Many children across the UK, and pretty much every corner of the world, grew up a little faster than parents may have wished this year. That largely came down to lockdown social isolation, but probably more so, parental finances becoming more strained than ever before. As a byproduct of lost income, growing debt, a redundancy or company insolvency, the holiday gift budget is looking sparse if not non-existent.
That is why The Freelance Informer thought some suggested tips may come in handy to prepare parents and their children for a talk about the situation and at the same time not lose sight of what help is still out there especially if your house could get repossessed (this is a stark reality) or you are trying to keep your business afloat.
It’s not about sugar-coating the situation, but providing a new perspective that has a dose of reality and Christmas and Holiday spirit rolled into one.
This video, for example, which you may want to show your kids before you have your chat, is from Great Ormond Street. It truly highlights the spirit of the festive season and what is truly important – our health. This is a hard lesson to get through to the young ones, but it may get them thinking and lead them on a path of empathy. However, toddlers don’t really need the money talk just yet. Many a toddler will happily play with the box a gift comes in if it means playing with Mum and Dad. But for those nearing 7 and older and are exposed to peer pressure or social media of any sort, the Great Ormond Street video has some poignant messages that could get through.
When you, as a parent or guardian, are sick with worry about paying the rent or mortgage – magically coming up with the money to buy your kids an expensive Christmas gift isn’t the answer or even a possibility, especially among the Excluded UK self-employed who have seen no or very little government help since the March lockdown.
Tip #1 Don’t blow up at your kids about your money problems
Rule number one is to not blow up at your kids when they ask for expensive gifts, even when they make remarks about friends or even other members of the extended family, likely to get ‘the gift’ of the season. You will be the parent that does the big thing here- and doesn’t lose their ‘you know what’. Your role is to calm the situation not exacerbate it.
Tip #2 Shifting the glory or responsibility off of Santa/Father Christmas onto you. If in the past, you may have given the credit to Santa Claus for expensive gifts. This can come back to bite you and can make children, especially those in low-income households, feel their lack of gifts is because of something they did somehow, according to Doyin Richards, a fatherhood specialist and columnists for Huffpost.
Sit down with your kids (all mobile phones and other distractions in another room) and tell them that at their age (whatever that may be) now is the year that parents start to contribute more to the Christmas presents rather than Santa since he has so many kids to look after. This then gives kids a dose of reality without making them think they are being punished by not having a bumper bunch of gifts in their stocking or under the tree from Santa. If you are put out by a backlash by your children at your inability or even Santa’s to provide gifts, do not let it get to you, no matter what. Make sure your kids hear how much you love them. Tell them.
In Richards’ point of view if you do manage to get some gifts, to remember the following: “You worked your ass off to come up with the money to buy these gifts, and your kids should know that their parents are the ones responsible ― not some dude at the North Pole. Don’t get it twisted; I love the Santa Claus thing. I just think it needs to be executed in a way in which all parties are satisfied.”
Tip #3 Crowdfunding among family for gifts for the kids can be a way for families to forego the adults getting any gifts this year, and extended family members or even friends or community scheme pitching into a fund for children’s gifts. And if that isn’t a possibility then to create a special family day once lockdown measures are lifted to create ‘an experience’ rather than a material gift for all the family.
Tip#4 Trinkets with special messages attached can go a long way in a child’s stocking. It’s the magic of having something to open on Christmas morning or Christmas Eve. Biscuits, some chocolates and even charity shops and discount online retailers can provide some small, but cherished gifts. But what adds to the gift is a loving and inspiring message from Santa or Mum and Dad or a guardian.
Tip #5 Gifting lasting memories over plastic or digital dreams While your children may not receive the ‘big gift’they wanted, the Xbox or iPhone, as parents, you can find other creative ways to bring out their holiday spirit without spending a ton of money. This is the Christmas that could have a huge impact on some children’s formative years, so make sure you do not place a high value on material items. A house over your head and food in your belly may be the most valuable gift of all in these very tough times and one that your children should cherish.
Richards suggests some gift alternatives:
- Invite your children’s friends over for a sleepover [when lockdown allows] and let them stay up as late as they want watching holiday or their favourite movies.
- Prepare your kids’ favourite foods and focus on how fortunate you are to have what you have right now. We’re so often plagued by the disease of “more” that we fail to see the great things already around us.
The Freelance Informer suggests:
- Play hide and seek in the house or outside (even get extended family, teenagers and dogs involved) and then wrap up the game with some hot cocoa and biscuits.
- Christmas Eve Game night is one way that shows the value of family time can beat a video game any day. Maybe even invent a new game.
- You can always put together a family jar for saving towards a game or console over the coming months or for a family day out for something to look forward to.
- Have a movie night where everyone dresses in their pyjamas or fancy dress up, puts blankets and pillows on the floor and watches a movie. Netflix even provides some free TV shows and movies.
“Your kids will be fine, and they’ll get over the fact that they didn’t get that fancy gift by the end of Christmas Day. Best of all? Future Christmases will be much less stressful for everyone involved,” suggests Richard.
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