Herald Journal Columns
Dec. 12, 2005, Herald Journal

‘Perfect’ holiday gifts for children


Magazines at this time of year are filled with pictures and suggestions of material gifts for our children, and usually even have lists of the top “tried and true” best gifts for children, with the gift suggestions broken down into age categories.

These gift suggestions can certainly be helpful, but there are far greater nonmaterial gifts that we can give our children now and all through the year.

I am not sure who the author of this “gift list” is, but these gifts are truly the most priceless, worthy, and wonderful gifts that we can give our children that will last a lifetime. So, besides the toys, the clothes, and the video games, give your children these gifts this season and all year-round.

“Give the gift of self-confidence by helping them understand and accept that one’s doings will not be ‘approved’ of all of the time, and that when one encounters disapproval, he or she need not feel upset or immobilized, that one must trust oneself, not the opinion of others. Give this gift with a hug.

“Give the gift of acceptance. Teach those around you that they are loved for what they are, not for what they do or even how much they please you. Give this gift with a kiss.

“Give them the gift of possibilities. Don’t let them label themselves as intellectuals, athletes, little ladies, macho men, or whatever. Give them an example of a person who is not slotted into any one compartment and tell them a boy or girl can sew or play baseball, can cry or be brave, can cut the grass or do the dishes.

“Give them the gift of the freedom to be anything positive rather than limit themselves. Give this gift with a smile.

“Give them the gift of a life without needless fears by not being a worrier, yourself. Show them that you will tackle problems, but that you will not just sit around and fret about them. Encourage them to become doers, as well. Give this gift with a laugh.

“Give the gift of love. Tell your son or daughter that you love them unconditionally. As human beings, we all need this. Give this gift with a hug and a kiss.

“Give the gift of time – quality time spent with them – time spent solely for the purpose of enjoying them, not critiquing their activities and work, but time spent showing them that they are meaningful, worthwhile, and wonderful individuals who you love and care about. Give this gift with your attention.

“Give them the gift of being a person who has a spark and an appreciation for all of life. Encourage them to be fully alive in every way. Allow them to have adventures, a chance for laughter, fun, creativity. Give them the supreme gift of being able to find happiness in virtually all circumstances. Give this gift as they go out the door.

“For all these gifts will last forever.”

With the holidays fast approaching, many families will break out of their usual routines and engage in some old and new traditions and hopefully, spend some quality time together. While it’s important to continue to enforce expectations, guidelines, and rules, this is also a wonderful time to acknowledge your children and show appreciation to them for all the things your children, including teens, do well.

Children of all ages care what their parents think, even if they don’t show it. So, we also need to find ways to recognize when our children, especially teens, meet or exceed expectations. Here are some suggestions from Parenting Tips Newsletter, TheAntiDrug.com and www.ehow.com:

• In the midst of holiday shopping with your daughter (or son), make a point to tell her how proud you are of her. You don’t have to buy anything special, just saying the words is important.

• When your teen son (or daughter) beats the curfew clock after attending a get-together at a friend’s house, before you say “good night,” tell him “thank you” for not making you worry, and tell him you love him.

• If you will be having holiday meals together and extending thankfulness, be sure to include your teen and all of his/her accomplishments.

• Emphasize family, tradition, and togetherness. Families can create many beautiful Christmas traditions together, and we can give our children the gift of happy memories of the holiday season.

Remember, with all children, to get them involved with you in some way in holiday preparations and planning. Do some holiday “giving” together, be it for a neighbor or someone in a nursing home, or sending care packages to our military personnel overseas. There are many opportunities to spread peace and giving.

There are so many simple ways to give – a food shelf, toys for tots, senior care centers, and churches usually sponsor different missions that one can give to.

It’s also important to remind ourselves and our children that the true spirit of Christmas is something that does not go away at the end of the holiday season. We can spread love, joy, peace, and giving throughout the year.

And remember to try and keep things simple and focus on the true meaning of the holiday season.

“Let love, understanding, and nurturance be your greatest gift to them.”

“Glaedelig Jul” (Merry Christmas in Danish).