Positive Parenting: Simplify This Holiday Season, by Angela Johnson

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The holidays are meant to be a time of peace, connection, and celebration. However, in our consumer-driven culture, the holidays seem to be more about guilt-driven gift giving than the deeper meaning of the season. There are many reasons to want to share more meaning than money this holiday season. You may want to simplify the holidays for less stress, environmental concerns of unnecessary consumption and waste, or maybe you can’t afford to spend that much this year. When I was looking for some resources to support this article, I came across a lovely quote that inspires my reasons for wanting to simplify the holidays:

If you want your children to turn out well, spend twice as much time with them, and half as much money. – Abigail Van Buren

I have two teenage daughters, and for me this quote rings true. Over the years, it is the quality time that I have shared with them, not the gifts I have given, that forms our strong bond, cherished memories, and the base of their overall well-being. This quote is a good reminder of that truth and it makes me want to do even better for them. Yes, do better for them by giving them less. I even like the mathematical formula for this and may try it out this year. “Twice as much time, and half as much money.” This might be a good place to start.

Okay, so maybe you’re sold as I am, but now what? How do we fill the void of piles of presents under the Christmas tree? We still want Christmas to be special, and depending on the age of your children, Santa may still be visiting. So how exactly does this whole simplifying the holidays thing work? According to the “Simplify the Holidays” booklet by The New American Dream (www.newdream.org), the best place to start is with some personal reflection:

“Before deciding how to simplify, take a moment to reflect on what kind of holiday celebration you want. Are you looking for more activities to enjoy with your children? A celebration focused more deeply on nature? New charitable or community-based traditions? A clearer confirmation of your spiritual beliefs? Or are you trying to reduce stress and get a little extra time to sleep? Once you have decided what you want to do differently, it’s easier to decide how to act.”

Once you’ve done a little contemplation, I suggest checking out “The More Fun, Less Stuff Catalog,” also created by the Center for the New American Dream (https://newdream.org/downloads/New_Dream_More_Fun_Less_Stuff_Catalog.pdf).

My favorite idea from the catalog is a coupon book.

In the catalog, you can download a free, easy-to-use coupon template which you can customize. I have done this for my husband in the past, and he loved it. (He keeps all his coupons in the drawer next to his side of the bed with all his special keepsakes.)

The catalog has great ideas for all the people in your life—from children to other family members, and friends. Whether it’s art lessons, concert tickets, donations to a charity, or handmade gifts, there are tons of wonderful ideas. Some people, especially those with children, may still want to purchase a few store-bought items.

What I usually do with my children is use the holiday gift-giving time to buy them one or two things they need and also some things we can share as a family. Things they might need include socks, or a pair of jeans without holes in them (when they were younger the holes were from playing and now as teenagers, they are because they bought them ripped!). Either way, this mom prefers the no-holes version. Another idea, if you still want to purchase something simple to put under the tree, consider family-fun items such as a good board game or outdoor play gear (sled, fishing pole, etc.). Right now, my daughters and I are totally hooked on Scrabble. Back in the day, it was Memory and Sorry! If games aren’t your family’s thing, think of what is, and take this holiday season to invest in quality time doing that.

When thinking about buying less this holiday season, a good place to focus instead is on quality family traditions.

This might be something classic such as making Christmas cookies together or watching or reading a favorite holiday story. Children (and adults) love family traditions, and if you want to focus less on gift giving, creating a new holiday family tradition is a great place to start. It could be a simple as a walk through the woods, but oh, how fun it could be to traipse through the snow as a family under the stars on Christmas Eve! Maybe that’s just me, but whatever you choose, tailor it to your unique and wonderful family, and have fun!

Simplifying will mean different things to different people. No matter what you decide to cut back on materialistically speaking, I wish you and your family a holiday filled with “less is more” meaning, so here’s wishing you less stuff, and more quality peace, meaningful connection and celebration this holiday season.

Angela Johnson, Great Start Collaborative (GSC) Director for Marquette and Alger Counties, works at Marquette-Alger Regional Educational Service Agency (MARESA). The Great Start Collaborative (https://www.maresa.org/early-on/marquette-alger-great-start-collaborative/) works in communities throughout the state to ensure Michigan is making progress towards four priority early childhood outcomes.

Reprinted with permission from the Winter 2019-2020 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine. All rights reserved.

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