10 Ways to Balance Holiday Expectations

Balancing Expectations During the Holidays

Holidays with teens and preteens can be stressful. Parents feel pressure as much as kids to get the latest gadgets, technology or fashion.  These items can carry large price tags you can’t afford. 

Even if you can afford them, you may struggle with buying things your kids don’t need or even want. With four teens and young adults of our own, my husband and I face these dilemmas.  How do you balance holiday expectations without losing your mind?

  1. If you’re on a modest budget for the holidays, talk with your teen about expectations. Some kids like a lot of presents. If an item on your teen’s list is expensive and, if bought, would be the only gift for them, ask them if they’re okay with that.  If your teen wants clothes, window-shop with her to see what she likes and so she has an idea of prices of name-brand items. This provides discussions about money management and expectations.
  2. Give your teen the amount you can spend on them and have them make a wish-list based on that budget. This is also a good money-management tool.
  3. Give your teen an opportunity to serve others during the holiday season. Volunteer with your teen at a local food pantry or homeless shelter that needs extra volunteers during the holiday season. Adopt a family to shop for through a local church or service agency. These opportunities open the eyes of teens to the needs of others while developing compassion. It also gives your teen an appreciation for material things he or she takes for granted.
  4. Incorporate meaningful family time during the holidays.  Christmas Day is one of the few days that are free from practices, school, or work for families with teens.  Make an effort to do things together with other than opening presents. At our house, we make “gingerbread houses” out of graham crackers and frosting, watch Christmas movies together and play board games. Family time outside of gift-giving reinforces the importance of family relationships.
  5. Sing Christmas carols together as a family. Your family, like ours, may not carry a tune very well, but there’s something magical and unifying about singing together.
  1. Decorate the Christmas tree together.  Teens may roll their eyes at the idea, but I’ve found they become nostalgic while decorating with ornaments they remember from earlier years.
  2. Bake together and share the treats with others. This is another service-oriented holiday activity teens enjoy.  Share the treats with elderly neighbors, local nursing home residents, a family with cancer, or a young single parent.
  3. Have your teen take younger siblings shopping for other family members. This makes memories among siblings and gets everyone thinking about giving to others.
  4. Have your family share what they’ve been thankful for in the past year.  Our family does this before opening presents and it never fails to be a powerful moment.
  5. If your kids receive gifts they don’t like or won’t use from extended family members, rather than exchanging the present, have them donate the item to a charity, like a hospital for kids with terminal illnesses, a local homeless shelter, or a social service agency.  My kids usually don’t need “more” after the holidays. Having them share what they won’t use is another opportunity to teach generosity, community, and sharing with those in need.

What traditions does your family have that provides intrinsic values during the holiday? How do you balance holiday expectations without losing your mind?

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