7 Ways To ‘Unspoil’ The Kids This Christmas – Hope 103.2

7 Ways To ‘Unspoil’ The Kids This Christmas

Dr Justin Coulson shares seven great tips to help parents "unspoil" their kids, prevent a sense of entitlement, and give them a more meaningful Christmas.

By Clare BruceThursday 10 Dec 2015ChristmasReading Time: 5 minutes

Listen: Dr Justin Coulson shares advice with Emma on how to “unspoil” the kids at Christmas

In an age where kids are bombarded day and night with dazzling commercial messages, it can be hard to convince them that Christmas isn’t all about presents.

But with a few simple, intentional steps, parents can prevent their kids from becoming spoilt over the “Silly Season”. In a chat with Hope 103.2’s Emma Mullings, parenting blogger Dr Justin Coulson shared some helpful tips towards giving the kids a more meaningful Christmas. He calls it “unspoiling”.

“When we think back as adults on the most meaningful Christmases in our lives, very rarely do we reflect on the time when someone got us that “thing. The most wonderful meaningful Christmas memories are our times together, and times when we’ve done something for somebody else.”

Tip #1 – Find Ways To Serve The Community

Giving to Christmas charity

Introduce your kids to the concept of community service. This can be as simple as donating some food hamper items to your local charity, dropping a gift to the RSPCA or the Women’s Shelter, or buying a “meaningful Christmas gift” card through a humanitarian organisation.

“I know some families that bake dozens and dozens of cookies and they go and visit the local police station, or the ambos or the firies,” said Dr Coulson. “They drop off some Christmas cheer and say, “hey, thanks for working to keep us safe”.

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Tip #2 – Bless Your Neighbours

Teens giving hamper to their neighbour

Your own street can be the best place to look for people in need of Christmas cheer. By looking for ways you and your children can help the neighbourhood, you’ll not only teach the kids a lesson about generosity, but you’ll also add to the sense of community in your locale, and might make some new friends in the process.

Help A Family In Need

If there’s a single mum nearby who’s struggling, drop off a hamper.

“We had an instance in our neighbourhood last year where some of our neighbours were really struggling,” Dr Coulson said. “We talked to our children and put a hamper together… and boy did that make a difference. It was so meaningful, and our kids really got that.”

Tidy Up A Granny’s Garden

Do you have an elderly neighbour with an unruly garden? Perhaps they’d appreciate a visit from a muscular teenager or two. It doesn’t take long for kids, with some help from mum or dad, to tidy up a garden and mow a lawn.

Take The Kids On A “Secret Santa” Drop

This one definitely requires adult supervision, but is worth the effort for the fun you’ll create, according to Dr Coulson.

“Make a gift, knock on your neighbour’s door, then hide around the corner, and watch the neighbours find a surprise on their doorstep,” he said. “It’s pretty challenging with my six children, but it’s a lot of fun.”

Note: The idea is not to scare people (so be careful which neighbour you choose!) but if done well, you’ll create a sense of fun and excitement for your children around giving.

Tip #3 – Reduce The Number Of Gifts – Just A Little!

Kids opening Christmas presents

This one applies for those kids who receive gifts from a conga-line of relatives each year.

Gifts are better when given with quality in mind rather than quantity, so try to reduce the number they receive. This way they won’t be over-saturated and over-stimulated.

“I know that some Nanas in particular love to spoil the grandkids, not just with one thing but with four or five gifts,” Dr Coulson said. “And then there’s the aunties, and the uncles, and it gets out of hand. You can’t prevent people from giving, but discourage quantity and focus more on quality.”

Those keen to simplify their list might like to follow the adage:

“Something they want,
Something they need,
Something to wear,
And something to read.”

Tip #4 – It’s Not A Race! Slow Down The Unwrapping

Boy opening his Christmas present

When your kids are opening their gifts, teach them to spend some time savouring each one, rather than ripping through their stash with reckless abandon.

This will increase their appreciation and reduce their sense of entitlement.

Dr Coulson said this tip is for his own family as much as anyone else’s.

“I’ve got six kids and when we get together for the big family Christmas there can be 15 or 20 children in the lounge room,” he said. “And there are gifts going everywhere and paper flying, and the kids literally rip open a present and go “Oh cool thanks,” and then they go for the next one… Slow it down!”

Tip #5 – Give “Experience” Gifts. The Memories Last Longer.

Kids having a fun skateboard 'flying' experience

According to research, gifts in the form of vouchers for “experiences” can create far more benefits than material objects, including togetherness, and lasting memories.

Cinema tickets, season passes to fun parks, tickets to a concert or sports event, and vouchers for tourist experiences, are all great ideas. Simple, creative home-made ideas can be great too. Try a “voucher” for a day of fishing with Dad, with a couple of new lures attached, or perhaps a ticket to a cake-making session with Grandma, complete with a cake decoration.

“Something that you go and do together builds bonds and memories,” Dr Coulson said, “and while the “stuff” we give ends up going in the bin – whether its in three days or three years – the experiences we give create memories that last a lifetime.”

Tip #6 – Be Generous With Your Time

Mother and son spend time together

This tip is a pretty simple one that needs little explanation.  Dr Coulson believes there’s no gift that children appreciate more than their parents’ focussed time.

“It costs so little but it’s hard to give it generously,” he said. “But when we give our time generously, all of those materialistic desires of our children just fade away.”

Tip #7 – Have A Thankyou-Writing Session

Little boy writing a letter at Christmas time

Once Christmas is over, spend time with your children writing thankyou notes, with old-fashioned pen and paper, to the relatives and friends who gave them gifts. Help them to write messages about why they are grateful for their gifts, too. The extra time it takes will make the experience more instructive, meaningful and memorable.

The alternative for teenagers might be phoning their grandparents or relatives for a simple thankyou call. It’s a good way for them to think beyond themselves, and learn some social etiquette too.

“If we’re talking about unspoiling children, making sure they’re not entitled and it’s not “all about me”,  the best thing we can do is encourage them to be grateful,” he said.