Are you wondering how many Christmas gifts per child is a sensible and realistic number? With the Christmas marketing machine hard at work, it can be all too easy to feel as though we haven’t bought enough Christmas gifts per child. But the reality often ends up being the total opposite as we get tempted by “just one more thing” syndrome. So how many Christmas gifts per child should you be aiming for at Christmas time? Here, our resident parenting expert Louise Hoffman-Brooks of Parenting Success Coaching gives us the low down on what we should be aiming for.
Every year we vow the same, but it always ends the same with the kids ending up with too many presents. What’s going on here?
Christmas, while lovely and potentially a time for reflection is also a time of tradition and habit. We like to do what we always do and the majority of our childhood memories and ideas about right and wrong ways to celebrate this holiday is a product of our early experiences of Christmas.
Therefore, when we wish to change things about this script, even if we know it is for the better, we know that we are taking a risk. We are messing with tradition. And questions that come up is – will others approve? Will this make the holidays any less magical for the children?
The fact is; giving ourselves permission to question tradition and ask ourselves whether it serves us and our children – is not something that most of us have been encouraged to do. Often, presents becomes a way of giving us a degree of predictability and control. After all, kids enjoy presents – and maybe I nearly killed myself in the build-up to Christmas and maybe I’m spending Christmas with people who make me feel anxious and on edge – but at least the kids got what they wished for.. and more.
How many Christmas gifts per child is a reasonable and acceptable amount?
Christmas – as sold in the Western world – is a time of indulgence, giving and receiving. Yet, with climate change, global pandemic and a rocky economy it there is good reason to rethink what we wish to be the North star for our family. When we blindly lean into habit, we most likely will be swayed by the commercial pull that is all around us throughout this month and believe that more really is more and that the way to our children’s happiness is through presents only.
A good reflection exercise to help you decide how many gifts per child is reasonable is to:
First ask yourself; Did my child ever seem overwhelmed by the amount of presents he received? What did you notice?
Then, ask yourself; Was it the amount of presents he was given that overwhelmed him, or was it the pace with which he was given them?
And lastly; What do I fear given my child a smaller quantity of presents?
When, year after year, we vow to give our children less presents but don’t change, it is likely because we fear our child’s reaction and potential disappointment to our decision regarding how many Christmas gifts per child. Figuring out what your motivation for giving fewer presents is will allow you to get clear on what fears you might have around that.
While it would be tempting to follow a magic formula, there is no one size fits all when it comes to how many Christmas gifts per child. We each have different financial means and our children’s ages and interests play an important role too. What is more important when deciding how many Christmas gifts per child is to look at how your child responds to the presents he /she gets. Do they get used? Did I ENJOY giving?
How can we be more mindful in our Christmas gift buying and giving and stop being sucked in the crazy Christmas gift buying bonanza?
Presents will always be attractive for kids. And you have to look hard for a child who doesn’t care about presents. Yet, what nourishes a child more so than presents – is the gift of our presence. Finding ways to gift our kids time during Christmas is a powerful antidote to the pull of the Christmas craze.
December can easily feel like pure survival, prepping, shopping, cooking, partying and planning. And the faster we run in the build-up to Christmas in the pursuit of creating the most magical Christmas, the more we miss every day opportunities for connection.
Slowing down the pace and getting clear on what nourishes us and what drains us, is an effective way of avoiding getting sucked into the Christmas craze.
Take a moment to reflect;
What rituals do we already have for the month of December?
eg. Light a candle every day, listen to certain music, go for an evening walk every night looking at the lights, baking, doing arts & crafts, reading or listening to Christmas stories?.
What rituals could we introduce?
Often it is not really about WHAT we do – but HOW we do it. Can I include my child in the Christmas preparations and lower my expectations a little?
What about other family members who go way overboard with the gift giving and how should we factor that in/deal with it?
Many grandparents see it as their right to be the ones who spoil. At grandma and granddad’s house it’s okay to watch TV till late in the evening and have more sweets than mum and dad would allow. If the grandparents are an active part of your child’s life, this can cause friction unless you feel able to express your values.
What we tend to overlook in our disagreements, however, is the fact that we share one thing in common; a deep love of our children. Therefore, if you choose to address your concerns with grandparents about the number of presents given, it is a good idea to first acknowledge that you see their good intention.
When we explain what is important to us while acknowledging their good intention it is often easier to get through and more likely that we can come up with a solution that you can all feel good about:
– What toys are off limits (eg. Weapons or things made of certain materials)
– If you are concerned about the quantity of presents, – can money be deposited into the children’s bank account and one really nice present be given?
What we do well to remember is that this might be your parents’ way of showing love and that it can be a sensitive subject to broach.
For those wanting to move towards zero waste at Christmas, what is your advice?
For many of us the indulgence of Christmas feels at odds with our values around waste and climate issues. Luckily there are many ways that we can make some smart swaps and give amazing presents with a better conscience. There are plenty of options for eco-friendly gifts out there too
Here are some ideas:
– Give an experience to your partner, your parents and to older kids. This will likely be far more memorable and bring you much closer together than yet another pair of socks and perfume.
– Visit a ‘refill shop’ in your area and gift someone you love beauty products and house hold essentials that are both organic and sensibly packaged.
– Consider reducing the number of Christmas cards you write. Unless you are prepared to write a personalised message inside, it is arguably pointless to have a pre-printed card arrive in the post. Consider instead – writing an e-card to those you love.
– Rather than using expensive Christmas wrapping paper and fancy ribbons – repurpose old newspapers and adorn your presents with decorative objects found in nature.
– Get concise about your shopping list for the xmas period and devise a meal plan that repurposes all of your left overs.
What is the best way to politely ask for no Christmas gifts this year?
Let’s be honest; few of us really NEED anything that we can’t buy for ourselves. And if you feel a little overwhelmed with the amount of people on your Christmas shopping list and if most of these presents feel like chores that need doing, now might be a good time to get honest.
We often imagine that we are alone in feeling this way, but we will likely find that others feel equally relieved at the prospect of less shopping and less time spent sourcing the right present. What we ultimately yearn for is time spent with each other, and therefore creating new traditions with our girlfriends as an alternative to presents;
Eg. A girlie brunch in December or starting a gingerbread decorating tradition getting your families together, can be a wonderful alternative to buying more things.
What are your tips for making your family happy with less?
and verbally express gratitude for what they’ve been given. While it is a good idea to slow down the pace when presents are opened and taking turn opening presents, it’s useful to remember that children express their delight differently. It often is not till much later, once our child has had an opportunity to connect with their presents that it becomes evident how much it means to them.
If you are concerned about your child acting entitled, unimpressed and generally ungrateful it is a good idea to look more widely within the family culture. Do I express gratitude? Do I delight easily?
Children ultimately learn gratitude from being surrounded by grateful adults who notice not just the big gestures, but the little ones too.
If you think back to a time when you gave your child something out of fear of disappointing, you were more likely more insistent on your child showing appreciation for what you had just done.
The opposite tends to be the case, when we give from a clean heart – and give an amount of presents that feel right for our child, and in order to impress or avoid disappointment.
The commercial power of Christmas shopping is immense, and is predicated on us being reminded of all the things we don’t yet have but need in order to feel happier. For children, the greatest joy, although it is also the hardest to tolerate, is the anticipation. Being allowed to wish for anything is hugely gratifying, and because children are able to vividly imagine and think creatively, being allowed to wish for something, even if out of reach, is satisfying.
Reminding ourselves as parents, that a wish is not the same as an order – it is a little easier to look at a list of wishes and ask ourselves:
– What is okay with me?
– What’s our budget?
– What is right for my child at this point?
Anything else you’d like to add?
What about Santa? Can’t he bring presents? If your child still believes in Santa, it obviously makes sense to buy presents from Santa too. The idea of Santa sprinkles a lovely dose of magic over the month of December and adds to the excitement for most children.
However, if Santa is used as a leverage and an incentive to get good behaviour by reminding your child:
“Remember Santa only visits those who have been good this year” we stress our child. Good behaviour does not mean that a child is feeling good emotionally. The build-up to Christmas and the anticipation of the big day creates in young children a tension that can be hard to manage.
Sometimes this tension results in meltdowns and temper tantrums which is a child’s way of regulating their emotional system and restoring balance within. Focus instead of helping your child channelling these feelings in acceptable ways and paint Santa as a generous guy who doesn’t care about naughty or nice.. but loves all children.