4 Meaningful Gifts for Your Kids

Each December, we hear a lot about simplifying our holiday routine, and there’s something to be said for that. In some families, the tradition that seems to be the most dominant and lasting is feeling worn out, frustrated and fed up. Sarcasm abounds when it comes to Christmas celebrations. But you probably agree: that is not how things should be.

Maybe your family does need a simpler schedule or approach this month. It’s likely we can all use a reminder about the bigger idea behind simplicity: finding ways to make the holidays meaningful and not just going through the motions.

So here are four suggestions for meaningful gifts you can give your kids this year:

Give them a joyful dad. Are you often frazzled by the holidays? Maybe you have work deadlines that make your life crazy—in addition to all the kids’ performances and events to attend. Consciously decide to not be stressed out, even if there are plenty of reasons to be. Take necessary steps to decompress, whether that means a few minutes outside or a quick trip to the gym. Try every day to bring your kids a dad who’s warm, approachable, and yes, even joyful.

Maybe you normally overspend on gifts, and you’re mentally adding up the expenses throughout the month, anticipating the day of financial reckoning in January or February. That can make it difficult to enjoy the holidays with your family, so get on the same page with your kids’ mom and anyone else involved in deciding what you’ll spend on Christmas this year (or maybe next year). Reaffirm that going into debt isn’t what the season is all about, and come up with a plan that works for your situation and that doesn’t feel like an extra burden.

Give them your time. This might be the greatest gift you can give, and it could be the most difficult to part with. Few of us really need more of the stuff on out gift lists, but many of our relationships need more time and attention.

For Christmas, this could mean devoting half an hour to help your child figure out a new toy, play dress-up, or practice a sport. It might mean giving a gift of time along with the things you wrap and put under the tree: a dinner date, a trip to the driving range together, or some other activity you know your child would enjoy. Instead of (or in addition to) a gadget that might be broken or obsolete in a few months, try to give a gift of an experience that could easily become a long-cherished memory.

Help create family time. Along with giving your time, make family a priority during the time you’re together. Too often, gifts become the focus of the holidays—and it does feel good to give and receive gifts. But do what you can to take the focus off the gifts and create more rewarding family time. Instead of everyone going off with their devices, hang around and play games, watch a movie together, pull out family videos from years past, or find ways to help someone else as a family. That quality family time can just happen, but often it will take some effort and intentionality—and dads can take a leading role here.

Give them something significant. There are some gifts that go beyond satisfying a want or need, but send a positive message or convey special meaning. You might give a child something that affirms or supports a talent, interest, or endeavor—like a new ball glove, markers for art class, a camera, or a musical instrument. Or, maybe you’ll want to pass on a family heirloom: something like a coin from your father’s collection or your grandmother’s necklace.

Some gifts can also convey a specific message of affirmation, like “I love you to the moon and back,” or “I was never so blessed as the day you were born.” You can find several inexpensive pieces that will help you affirm your child at giftsfromdad.org. (And some can be personalized, but it takes longer so order soon to get it in time for Christmas.)

Sometimes small gifts can have big meanings. Be intentional about bringing meaning to your children’s Christmas this year.

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