When I last wrote about navigating the holiday cultural waters, I was mainly referring to the different religious traditions that are celebrated this time of year. However, I neglected to mention the most popular cultural tradition of them all: shopping.
A season that used to be centered around gift-giving has been mostly hijacked by greed and competition. As my son grows increasingly aware of holiday customs, the question for us has been how to deconstruct some of that hyper consumerism while maintaining the affection at the heart of gift-giving.
A strong focus on our religious heritage should give us a starting point. Giving Miles an understanding for why we give gifts in the first place will hopefully help to ground him in humility and get him thinking beyond himself. No matter the traditions, we always want to be intentional about explaining to him why we do things in the first place.
Beyond that, I think it’s important to encourage him giving gifts as well as receiving them. Psychology Today writes about children forming “giving identities” at an early age that can reap internal benefits. If I can support Miles in being mindful about his giving, it will help to form in his mind exactly what is special about the person at the receiving end of his gifts, building a stronger bond with his friends and family as he considers what might make them happy.
The popular Nickelodeon show Yo Gabba Gabba agrees, according to this cute little spot in their Christmas special:
Some parents protect their children from the act of giving, simply because they don’t believe they need gifts or don’t want to burden their children. This has actually proven to be counterintuitive, because it doesn’t allow the children to nurture an individual sense of making a positive difference in others’ lives with their actions. Cultivating a giving identity is as much about the child’s self-confidence as it is about the recipient’s pleasure.
The kinds of gifts matter as well. This year Miles was still too young, but I think next year will be prime time to help him make meaningful gifts for all of us – an important precursor to shopping, because it allows for uninhibited creative expressions of love. I’m sure all of you here on Etsy would agree on this point. There is a time and place for picking items off a shelf, but they can never be as unique or fun as a child expressing himself at his most creative point in life.
How do you help develop your children’s giving identities?