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Photo of silver gift with red tag and bright light to right.

photo: Martha G. Brady

Everyone has a different philosophy on gifts. I’m not here to bring about a change on your paradigm in that department. The only thing regarding gifts I will say is to create an environment where your children aren’t the total focus of the gifts.

Helping your kids learn to be generous

It isn’t good for them…or anyone else! And honestly, they won’t enjoy Christmas as much if all they can think about is what they want. If that is their focus, they will continue to be disappointed…always. So find a way to help them learn to be generous. Some children are wired to give gifts and will find ways to do it no matter what. Others, have no inclination that way and need help learning to give to others from a young age.

Children are way smarter than we give them credit for! They know that if someone else buys a gift, wraps it and hands it to someone else, even if it says it is from them, it isn’t really from them. They had nothing to do with the process! So find ways to have them be part of the process of giving…a true part of it…that is appropriate to their age. This may also affect the extremes you will want to go on the Santa Claus thing. The ultra extremes remove the child from any involvement in gift giving. I’m not sure you want to go there!

Giving them money for a Christmas shopping trip with the opposite parent, with brothers/sisters, or working on projects together as they make a gift…There are many great ideas available when you visit with other moms, look online, check out pinterest. There are also craft classes available at most of the craft stores where you or your kids can learn how to make something.  YOU don’t have to be a crafting goddess. There is a wealth of help available. But you must plan ahead so you are ready and can plan your time.

The earlier you get out and get it done, the better off you are.

Gifts that need to be mailed

The other gifts you need to plan ahead for are the ones that must get in the mail. Mailing packages is expensive enough without having to put extra postage on to get it there in time because you forgot to get it sent! The ideal is ordering from a catalog and often they will mail the item free.

So sit down early in the month (now) if you haven’t done it already, and order the out of town gifts and be sure the mailing part of them is taken care of! Actually, November is the better time to get those things ordered and out of the way. Then that detail is done and you don’t need to think about it anymore!

Well, that’s not quite true. You want your loved one to let you know it arrived. You will want to follow-up if the item doesn’t get there in a timely fashion. Ordering early in the month makes it less likely that will happen vs. later in the month.

Think about gifts and who you give them to

I realize I’m talking to people from all walks of life. Some are more inclined to give gifts to their family for need (mostly clothing) because that is all they can manage. Others give luxury toys and trips as gifts because the needs are not a problem. Most are probably somewhere in between.

But often, we give gifts to people who don’t really need them because of our jobs and desires to look good to our bosses.  When we hear of someone who is genuinely in need, we have spent too much in one area and don’t have enough in the area where we would like to help.

Don’t forget the people who serve you all year consistently and who should be gifted. These are usually people who aren’t paid well. I have heard many express resentment at giving extra at Christmas for these people: hairdressers, various people who serve you in your apartment or condo.  It is certainly a positive way to encourage them. So try to think of it in terms of giving more to those who have needs and token gifts to those who don’t need anything.

Spending money on gifts when you are trying to impress is a total waste…a TOTAL waste! And rarely impresses.

Finally, think about gifts in terms of what will bring the most joy over the year vs. a one time splash on Christmas Day.

For  example, it may be that a pass to a museum or group of museums for the year will be a better gift for your family than one gift per child or one gift each. An example for us has been our grandparents membership at our local Botanical Gradens. We can go with any or all of our grands. We can also use the tickets to other Botanical Gardens in other cities and states…and we did last summer!

So if we have the children and want to get out of the house, we just hop in the car and head over to the gardens. The grounds are beautiful and fun!

We went there yesterday for a few hours. It was a fun. The kids ran around, enjoyed the sun, watched the birds at the feeders, and generally enjoyed nature. It was beautiful! Along the way, we enjoyed learning about which plants survive the freezing weather we had last week. We saw the holly bushes with their berries on them and enjoyed the pretty Christmas decorations.

Thinking outside the box for presents can also include gifts of time or services. You can give babysitting time, a free meal, time to teach a craft…to name a few. When our kids were growing up, they often gave those gifts to others when they didn’t always have a lot of money!

The final thing regarding gifts? Don’t allow yourself to feel obligated to give a gift. We all have limits on our finances. Giving gifts to impress is not a good reason to give! Token gifts are good. Gifting a bag of homemade cookies along with a small giftcard can be very meaningful. You may not even be able to give the giftcard. That is fine.

You are showing you care for someone by giving a small gift of yourself. It shows you cared for the person but can’t spend a lot! It means a lot that you went to the effort.

This may affect how you open gifts under the tree!

I grew up in a home where opening gifts on Christmas, was a bit of a chaotic free for all. I think that is quite common. My husband didn’t. They passed out the gifts and took turns opening them. It took the focus off MY gift and onto YOUR gift…if only for a couple of minutes!

I enjoyed that and we took on that tradition for our Christmases. We also took on his family tradition of opening gifts on Christmas Eve. (We wanted to get a nice sleep at night:) For some reason, it is a time that seems a little calmer than Christmas morning!

Now, our Christmases are controlled by whichever family we spend our time with. But I remember the fun Christmases we had and some of the creative things our girls did at Christmas with gifts.

Enjoy giving to others this Christmas as you remember the wonderful gift of GOD’s Son!

Make it fun.

Allow your kids to be part of the joy of giving.

They are learning about giving from you.

What are they learning?

From the series Getting Ready for Christmas. First written 2014.