Editor's note: This article was originally published by Saren Loosli on PowerOfMoms.com. It has been used here with permission.
When I was growing up, my siblings and I worked hard in November and December to earn money for Christmas presents. You see, along with the joy of receiving, my parents really wanted us to fully experience the joy of GIVING at Christmastime. So, from the time we were very young, we worked, earned money and purchased all our own Christmas gifts. Some of my favorite holiday memories are centered on the gifts I was able to give to family members and the thoughtful gifts I received from siblings.
I'll never forget one year when my sister gave me a very unexpected and generous gift. Whenever we were shopping with my mom, I'd been loudly admiring a little wind-up doll that played a beautiful song. I'd already requested something different from Santa. I knew my parents would only be buying me clothes. So I figured it was worth letting my siblings know about my interest in the doll, even though it cost $20 which was way out of the range of what my siblings could afford. I was so surprised and delighted to find that doll in the lovingly-wrapped box my sister handed me on Christmas! But I think that she might have been even more delighted than me when she saw how happy I was.
With our own children, my husband and I have carried on this tradition. As a mom, some of my all-time favorite moments have happened as I've watched my children's excitement as they've carefully picked out gifts for their siblings, barricaded themselves into a secret spot to wrap those gifts, and then watched with great anticipation as their gifts were opened and appreciated.
Here are some simple steps to help you give your kids the gift of giving this holiday season:
1. Work with your children to figure out a Christmas present budget
You may want to look online or check out what's available at stores to help them get a sense of what types of gifts would be available in different price ranges. Setting a Christmas budget and shopping around for the best prices on gifts is a great and simple step toward teaching our kids real-life economic principles. Of course the budget needs to be somewhat flexible. I've loved seeing my children occasionally dip into the funds they were saving for something for themselves or team up with another sibling to buy a perfect gift that costs more than they'd planned to spend.
When my children were younger, I found that it worked best to have them simply work toward a dollar per family member and buy their gifts at the dollar store where everything is conveniently the same price.
2. Set up a way for your children to earn their Christmas budget
If you already have a money system in your home, great, use that (and maybe add in some extra opportunities to do extra work and make extra money). If you don't already have a working system, now's a great time to get your kids going on working, earning and saving. For younger children, you can make a simple chart with a square for every 25 cents or 50 cents they'll need to get up to the overall amount they plan to earn and create a list of "money jobs" they can do around the house to check off each square on their chart.
3. Set aside a special time on Christmas or even Christmas Eve for the kids to give out their gifts.
This way, your children's thoughtful gifts will not be overshadowed by grander ones. After all the hoopla of stockings and Santa gifts on Christmas morning, we eat a special Christmas breakfast and then spend an hour or two having each child give out their gifts, one at a time. We make a big deal of every gift and ensure that every giver gets a great hug and thank you from the receiver plus praise from us for their thoughtfulness.
We wish you all the best as you strive to give your kids the gift of giving this holiday season!
Saren adores her five energetic, adventurous, precocious children but doesn't totally adore the mess and busyness and bickering that that comes with them! She grew up all over the world, did her B.A. at Wellesley College and her M.Ed. at Harvard, did humanitarian service in Eastern Europe, and conducted training programs for teachers and enrichment programs for kids. But after she got married and had her five children, the real education and work began! When she's not trying to answer five different needs and questions at once, she writes and puts together programs for moms for the website she co-directs, Power of Moms. She currently lives in Ogden, Utah and loves reading, hiking, and biking with her family (or by herself when possible!). She often struggles with balance but finds joy in being involved in many things that are meaningful to her.