Christmas Is So Expensive!by Dr Andrea Papitsch-Clark - 17th December, 2018
It’s the most wonderful time of the year – and wonderfully expensive, too…
I was struck the other day by how expensive December has been – my childrens’ Christmas parties and activities, Christmas shopping, food and otherwise. This ties in with a recent news item highlighting that the cost of home-cooked Christmas dinner has risen by 18% (!), compared to last year. One might speculate about why this has happened, and Brexit is just one of the possible contenders for an explanation. However, this blog is not about politics, but about Christmas being an expensive time of year! Traditionally, a time for families to come together and spend quality time, it has over the years also become a time of spending and consumerism. So, Christmas is expensive – that’s old news! However, throw into that mix a couple of children who expect expensive presents, including the latest phones and consoles (or in the case of my children demands for the latest LEGO set and branded merchandise), and you can understand why parents buckle under the financial strain of Christmas coming. So, should we, as parents, ‘put our foot down’ or give into these demands?
Well, most basically it is our job as parents to understand our children’s needs, and to meet them. And this includes trying to view the world from our children’s perspective, and trying to understand why they may want the latest mobile phones and consoles. Simply speaking, it is because their friends will likely get them for Christmas, too and they don’t want to feel left out! Especially amongst teenagers, peer pressures about having the latest clothes or electronic gadgets, are strong, and may leave your children feeling left out if they are not part of the group. In addition to peer and social pressures, TV advertising can be very persuasive and hooks children into wanting more…
However, our role as parents is also to teach our children about the world, and equip them with the skills to operate sensibly and independently, when their time comes to fly the nest. So maybe your children are currently little and not about to leave the family home any time soon. Nonetheless, learning about how the world works is valuable from early on, as it allows us to operate more successfully within the society we live in. And an appreciation of the value of money, expectations, and what’s reasonable and not, is part of this understanding of the world. For example, we may model to our children concepts of generosity and kindness, but equally may want to educate them about reasonable boundaries… For instance, you may choose to buy them an expensive item, such as a mobile phone, once in a while as ‘a special treat’, but they also need to learn not to expect this all the time. Especially, if it means that you as the parents need to re-mortgage your house to do it!
Of course, these are basically personal choices. However, I believe it is broader than just having the latest toy, as it teaches your children about what to expect from the world outside. If children grow up expecting treats all the time, they may end up sorely disappointed! More generally, balancing these different pressures and making the right choice for yourself and your child can feel very difficult. Whilst we try our best not to disappoint our children, sometimes making the unpopular choice not to buy the latest gadget, may be an opportunity to engage them in a conversation about ‘why not’. They may not thank you for it at the time of unwrapping their presents, but may benefit from this in years to come. Merry Christmas!
If you are suffering with any of the issues discussed in this article and would like to seek professional help then you may find our page about Mental Health problems useful.