Do your best to create some happy memories

Written by Michelle Robinson

“I’m really torn with what to do this Christmas as far as gift buying for my children goes. Money is tight and they don’t seem to appreciate what they already have. How do I keep the balance between spoiling Christmas and spoiling THEM?” – Torn Santa

Dear ‘Torn Santa’,

You raise a question that many parents face every time an occasion comes up that involves buying gifts for their kids. At Christmas, the necessity of buying gifts for each child can place parents under big financial and emotional stress. Naturally, you want the children to have a wonderful Christmas, but when they already have a lot of ‘stuff’ they don’t seem to appreciate, and finances are tight, there’s a real dilemma about what choices to make. You want to be sensible with money, while at the same time, delighting the children with something special.

It’s my belief that we remember and value special experiences more than gifts that satisfy a whim. Experiences, especially those shared with people we care about, are the fabric memories are made of. I suggest you consider including one or more experiences that the kids will enjoy as part of your gift strategy. An experience doesn’t have to be expensive.

For some families, a camping holiday somewhere new, with plenty of activities, would be a great idea. Consider who would make the experience memorable for your children. Could they bring their best friend, for example? There may be tickets to an event, or an annual family pass to a venue of interest that would capture your children’s passion. Again – could they share this with a friend or cousin?

When your children reflect on Christmas as adults, then the fun times they had with people they care about, will likely win out over gifts. Find experiences that you can all enjoy, and create memories for the future.

That’s the balance I would seek.

Blessings to you,

“This will be my first Christmas as a single parent – do you have any tips for coping with what will likely be a fairly awful holiday period for everyone?” – Worried Single Parent

Dear Worried Single Parent,

I do have some tips, and I can reveal that in the past I have been in your shoes, so your question matters to me.

Please do not feel I am being tough with you, but if you let yourself believe that this Christmas will be ‘awful’, then it probably will be. It takes courage to step beyond your own hurt, but your children need you to be strong. The best Christmas present you can offer them this year, is your very best effort to create some happy experiences.

Your children’s Christmas will be impacted by how you feel and how other important adults behave.

I suggest you try to ensure any decisions about custody (who has the children where, and when), are agreed to well in advance. Lock those arrangements in and keep checking there is a solid plan.

If the children will be apart from you for some of the Christmas period, then make sure you are not home alone feeling distressed. Make a plan in advance to spend time with friends or family whose company you enjoy. This is a good general strategy. Even when the children are with you, make sure they have some fun experiences with friends, cousins or other family members. Plan some activiies such as a beach picnic, to encourage laughter and exercise. Avoid excessive alcohol, as alcohol heightens vulnerable emotions.

Planning and early preparation are the keys here. Tell yourself that even if your heart is breaking, you will do your best to create some happy memories. You could also invite an elderly or lonely friend to join you for a meal. You could even take some home-cooking or small gifts to a nursing home. Do something that takes you away from your pain and focuses your attention on helping some else.

Sometimes, the smallest gestures of kindness, mean a great deal to someone in need.

Many blessings and good luck.