Holiday Stress – I Can’t Afford Gifts!

Dear Tamara:

I have a 5 and 7 year old, as well as one on the way a week or so before Christmas. Since I will be off work, I will not be able to afford the gifts my children are used to having on Christmas morning. I have already explained to them that they will not receive as many as they have in the past years, and they seem to be okay with it. I do tend to spoil them each year with gifts. As much as it is going to hurt me to not be able to do that this year, I should be teaching them the true meaning of Christmas and that gifts are not everything. Could you help me with the best way to talk to them and teach them about the TRUE meaning of Christmas for their ages? Please help!

– Struggling Santa


Dear Struggling Santa:

It can be difficult not being able to buy and do for your children in the manner that you would like. But I encourage you not to allow yourself to get too stressed, especially with a little one on the way. As parents we can be so hard on ourselves, especially around the holidays. But the good news is that our children are more resilient and understanding than we give them credit for. It is usually “us” that have the issues and great expectations. In fact, many children don’t really care about receiving a ton of gifts, even on Christmas! If your kids are anything like mine, there is usually that “one” specific thing they really want and everything else falls by the wayside and/or is long forgotten by New Year’s Eve!

I am not one that goes crazy over buying Christmas gifts. I will not stand in the rain for a bargain or punch someone’s lights out over the last hottest toy of the season. In fact, I usually buy all of my children two-three things a piece. Whatever other gifts I get are usually things they need at the time (clothes, shoes, etc). And they are more interested in unwrapping those types of gifts than they are in the actual items!

As for the true meaning of Christmas, there are a ton of ways you can begin instilling the message in your children and show the importance of giving rather than receiving and also the spiritual importance of the season.

  • Throughout the month, read and discuss the Christmas Story and the story of the Wise men and their gifts. Allow your children to make gifts for each other, their new baby sister of brother, grandparents, and close relatives. This can take the focus from store bought material to thoughtful gifts from the heart. It creates great memories and also helps out with the wallet.
  • One year we baked and decorated cookies, wrapped them with colored plastic wrap and ribbon and gave cookie bundles as gifts to our immediate family. The children were so creative and proud of their gifts.
  • One year we volunteered at a family shelter and helped to serve food. Your children are a bit younger and you need to preserve energy, so you may just have your children “Give” to another child. Donate gently used toys and clothes to organizations and other children in need.

I am sure with a little research on the Internet you can find a zillion other ways to teach your kids about giving and sharing during the holidays. Don’t allow yourself to get stressed out over material gifts. Enjoy the precious gifts you have in your children and help them to create some new lasting traditions!



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