Avoiding Christmas Consumerism

I think as parents we all struggle with consumerism and how it creeps up on us and our kids.  We are trying, at our house, to shift the focus from all the *stuff* to something a little more,  -all year long. Less stuff more empathy, less focus on what we don’t have and more on what we do have.
Like all parenting, its a work in progress.

We endeavour to help our kids have perspective on their position, their privilege, but I find this time of year I need to make an extra effort.

We have approached this lots of ways -We make an effort to cultivate empathy and understanding in our kids.  There are tons of articles, books and blog posts about how do this, but for us it has is about being proactive in our choices of what we bring in to our house and life; deliberately making links between responsibility and privilege. We limit toys and treats,  we got rid of a standing weekly allowance (all were discussed and explained).  We have shifted to giving donations instead of some of our gifts. That isn’t to say we won’t have dessert on a Tuesday night, or that there has to be a special occasion for gift giving. But I hope we have managed to shift their expectations, and normalized buying and having less. 

Santa still visits our house and I wanted a way for my kids to frame their wish lists that would similarly help shift their understanding of “wants” and “needs” and I wanted a way to engage my kids in charitable giving.

So I had all these ideas floating around…

How can I share the magic of Christmas, (that was always a big deal when I was growing up,) without the endless purchasing of stuff.
How do I impress upon my kids that beautiful things and things that give us joy are just as sustaining to our minds as water is to our body.
That there is an altruistic joy in giving.

I know that studies show us that people are more likely to give when they can connect with a story; identify an individual recipient -a person who can be seen to have been directly effected.

How to bring it all together?

So if the first part of my desire to shift how my family thinks about and experiences THE Holiday Season is  re-framing  their Christmas wish lists, then the second part will be to find opportunities for my kids to participate in giving, and connect their actions with real results & people. Not necessarily face-to-face but  hopefully in a way they they can understand.
For instance, thinking about the things that they like and that make them happy, and what its like for people whose experiences, circumstances, and abilities may be different from theirs.

So I was chatting about all this with my good friend whose organization, YPI (Youth and Philanthropy Initiative) is all about engaging youth in social issues, local charities, and grant-making.

I told her I liked the idea of “hamper programs” and “angel trees” because I feel like it makes kids think about another persons needs & interests – purchasing for a particular family or individual. But that I was having trouble finding programs without a religious mandate.

She provided me with some suggestions for types of giving that she felt kids could connect with, and how to find organizations to get me started.

I figured there must be others struggling with the consumerist aspect of the season and thought I would share.

Below are a few links …and my “wish list template.”

Last year I adapted that want/need rhyming couplet thats been floating around the internet for my house, and this year I tweeked it a little more to fit in with my idea of re-framing needs/wants.

 There are tons of organizations that will accept donations all year long, and some that focus on the the holidays.

Although most charities accept all types of donations, the kinds of giving seem to shake out into three general types:

specific item charities or drives like the shoebox project or the diaper bank.

Annual, monthly, seasonal, or one time giving for funds, Canada Helps offers donation gift cards of any amount, the recipient chooses any charity or cause they are passionate about to receive the funds. 

And organizations that donate institutional space, many performance and sports venues have programs that reserve seats for individuals whose circumstances prevent them from attending.There are also organizations such as kids up front that opperate on behalf of several venues.

A great way to find the kind of charity thst might fit your interests in giving is by visiting Canada Helps  or Charity Village and using their directories section.

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