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How to Establish Healthy Gift-Giving for Your Family This Christmas


Navigating the material expectations that surround Christmas can be overwhelming with little ones. Here’s how to establish healthy gift-giving practices this holiday season.
Photo by YuryImaging/


As a mother of two young children, I am overflowing with excitement about the upcoming Christmas season. Baking yummy holiday cookies with my daughter, cuddling with my precious newborn under the tree and sitting around our dining room table with my husband and kids to enjoy a lovely Christmas dinner fills my heart with an indescribable joy!

With those soon-to-be fond memories, I am also reminded of my sweet mother—the woman who taught me the true meaning of Christmas. At a young age, she lovingly enforced the value of giving, not receiving, appreciating the gifts that happen to be under the tree and finding joy in our blessings outside of the material realm.

She never wanted me to question, “Is this all I’m getting this year?” So, she made a valiant effort to kindly navigate her children past the extravagant material wants often involved with the Christmas season and forge a path toward the practice of having healthy expectations for this special holiday.

Gratitude allows kids to shift their thoughts from receiving to giving.

Nobody wants to let their child down on Christmas. Truth be told, it’s only natural to want our kids to feel excited and thrilled on Christmas morning, but those feelings of exhilaration should not be tied into the number of presents under the tree. Thankfully, there are several effective ways to steer your children away from the “we want more” mentality.

1. Highlight the importance of having a grateful heart.

We cannot control our children’s feelings. So, if they are disappointed by a gift (or gifts) they asked for but did not receive, we, as parents, must teach them how to be grateful. The “There are children who do not receive any gifts” talk may not entirely sink into a young child.

Consider starting a volunteering tradition during the holiday season. Adopting a family, collecting non-perishables for a nearby shelter or donating old toys are just three ways that will teach your children to be thankful for what they have. More importantly, these practices will show your children the real picture of what Christmas should be. Gratitude allows kids to shift their thoughts from receiving to giving.

gift giving

Photo by YuryImaging/

2. Establish clear limits on your child’s expectations.

Your children may have created a mile-long wish list, but clearly communicating what they may or may not receive from you will help your child to understand what they actually receive.

Rather than allow your child to think they will open up every gift they asked for, have open, gentle conversations about the reality of their expectations. This will build their excitement about the surprise of what’s to come while they learn to be grateful for what they receive.

3. Create non-gift Christmas traditions.

By emphasizing the magic of the holiday season—outside of receiving toys—your child will look forward to activities that have absolutely nothing to do with presents! Make a Christmas craft, spend a day baking delicious treats or choose a day to decorate your tree together.

By focusing on activities that have nothing to do with material wants, your children will find themselves delighting in memories, not toys.

Managing material expectations does not mean you are spoiling your kids’ holiday fun. Instead, you are doing a fantastic job of shifting the focus from receiving to giving and creating a gratuitous child that will grow into a thankful adult. Do not feel guilty for aiming to set realistic expectations. Your efforts will inevitably draw the focus of Christmas where it belongs—onto faith, family and love.