De-commercializing your kids this Christmas - Fox 28: South Bend, Elkhart IN News, Weather, Sports

De-commercializing your kids this Christmas

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It's that time of year.   Our focus has turned to the holidays.   We're shopping like crazy trying to make the holidays magical for everybody, especially our kids.   Do you ever worry about your little ones getting lost in the wrappings, trappings and the commercialism of the season?  We out for some advice about De-commercializing Christmas for your kids.  And some of the research behind it, may even give you the courage to fight back.

The onslaught on Black Friday is the "official" start of it all, but the commercialism of Christmas starts way earlier... the toy catalogs in your mailbox and television commercials for the must-have toy.   It can all lead to a list that keeps getting longer.  Aidan says, "Skylanders giants adventure pack." Riley says, "Cinderella in a baby chair." Amanda Hertel says, "My daughter had everything under the sun on her list."

With those long lists, de-commercializing your kids can become a tall order.

Amanda and Jason Hertel started talking to their three kids about their Santa list a few years ago.   "We don't get everything we want.  And we're supposed to pick the most special favorite things and so we try to stick to that."

Great advice according to psychologist, Dr. John Petersen, and his wife, social worker, Sharon Bain.   They have three boys, and made a conscious effort to de-commercialize.  Like the Hertels, they say, it's about creating realistic expectations, but even before that, limiting exposure to ads and commercials.   Sharon says, "I know we certainly try to limit the amount of time in front of the TV, especially, this time of year."

Dr. Peterson says, "Be intentional about what you are going to do with holidays and with purchasing things and consuming."   They don't say you should cut out gift giving altogether but come up with a plan.  Buy less, promise less.  And talk about it as a family.

One idea is to draw names for a gift exchange to avoid the big pile of presents.

Instead, shift the focus to time spent together, relationships and tradition. 

For the Hertel family that means making a big deal out of everything that leads up to the holiday, too.    "I feel like for little kids, it's so magical.  That if you really play up the lights, the decorations, the baking of the cookies, the decorating your house, the putting up the tree, all the family gatherings, everything that goes up to the actual day, I think that makes it that much more special." 

And, studies show most of us don't remember many "gifts" from our childhood.

But we do remember those "traditions and experiences," something Sharon says she's noticed with her kids.  "What was the most meaningful to them was playing outside in the snow and sledding and having free time with their cousins.  Those things don't actually involve a lot of planning."

While there may be some disappointment in the short term, in the long term experts, say you're doing the best thing for your kids.    Dr. Petersen says, "People who focus on materialism for holidays tend to be miserable during the holidays.  People who are focused on tradition and on ritual tend to be much happier."

So turn off that TV  Get back to the basics.  And shorten the list.  You can fight back and make the Holidays the most wonderful time of year.  Amanda says, "Just the whole day, the idea of the day, is so special."

Another way your family can take back the holiday is to GIVE back.  Especially if you do it as a family.  Buy gifts for the less fortunate.  Volunteer at a shelter serving a meal.  Studies show if children become interested in charity as a child, they'll become happier adults.

Additional tips from Dr. Peterson and Sharon Bain of Family Psychology of South Bend: 

Another important part of raising happy, grateful adults is cultivating gratitude in your children all year long.  Experts say it's not only about steering them away from being focused on presents, but helping them appreciate what they do have.  How do you do that?  It can be as simple as having them name one thing they are thankful for at the dinner table every night.  Or keeping a journal of things they are grateful for.  Maybe even saying what they are grateful for in their prayers at night. 

And being grateful is also something we, as adults, should strive for too.  Dr. Peterson says the trend you are seeing on Facebook, where people post what they are thankful for is very likely to increase their happiness and gratitude.  Another way to cultivate gratitude?  Write a letter to someone who was important to you in your formative years about why you are grateful and read it to them in person in front of them.  Studies show that gives YOU a big boost in  happiness for three months.  You might want to use that approach in writing your holiday cards. 

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