The floor is littered with wrapping paper and half-open boxes. The frenzied joy of opening presents has subsided. The children are now searching around for any presents that they may have missed.
One of the children looks at his parents and asks, “Is that all of the presents?”
There are children who are fortunate enough to have parents and relatives who can afford to give them several presents for Christmas. Yet all of those presents do not seem to bring the children much joy, even if they had asked for them.
This lack of joy may be due to children impulsively telling their parents that they wanted nearly every toy that was advertised in the toy catalog rather than focusing on the few toys that they truly would enjoy. Of course younger children often have a hard time thinking very far into the future.
This is where parents can step in and encourage their children to put more thought into their present requests. This can be accomplished by talking about the difference between needs and wants.
A good way to get the conversation started is to have the children write a letter to Santa. In the letter, the children should specify three needs and three wants. The children will inevitably ask what the difference is between the two. This will help spark a conversation with their parents and provide a teachable moment for the children.
Parents can explain that a need is something a person has to have while a want is something a person would like to have. Younger children are likely going to need something more concrete than definitions. A parent can walk the children around the house and point out various needs and wants. For example, the television and iPad are wants while shoes and clothes are needs.
The letter to Santa also provides a limit or boundary to the number of presents children should expect. In this case, children will expect only six presents not 20 or more. When children know that only a limited number of presents will be received, they have to think and make tough decisions as to what presents they would truly value.
This is a classic case where less is truly more. Anything that is made relatively scarce will be more greatly valued than when there is plenty. In addition, children will learn to truly value the presents they receive and understand the differences between their wants and needs.
Parents who engage in this type of Christmas giving will find the lessons learned by their children to be of benefit far into the future. Not to mention, parents will experience a lot less pressure to shop for all the presents their children have requested.
This article was published in the Richmond Register daily Sunday on December 14, 2014