One of the best things about the holiday season is watching your children unwrap the presents left for them under the tree on Christmas morning or given to them for Hanukkah. Toys, dolls, tech gadgets, and more, every parent’s heart warms when they see how happy their children get as they unwrap items from their wish lists.
But, as with everything this year, the holidays will be a little different. COVID-19 has hit many parents financially hard. Furloughs, lay-offs, business closures, and other job-related setbacks have hurt families across the New York metro area, forcing them to prioritize their spending habits and reorganize their budgets. Despite these challenges, parents still want to give their children the best Christmas or the most memorable Hanukkah possible, even if it means giving fewer gifts.
So, how do you talk to your children about this smaller gift season? How do you explain to them it’s not because they made Santa’s naughty list? How do you manage their expectations for gifts this year?
Talking to Kids About Receiving Fewer Gifts This Year
Parents should be up-front and real about what to expect this year, according to Dorrie Barbanel, LMSW, BCBA, LBA, a behavior analyst at Manhattan Psychology Group, PC. “You should be honest and use simple, clear language,” Barbanel says. “Tell them the situation and why it needs to be different this year.”
Depending on the child, some reactions could be sadness, concern, or disappointment.
“Validate any disappointment they may feel and share your own with them,” Barbanel recommends. “Call out the things they do well when reacting. For example, you can tell them how proud of them you are for being so flexible and understanding about the situation.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers online tool kits for talking to kids about the pandemic and the social, emotional, and mental health challenges they may be facing. Some of the available resources include conversation starters, activities, and other information that can come in handy during the holiday season for talking with kids of all ages about dealing with the stressors of COVID-19.
Gift Ideas that Won’t Break the Bank
One suggestion is to offer compromises whenever possible, Barbanel says. You may not be able to afford the PS5 or latest Xbox console right now, but you can help create family memories for your kids that will last a lifetime. Schedule video chats with loved ones and friends they may not see in person this year, and if children are old enough, organize games and activities everyone in the family can participate in together.
One priceless idea is to give your child the gift of your time. Think board games the family can play together, a new book that you read together, spending a day 1-on-1 with Mom at the child’s favorite museum, complete with lunch at their favorite restaurant, or heading out to one of the attractions in NYC that are currently open for an awesome experience. “As your child is opening a gift, talk about how using it will allow you to spend time together,” says Wednesday Martin, Ph.D., a social researcher with a background in anthropology and author of Primates of Park Avenue. “What you’re modeling is that a gift is a route to a social and personal connection.”
Or perhaps, you’re able to give the gift of a subscription box for your child, even if for a few months. That gives them something to look forward to in the mail, an opportunity to have 1-on-1 time with Mom or Dad, and an experience. Now that’s what we consider a win-win-win!
This year has been hard for everyone. But you can use the challenges given to us by 2020 to remind your kids of the real meaning of the holidays while giving them gifts that are priceless, such as spending time with family and being grateful for all that they have.
Barbara Russo is a freelance writer who holds a bachelor’s degree in communications from the City University of New York. She enjoys playing guitar, following current events, and hanging out with her pet rabbits.