The holiday season is filled with cherished traditions, quality time with the family, and, most of all, expectations.  Kids, especially, often have lofty ideas about the gifts they want (or “deserve”) to receive.  And for far too many parents, the weeks of stress and preparation – not to mention the money spent – go unrewarded when children tear through the gifts like tornados.  In the blink of an eye, the presents are all unwrapped, and parents are left with feeling unfulfilled and underappreciated.  So how do we break this cycle of yearly disappointment?  How do we show our children how much sacrifice is required to provide a happy holiday?  In short, the answer is gratitude.  We must teach our children how to be genuinely gracious, and in this article, we’ll touch on a few of the ways to do it.

Set Reasonable Expectations
Have a conversation with your children about their wish lists.  Ask them to rank their gifts in order of which ones they want the most.  Then set a clear, firm limit on the number of gifts they will receive.  If you have older kids, a price limit might be a more appropriate option for your situation.  The idea with this approach is to help children understand that they won’t get everything they ask for.  That way, there’s less chance of disappointment on Christmas morning.

Focus on Giving
Instead of keeping the attention on what your kids will receive, help them find the joy in giving gifts to others.  Provide them with the supplies necessary to create homemade treasures for family members.  Or nudge them toward acts of kindness toward strangers.  Adopting a child or family from a “giving tree” is a lovely way to show your children the true spirit of the season.  Plus, most kids have a blast picking out the perfect toys for other children.

Volunteering in your community is another fantastic way to teach children that purchased gifts are not the only way to express love and compassion.  Perhaps you can lend a hand at your local area food bank or help collect coats for the homeless.  Or for the animal lover in your family, rescue organizations are always in need of a little extra help during the holiday season.  The point here is to focus on giving – not receiving – and to teach kids that sometimes the best gifts come from within our own hearts.

Think of it in this way:  If you teach your kids to be gracious, you’re helping them learn the skills they need to find happiness in all it’s forms.  And isn’t that the best gift of all?