Enough is Enough

. July 16, 2013.

During the holiday season, the line between abundance and overindulgence is easily blurred as a parent’s wish for their children’s happiness and toy marketing crash together.

This creates an urge in parents to buy more, give more, says Jean Illsley Clarke, a nationally certified family life educator. “Children can learn to be unappreciative when they have too much,” says Clarke, co-author of “How Much is Enough?” To downsize your holidays with children, parents can encourage kids to participate in projects, rather than mandate it. Invite children on board by telling them this is the year to be reasonable about gift giving, and ask them for ideas for outings or projects, instead of presents,” Clarke says.

Get the kids involved

The holidays offer a wonderful time to get children involved in the decision making process for the season. “You can make a pledge with the family that no gifts will be put on a credit card and make a budget together,” Clarke advises.

 As the economic crisis challenges many families, it’s an ideal year to get children involved with budgeting to help them realize they aren’t the center of the universe. The holiday season also
brings an excellent time to clear out old toys, books and clothes that are no longer used, and give them to charities in need. “The values and experiences you want to emphasize this season might include generosity, appreciation, joy, togetherness, family, caring for those less fortunate and spiritual growth. You can ask questions that will help children focus on your values,” Clarke said.

Stopping the insanity

Stopping overindulgence in our children begins with saying ‘enough is enough’ to ourselves,” says Jill Rigby, author of “Raising Unselfish Children in a Self-Absorbed World.” Make this gift giving season a true season of giving.

Give more to others outside the family than you do to each other, serve those in need, as a way to open the hearts of children to others. “Sit down with your teenagers and explain this year you’re going to maintain your holiday budget, rather than spend it all on each other,” says Rigby.

For teens

“Provide Christmas gifts, for example, to a family with teenagers.” Rigby echoes the sentiments of Clarke about encouraging children to be creative this year about spending time together, instead of giving presents.

“We are mistaken in our thinking as parents of teenagers that things are more important to them than time with us,” Rigby says. “In a recent survey, more than half of teens said they didn’t have enough time with their parents and family. Unplug your house. Sit face-to-face, rather than back-to-back, and reconnect with each other,” says Clarke. Activities to enjoy together in place of gifts can include caroling and sledding.

New traditions

“You can use the holiday season as a time to come together as a family,” she says. “Find creative ways of ‘gifting’ to each other and avoid giving too much and overindulging.”

 Start a few new family traditions. Deliver surprise gifts to neighbors, make homemade bread, and invite friends of your teens over for a night at your house.“If you’ve overindulged in the past,  don’t worry-it may take a little time for them to understand you’re taking your family in a new direction,” says Rigby.

Kim Seidel is an award-winning writer and editor in Wisconsin and is the mother of two daughters, ages 8 and 12. She and her husband have been married for 17 years.