For an empath, the holidays can be quite uncomfortable and overwhelming. Our society dictates the holidays as a time of hustle and bustle and overspending in mass consumerism.
So how can we as parents encourage our children not to be mass consumers, convinced that they need to break their bank accounts to buy expensive presents just to prove their love?
I am all for giving, but when we are stressed out by the expectations and wondering how we will afford to make it through the holidays, then something has gone seriously wrong with the spirit of giving.
We are living in a world of depleted resources, and my children have more toys than I ever did as a child, and yet society tells us that we are still not buying enough.
To truly teach our children gratitude, it is important to recognize the “I’ll be happy when…” syndrome that plagues our world.
You know, the “I’ll be happy when…”
- I get married
- I land my dream job
- I get my promotion
- I buy a house
- I get a new car
- I can afford a cabin
- etc. etc. etc.
It’s no surprise when we hear kids constantly saying things like, “I have to have this new…” or “But I want this…because so and so has it and I have to have it too.”
Is it really all that different from what they are observing in society?
How do we raise children that don’t feel the need to prove their love and worth with fancy presents, and who also don’t feel that they need to receive everything that they asked for to have a happy Christmas?
1. Being grateful for what we already have
In my home during the holidays, my kids can ask for something for Christmas, and trust me, they do, they have their wants, but if they dwell on this thing, I remind them, “if you cannot be happy with what you already have, then no amount of presents is going to make you happy.” Or I’ll casually say, “until you play with the toys that you already have or amuse yourself otherwise or keep yourself busy, forget it, you can’t handle the responsibility of more in your life.”
I try to avoid saying things like, “we can’t afford it.” I feel that this gives the impression that we are poor, and that there is scarcity and lack, when in fact, I have many things to be grateful for, although it may not always look like money in a bank account. I don’t want to instill false beliefs in my children that we are anything other than abundant. Abundance comes in many forms, and if a child grows up believing that they are abundant, then indeed they will feel that way their whole lives. A child’s early years is when they are developing their beliefs and ideals that will shape their adult years, so I try not to set beliefs in motion that will encourage them to feel that they don’t have enough. I prefer to use phrases such as, “I don’t believe we need that” or “now is just not the time.”
2. Making presents
Just as my parents did, I encourage my children to make presents for one another. As a child, my parents always reassured me that the gifts that were homemade were the best gifts that you could ever give, and I am grateful to my parents for that teaching. My 3 kids have spent the last month drawing each other pictures, finding neat “treasures” in nature, and wrapping them up in newspaper. They truly love the act of giving and watching someone else open their special present. This also makes them grateful recipients of homemade gifts, as they know the effort that went into their present, and as we like to say, we can “feel “ the love that went into it.
My husband and I also like to make each one of our children a present each year, either for Christmas or birthdays. These gifts let them know that we took something precious, our time, and devoted it to making something personal just for them.
3. Making them aware of the world and how others live
My oldest 2 children spend a part of their holiday with their dad. This means an extra set of grandparents, aunties, and uncles. This also means that they receive extra presents. They are aware of the fact that they receive more presents than other kids. How do they know this? I told them. Would they have known otherwise? Perhaps, but I wanted them to be aware of it. Not to make them feel guilty, but to make them appreciate the gifts that they are receiving. Fortunately, I get along very well with my ex husband, and we have never ventured into the competition territory of proving who is the better parent by the amount of gifts that we give. We discuss every year what we are getting the kids, and decide together if they are appropriate gifts.
I also don’t hesitate to mention to my kids that Christmas doesn’t look the same way for everyone around the world, and that for some, a safe home would be all that they would be asking for.
4. A tradition of gratitude
Another practice that I have started with my children is the Yule log. We make an event out of walking out into the bush to find the perfect fallen log to cut to size and bring into our home. We take a pair of garden pruners and carefully trim several spruce boughs and hawthorn branches with red berries to lay around our yule log. (and we always ask for permission from the trees before we start clipping) My kids love this “tradition” as it gets us all outside as a family on our own adventure, and they get to make the decisions of what treasures we choose. Once our sleigh is full of our treasures from nature, often including pine cones, dried leaves, or even feathers, we come home and my husband drills out 5 holes into our log so that we can each place our own candle within it.
Then we pick a night when we are all together and light our candles. As we light our candle, we state out loud what we are grateful for in the past year or what we enjoyed about it or what made us happy, and we talk about what we look forward to in the year to come. And then we think about what our wish for the world is. Our wish or our hope for all of humanity and for the earth.
It is truly beautiful to hear what children will say. They feel so deeply, and after we have all had our turn, we sit peacefully and watch the candles burn, reflecting on everything that happened in the past year, and what we hope for. This will open up a lot of intriguing conversations to have with your children, and is a beautiful way to get to know their souls and what their souls’ concerns are. I always find it encouraging to hear that it is our family time together that my children always mention as their happiest moments from the past year.
I would like to leave you with parting words from my late grandfather, Martin Klassen. Growing up during the great depression on the dry prairie of southern Manitoba where the dust storms used to regularly block out the sun, he would often recall, “looking back, I know we were poor. But as a child, I didn’t know it. If a child feels love, they will never feel poverty.”
I hope that you have found this helpful, and I would love to hear what you do with your children. Please feel free to contact me at email@example.com or visit my website and blog at jessieklassen.com.
About the author:
Jessie Klassen is the mother of 3 sensitive children and an empath herself. She is also a farmer and author on a path of expanded awareness. Deeply connected to nature, she has been inspired to help others reconnect with nature so that they may reconnect with their own wild, child-like natures to heal themselves and our earth.