Spend time, not money

Carmen BryceBlog posts

At Christmas, parents can feel a lot of pressure to create the ‘perfect’ festive experience for their children. With toy ads and Santa lists everywhere, it can be difficult to manage expectations and ignore pressures to fork out on expensive gifts.

MyMind therapist Julie Golden shows us how spending time with the children at Christmas, means so much more than spending a fortune.

Christmas is coming and it’s time to jump on to the festive hamster wheel of shopping, spending money, fussing, visitors, parties, and false expectations.

By the time we jump off the hamster wheel in January we are often too exhausted to take stock of what has happened and are rather delighted to return to work and routine having missed a great opportunity for time out, time off and time spent together. January can also prolong financial worry if we are still paying for the cost of the festive season. Sounds like the worst time of year!! It doesn’t need to be.

The run up to the festive season has a propensity to stir up regrets from the past and bring forth anxiety about creating the ‘perfect’ Christmas. I believe that it is the striving for the perfect Christmas that fuels all fears about the festive season. Naturally, parents want to create a wonderful, happy Christmas for their children, but the model for a happy Christmas is different in every household.

For many parents, the ingredients for a perfect Christmas include being a Chef extraordinaire, house immaculately presented for visitors, being available for all events and achieving perceived perfection on a stretched budget. Indeed the goal of a perfect Christmas is an idealistic charm

The most effective way to manage a child’s expectations at Christmas is to first manage your own as a parent or guardian. Take time to consider the meaning of Christmas  from your own perspective. How have you been shaping and moulding the Christmas experience in your home over the past few years?

Christmas is really an opportunity to be thankful and to make new memories, worth remembering. Christmas is an opportunity for time out and time off and as schools and many work places are closed, the availability of each day is everyone’s choice. Planning indoor and outdoor activities with children is key to creating a happy Christmas experience for your family.

A recent study published in the Irish Independent suggested that the average Irish parent spends €254 on gifts per child at Christmas. Perhaps the focus should be on spending quality time with children rather than drowning the occasion with overzealous gestures of probable avoidance. I would suggest to parents to conduct their own study regarding how much quality time they spend with each of their children this Christmas.

Managing your child’s gift expectations is possible and will lessen the financial pressure that can be experienced at this time of year. Try to remember your own childhood at Christmas and the resulting stand out memories . Are you remembering the expense of the gifts you received or your family traditions? If you play down cost and propel value, then expectation will change. Oftentimes the simplest of gifts bring the greatest pleasure.

If everything you are giving has an sacrificial financial cost then it is time to consider what you are allowing your Christmas to become. I believe the key to Christmas is to spend more time than money. Consider what you are spending and at what cost. By this, I suggest looking not just at financial cost but time, the loss of what you want to do at Christmas.

Think about the cost benefit analysis of what you are outlaying because a high price paid for gifts may only produce short term benefits. Reducing desires will generate great peace and contentment and memories live long past momentary gifts.

Set aside time in the weeks before Christmas to spend time with your children. This can be an enjoyable experience combined with other activities such as crafting or baking for the festive season.  There are numerous craft ideas for families, plus plenty of great fun at outdoor activities.

We, like our children begin to think of what we want for Christmas. In many ways it is like someone saying to us, look around and consider what you have not got in your life and start listing them!

This is the opposite to what we are  taught about gratitude. Instead, this year, start your list with everything you have and are grateful for and repeat this exercise with your kids. A gratitude list is an easy method to quickly realise how abundant your life is.

I’m not forgetting parents either and the importance of self-care. Parents should be mindful of having some time to themselves looking after their own needs.

During the festive season take time to reflect on yourself, engage in your own thoughts and refresh your own inner charge.  Use opportunities to exercise, indulge in literary encounters and take a break from normal routine. Otherwise it can be a haze of late nights, late mornings, too much food and booze, you may not realise that you’ve had the opportunity for time out.

In summary, this is a wonderful opportunity be the lead architect of a great Christmas in your family.  Grasp it with both hands, sit close, hug tight and create a lifetime of memories.