What parent hasn’t watched their children tear into one gift after another on Christmas morning and wondered: Is there a way to make the holidays more about relationships and less about stuff?
Cynthia Whitham, a licensed clinical social worker and director of the UCLA Parenting & Children's Friendship Program at the Semel Institute at UCLA, has some suggestions. Her advice is influenced by her work counseling parents on how to handle troublesome child and teen behavior, as well as lessons learned raising two children.
To add some restraint to the holiday onslaught of materialism, Whitham suggests:
Whitham, a native New Englander, has a Christmas story to tell. Two days before Christmas in 1986, Whitham moved to northeast Los Angeles with her husband and two small children. Arriving hours after the appointed time and packing until midnight, the movers refused the couple’s check, instead demanding $500, in cash, before they would unload the truck. Whitham’s husband had to leave her and the children alone with the movers as he searched for ATMs in the unfamiliar part of town.
They were still upset about the incident the next day when a neighbor knocked on the door. Would Whitham and her family like to join the neighborhood’s annual Christmas caroling party? the neighbor asked.
“It brought back all the wonderful feelings of community and doing things for others,” from her New England childhood, where holidays were about baking cookies for neighbors or playing board games, Whitham said. “That Christmas really captured everything you want in a meaningful holiday experience.”