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Why Over-Giving Might Be Overwhelming Your Kids

Dr. Meg Meeker

Dr. Meg Meeker

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with giving gifts at Christmas, but when we go into debt or become overly stressed and anxious due to holiday spending, it could be time to reassess how you handle Christmas with your family this year.

Over-giving to your kids could be overwhelming them more than you think. Your child feels stress in the home, so at Christmastime, he or she can sense that you’re stressed about money or buying the perfect gift or keeping up with the Joneses. Over-giving to young children in particular can make them feel overwhelmed, which is why I recommend parents store most toys out of reach—in a basement or closet or somewhere–leaving a few accessible to their child at a time.

Additionally, gifting your child with too many gifts doesn’t necessarily make them feel more loved and can have adverse effects, making them less grateful or misinterpreting the reason for the season to be about gifts rather than celebrating the birth of Christ or spending meaningful time with family.

One therapist even claims that over-giving to our kids can increase destructive behavior, lower self-esteem, and rob children of lasting happiness because materialism fails to foster empathy in a child.

This Christmas step away from the credit card and consider some alternative ways to exchange gifts and participate in the season.

Set a limit for the number of gifts per person.

Once my kids were older, I gave up on giving multiple gifts to each of my four children and started giving them one gift each. This takes the load off your bank account and your time. And, shopping for one item per person allows you to be more intentional with that gift.

Try a gift exchange.

Implementing a tradition in your family like Secret Santa or a silly gift exchange takes the pressure off buying for every single person you know. This saves money and makes the gift exchange more fun and more focused on spending time together rather than giving each other a bunch of expensive gifts.

Give a gift to someone in need.

I’ve talked before about how crucial it is to involve your child in community service and serving others in order to cultivate gratitude and empathy. Numerous charities and nonprofits help give to families in need this time of year. Involve your whole family with a nonprofit like Angel Tree that provides presents to children of incarcerated parents, Operation Christmas Child that collects shoeboxes full of gifts for children in need all over the world, or Food for the Hungry that creates a “gift catalog” each Christmas where you can select a gift to send to an individual or family in the areas they serve. This year’s gift catalog includes small items like vitamins and storybooks as well as larger gifts for an entire community like livestock or a new classroom at a local school.

With marketing, ads, and social media, I know it can feel impossible to jump off the overspending bandwagon during the holidays but consider the bigger picture for your family. Who do you want your kids to be one day? What do you want them to know and believe about Christmas? What do you want your priorities to be as a family? Stepping back from the frenzy will help you focus on what really matters and teach your kids to do the same.

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