Q: [Tweens] We already struggle with materialism in our tween, something I think parents all over OC face! But at the holidays, it seems to be encouraged — all of our relatives ask what she wants, what is “on her list”. I’ve noticed the “Holiday List” has taken on more of a list-of-demands feel than just an inspiration for the kind of things she would enjoy. How can we up the gratitude level during this season of giving?
A: I completely agree that most kids in “The OC” can be materialistic and are challenged in the areas of appreciation and gratitude. I’ve seen this trend of entitlement happening more and more both in my practice and when I coach high school basketball. Unfortunately, it appears that we all are responsible for this dilemma. The good news is we all have the power to communicate different messages in our homes. Let’s talk about the importance of teaching kids how to appreciate what they have.
All too often, parents allow kids to have instant gratification because saying “no” can be very challenging. For middle school and high school kids, there is a huge emphasis placed on image and fitting in and parents sometimes overvalue and over-prioritize their child’s happiness in those areas. With the holidays fast approaching, this is an opportunity to prioritize more important aspects of life.
Although it is normal for kids to create a Christmas gift list for family and friends during the holiday season, we do not have to treat this as a “must have list.” One way to help kids understand how to have more gratitude and be more selfless during this time of year is to have them participate in the giving themselves. Parents, we reap what we sow. Teach kids the spirit of the holiday season and explain the difference between wants and needs. There are plenty of people in need, especially around the holidays, and modeling the importance of helping others is invaluable. Have your child give some of his or her time to help feed the homeless or maybe donate a few toys to a charity or other organization. That first hand experience your child will have of giving to others is more powerful than anything you can ever communicate.
Matt Fleischman, LMFT. Matt Fleischman earned his Masters in Clinical Psychology from Pepperdine University and currently practices at The Weichman Clinic at renowned Hoag Hospital, Newport Beach and is the South OC director of Chiron Behavioral Health.