The month of December is almost upon us, and already we have been seeing Christmas adverts since 1st November. With many family birthdays in November, I try not to be pulled in to all the hype until this month is out, but I have to admit the lure of Black Friday deals has seen me purchase quite a few Christmas presents already!
I love Christmas and birthdays and I admit I do spoil my children at these times of years, but I have always had the philosophy that I only spend what I can afford. I grew up in a loving family, but my parents didn’t have a lot of money and although I wrote a Christmas list and birthday list of presents, the more expensive presents were never bought. I remember wanting a Teddy Ruxpin, the A La Carte Kitchen, (sorry if you aren’t an 80s child as you may not know what these are), and never getting them. I remember wanting a typewriter one year, and I did get one, but it had a dial to turn for the letters rather than all the keys to press, and knowing what I do now, this was because my parents couldn’t afford a proper one for me. I can imagine I may have seemed rather unimpressed at the time! However, one year I was totally surprised and shocked to open up a collection of Bob Marley CDs. It wasn’t on my list but it was one of my most favourite presents as I loved Bob Marley. This was a cheap last minute gift my Dad had found in Trago – yes the price tag had been left on – good old Dad! Yes, I have these memories of not always getting what I wanted and not always being 100% overjoyed about this, but I do also have the memories of happiness and being made to feel special by members of my family.
The pressure on parents I feel is getting worse and worse in regards to the expectations of what children want as gifts and the price tags are simply getting higher and higher. We all want our children to have that look of delight and pure joy when they open their presents, but I want to remind parents that is not all what Christmas is about. Your child will grow and learn from the experience of not always getting what they want, I certain have. It may not seem like it at the time, but they will appreciate any gifts you give them as long as you have thought about them and tried your very best. In the long term it can help them appreciate the monetary value of things and it may, like it did me, give them a fighting spirit to work hard so they can achieve their dreams.
We forget with all the advertising and commercialisation of Christmas, to focus on the small things that can make a huge impact to children. Seeing family members and spending time together can make a big difference in the experience children have at this time of year. Finding the time to sit and watch a Christmas movie together or play a game are just two simple ideas that can bring a smile to a child’s face. It can be expensive hosting lots of people over Christmas, but if needs be ask everyone to bring wine, a dessert or even the roast potatoes! It can also be tiring entertaining, with a lot of washing up to be done. Get the children involved, and yes there may be a few complaints, but it’s about being together and sharing part of the day. Children need to know that Christmas isn’t all about them receiving, they also need to give.
Part of the commercialisation of Christmas also portrays this ideal view of Christmas, everyone sitting around the table having a joyful, happy time. We need to remember not everyone has these feelings at Christmas and it can be a lonely and sad time. For many elderly people who have lost loved ones, or have grown up children who have moved away, they may be at home alone. A family may have had a bereavement and are feeling the pain at Christmas time and are finding it hard to celebrate. Some families choose not to celebrate Christmas at all due to religious beliefs. It is important for us to help our children understand that others may not be as fortunate as they are. Some families may have a worse time at Christmas, with alcohol flowing and spending more time around each other, arguments may start and even unfortunately domestic violence may be witnessed by children. It’s not what we want to think about, but it is the reality for some children and their families. For these families in particular, the children may not have presents on their mind and are just hoping to get through the day.
Children with an autistic spectrum disorder can find the approach to Christmas particularly difficult. Even decorating your house with Christmas decorations can be difficult as the sensory overload can be too much and the idea of change not wanted. This can then be difficult for siblings of children with an autistic spectrum disorder because they may have to compromise and put the needs of their brother or sister first. They may need to try and treat Christmas Day like any other day to ensure that calm ensures around the house. For parents this can be particularly difficult trying to meet the needs of all their children. One child wanting normality, another wanting the fuss and celebration that comes with Christmas. There is no real winner here!
So, when many of us are worried that are children are not receiving the most expensive present they want and we don’t want to see them looking upset, the bigger picture is, if they are in a loving family who are all making an effort to get on and are trying their best at making the day special, that’s more important than anything. There are not many children who can see the ‘bigger picture’, that’s for us as adults, but if our little darlings really want to kick up a big fuss because they haven’t got what they want, then we need to accept that, but not feel too guilty about it. Children appearing ungrateful with gifts they receive, is natural child like behaviour. Children are learning about social etiquette, and we need to witness and allow children to feel what they feel, but help them over time learn about the thought that goes into presents, even if it isn’t what they were expecting. It is an important lesson for all children to learn at some point in their life. There isn’t one version of Christmas that fits every family – you need to make it unique to fit your family and enjoy what makes it special for you!