Beyond Toys and Tinsel: Exploring What Kids (and Adults!) Really Need During the Holiday Season

During the holidays we are inundated with holiday ads that are just about impossible to avoid. Our job as parents is to balance the demands of the holidays with what kids really need according to Lynn Collins, Ph.D, a clinical psychologist with emphasis in Early Childhood Education and Parenting. She presented, “Beyond Toys and Tinsel: Exploring What Kids (and Adults!) Really Need During the Holiday Season” at the November PCPO Meeting.

We examined the exhaustive list of work and joys that the holidays bring from getting the tree and decorating it to gift shopping and wrapping, hosting parties/ going to parties, volunteering, family gatherings, traveling, baking, performances, school events, and on and on. We take on an extra 15-20 hours a week of extra holiday work, often with one parent taking on more. Many parents average only 2-3 hours of free time a day, often spending that personal time working out, reading, or chatting with friends, it’s no wonder we often feel like we’re going crazy with the extra workload. We just can’t do it all.

Take time to explore what is really important to you and each family member. If your kids are old enough ask them what they liked or really enjoyed from previous years. Create reliable family traditions that are child-friendly. Prioritize traditions/events that bring the most pleasure and are most meaningful. Let go of stuff you don’t like. Involve children in meaningful ways, manage “busyness,” and say “no” to events, family members, and messages of the media that don’t fit with your family.

Do you remember any gifts you received last year? Reflect about gifts that mean a lot to you. Have realistic expectations about gifts. What do gifts mean to kids? Explore imaginative gift-giving and what you want to nurture in your child: music, creativity, movement, or shared experiences. Often the most memorable gifts are ones that money can’t buy.

It is up to parents to evenly pace the holiday season for their kids prioritizing what’s important to your family. With so many changes during the holidays and so much focus on product, kids really need routine, involvement, and most importantly, a relaxed and loving time with family.

Kristina Ching (Neo)

“Unplug the Christmas Machine: A Complete Guide to Putting Love and Joy Back Into the Season,” by Jo Robinson and Jean C. Staehli
“Hundred Dollar Holiday: The Case For A More Joyful Christmas,” by Bill McKibben
“The Quiltmakers Gift,” by Jeff Brumbeau and Gail De Marcken (look for article on holidays and meltdowns)