Best Ways to Create More Meaning and Ease Your Impact this Holiday

Connecting with family and friends through activities like sledding can provide more long term satisfaction than buying and giving gifts
Connecting with family and friends through activities like sledding can provide more long term satisfaction than buying and giving gifts

Do you ever find yourself participating in holiday traditions that feel out of alignment with your values?

Will you buy, wrap, and bring into your home more stuff than you really want just because that’s what you expect to do for Christmas and holidays?

But what if you didn’t have to do it that way? What if you adopted other holiday traditions?

It can be hard to shift to new traditions. Like you, I love my children. I want to let them know I value them and want each of them to be happy. I love the delighted look on their faces when they unwrap the thing they asked for. I want that validation that …

Yes, I am a good mom.

Sound familiar? But what if that validation doesn’t come from a store? What if good parenting, to paraphrase the Grinch, means a little bit more?

The next time you hear “Mommy can I have….” Try the following tips and skills to go deeper and create more connection and understanding.

10 Steps to Parent From Your Values

Step 1: How Are You Feeling? Help your child imagine how they will feel playing with that toy or using that thing. This is the early brainstorming moment where you listen compassionately and openly. No arguing or negating. Connecting with your own feelings is important, too.

Step 2: What’s the Need? Help your child connect with the need they are hoping that toy or thing will meet for them. When asked, your child might look at you like you’re speaking a foreign language. You are. Be patient and persistent. You’ll need to help your child sleuth through the initial ideas of what the gift will bring to help them connect with a basic human need like connection, safety, or ease. Connecting with your own needs is important, too.

Taking time for connection is the best gift of all this holiday
Taking time for connection is the best gift of all this holiday
Step 3: Ask for help. Learning to prioritize feelings and needs can be confusing. Learning the language of feelings, needs, and compassionate listening can be challenging. Click here for help turning insight into your child’s feelings and needs into successful parenting.

Step 4: Get on the same team as your child. Once you understand feelings and needs, you can see the conversation as more interesting and complex than just ‘to get the toy or not’. It becomes ‘what’s the best way to meet this totally valid need?’ The toy may or may not be part of a successful strategy for meeting the need.

Step 5: Practice logic. Look at the details of the potential purchase in a logical way. How is the craftsmanship? How does the value compare with the price? Look at the details with curiosity as though you’re both seeing the item for the first time.

Step 6: Where Does It Come From? Ask questions like what are the raw materials? Trace the history backwards from the store through the factory. Include shipping and raw materials. Don’t forget to look at the conditions of the workers in the factories, mines, and refineries. Is this an environment your child would like to work in? Help your child connect how their purchasing decisions can support or undermine their values.

Step 7: Where Does It Go? Notice if you’re just a brief stop between refinery and landfill. Take a look at the Great Pacific Garbage Patch – a flotilla of plastic in the Pacific Ocean – and ask your child if they want to contribute to that. Brainstorm ideas for what you can do with the toy after you’re done with it.

Step 8: How Will You Pay For It? If your child still wants the gift, help them look at the cost. A great way to do this is to help your child work for their own money and contribute to or solely purchase the thing they really want.

Step 9: Where Will It Live? Help your child imagine where it will live in the house. How much space does it take up? Where will it go? Give away, donate, or sell other toys and possessions to make room for the new thing.

Step 10: Support Your Child’s Choice. If after all of this your child still wants the thing, support them in their choice. Even if you still don’t like the choice your child is making, you can celebrate that the two of you went through this process together and that your child is learning critical thinking. That takes a lot of the burden off of you for coming up with a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’. If you’re child is at Step 10 and still wants the thing, they’ve come to their own ‘yes’ in a way that’s responsible and thoughtful. Now that’s worth celebrating.

It’s not only children that can benefit from going through these steps. When you go through the 10 steps for your own gift giving purchases, you give yourself the chance to act in ways that support your values. And keeping your actions in alignment with your values is one of the best ways to make this holiday season more meaningful, more pleasant, and less stressful.

What are your favorite ways to bring more meaning and less stress to the holidays? Please share them in the comments below.

Happy Holidays!

[About the author: Kassandra Brown is a parent coach, mother, and writer who lives at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage in northern Missouri. Her favorite parts of the holidays are emphasizing connection to friends and family through activities like sledding and caroling rather than through buying and giving gifts. Sledding photo credit: Jennifer Harris]

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