gifts per kid. But warn the kids ahead of time. Tell them to think through what they really, really want and need this year. They must prioritize their wish list into their top three (or whatever number) want list. Young kids can draw a picture of their wishes.

4. Get grandparents on board. Pass on your new policy to grandparents. Suggest they give presents that will nurture their relationship with their grandkids, like a trip together or a digital camera to exchange pictures. They could also contribute to the child's college fund.

5. Nurture a strength or skill. Instead of giving a dozen items that end up in the closet, think of gifts that could nurture your child's strength or talent like a musical instrument, art materials, or horse-back riding lessons.

6. Be a charitable family. Find a needy family your kids can "adopt" for the season and buy presents for; bake an extra batch of cookies for the lonely neighbor next door; go caroling to a nursing home.

There are dozens of ways to rethink the holidays so our kids can learn that the real spirit of Christmas is about giving not receiving. I'd love to hear your ideas. What are you doing this year to bring back a giving spirit? Please pass on your thoughts.

Happy holidays!
Michele Borba

Dr. Michele Borba is the author of Nobody Likes Me, Everybody Hates Me: The Top 25 Friendship Problems and How to Solve Them.

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