/PRNewswire/ -- Parents hard hit by the recession may wonder how to explain to their children why there aren't as many presents under the tree this year.
Christy Buchanan, professor of psychology at Wake Forest University, reminds parents that "children, in their heart of hearts, don't want a lot of things from their parents as much as they want love from them and time with them. In the long run, it's love, shared time, and quality interactions that they'll remember."
"The problem is we often express love through gifts," says Buchanan, who studies parent-child relationships and teaches courses on effective parent-child relations. "We worry they won't feel loved if we don't provide material things."
She offers a few suggestions for families who are cutting back this holiday season:
-- Don't be overly apologetic for what children are not getting. Although
it's okay to acknowledge a child's desires or even disappointment,
parents are encouraged to focus on those things for which the child
and family can be grateful.
-- Parents should try to be upbeat and positive. If they are, children
are more likely to be positive. Focus on the gift of time. Think about
what the family can do together that is fun and memorable and treat it
like a gift.
-- Leading up to Christmas... Instead of going shopping, design time
around what your kids enjoy and make that special. Make plans to bake
cookies and drink hot chocolate, play a favorite board game, or shoot
hoops at the park.
-- Try to minimize exposure to commercials and marketing. The more
children see, the more they think they want and are more likely to be
-- For younger children who expect Santa to bring lots of presents,
small, inexpensive gifts like a ball or a game can be the basis for
fun, family time on Christmas Day. Shift the focus to a fun activity
and away from items that may be missing from under the tree.
-- For teenagers, things often become more important. But, teens are also
old enough to understand when parents explain that money for expensive
items just isn't in the family budget this year. For the items they
most want, parents can work with them on a longer term plan to save
for those things.
-- At all ages, parents should convey a confidence that things will be
-- Parents should not make promises they cannot keep. They should be
honest with children about what they can or cannot afford.
-- If a family is having to cut back, a parent can use the opportunity to
emphasize that their relationships are the most important thing.
"It comes down to communication," Buchanan says. Parents can look for ways beyond presents to convey their love for their children.
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