Will Economy Affect Kids' Christmas Lists?

Filed under: Work Life, Holidays

letter to santaWhen I was a kid, I knew next to nothing about money. My parents still laugh about the time when I put together my Christmas list for Santa and asked for a microwave for my mother and new socks for my father. In my eyes they were equal things, as they were both things my parents wanted. I didn't realize that back then microwaves were very expensive and socks, uhm, not so much. (Today of course you can get a microwave for peanuts and socks, if they're the designer type, can run you up to $100!)

When I was that age my parents didn't have very much money. They did own their own home, but both worked full-time and clipped coupons, etc. in order to make ends meet. They never spoke to me of money--having it, not having it, etc. This was a good thing, as I didn't spend my entire childhood terrified about our finances like the kids today seem to. I think it's great to teach your kids about money and saving, and to speak to them about the current situation with our economy, but how far should you go?

For example, should we be telling our kids to scroll back their Christmas wishes because of the Dow Jones? It keeps falling, just like our hopes of a retail miracle this holiday season. Christmas--and Hanukkah, and other end-of-calendar-year holidays--really ought to be about family and togetherness rather than about money, but since the element of gift giving is such a big one, it is. It's hard not to think about or talk about money when the holidays roll around, especially this year. Toys are expensive. So are clothes and books. Most parents are happy to go without presents themselves in order to provide for their kids--hey, we have everything we need and more!--but sometimes that's not enough.

I guess we should all be lucky to have ever gotten/given anything at all. Many families face this problem every year and often come up empty-handed. They have nothing to give their kids. Their kids are used to the disappointment of receiving nothing. And that's a crime. Maybe instead of looking at it from the point of view that Christmas has to be scaled back from what it was, we parents can teach our kids about giving rather than receiving--this year and every holiday season--by helping to make someone else's Christmas as happy as ours will be even without getting everything on the Christmas list. That's a good way to learn about money and tackle the current economic crisis without taking the magic out of Christmas for our kids.

Thinking about donating? Here are some charities recommended by my colleagues at ParentDish:

Heifer International

Toys for Tots

Also check out Feeding America (formerly America's Second Harvest) and Kiva.

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.