The run-up to Christmas, or “Advent”, is officially starting this weekend. Here in Ireland the start of the festive season is “officially” launched by the ”Late Late Toyshow”, which in many households is a lovely tradition of putting on the Christmas pyjamas, getting out the popcorn and treats and snuggling up on the couch with your loved ones ready for the extravaganza of the latest toy innovations, but more importantly, it’s about children of all ages, talents and abilities being included in the show. It’s a heartwarming compilation of chat, music, dance and some emotional surprises and reunions.
The show host Ryan Tubridy has a wonderful easy going way with the children and he, along with the producers, always makes sure that current topics such as bullying and homelessness are being addressed, and children are being given a voice. Yesterday was no different and when it came to the part of Ryan addressing the fact that 4000 children in Ireland will not be celebrating Christmas at home this year, because they are living in hotels and other provisions due to homelessness, Ryan looked sincerely into the camera and reassured all children, that Santa Claus will not forget about them, that no matter where they are, he will know and find them
As lovely and heartfelt as this sentiment and intention were, I couldn’t help worrying about this promise. I am a little at odds with the whole “Santa Claus” thing, and please excuse me for maybe sounding a little “Grinch” like, but it’s not meant in that way at all. I love Christmas, especially the run-up to it. It’s a magical time and it’s all about memories for the next generation. My problem lies in the way we make children believe that Santa Claus is bringing all their presents, that he’s making a list, he’s checking it twice, he’s going to know who was naughty and who was nice and he is going to “punish” and reward children accordingly. We can’t deny that we are living in a world where many of us have lost the run of ourselves when it comes to Christmas presents and Christmas shopping. Games consoles, iPhones, iPads and many other expensive wishes are frequently part of wish lists and oftentimes these extravagant wishes are granted by the big man in the red suit himself.
Here is where I see the problem: Some families are wealthier than others, some families have different priorities, some families are in serious financial distress, and some children live in families where they experience violence, abuse or severe poverty. That is a fact of life and sadly it’s always going to be that way. The problem is that many children in our Western Society believe in Santa Claus with all of their hearts, a Christmas list for many children is nearly like a prayer, a hopeful wish for things to improve for them, of the Christmas magic touching them in their sometimes desperate situations.
Children are very aware of their own situation and the situation of others. So, when they meet up with their friends at school and exchange their exciting Christmas news with their peers, they are acutely aware of the differences in what they received from Santa Claus and they will instantly see themselves as “less than” or “superior to” especially when they get that little bit older. They might have thoughts like “but I was a good girl… maybe I just wasn’t good enough!” or “It doesn’t matter how hard I try, Santa Claus still doesn’t think I deserve what I wished for”. This just breaks my heart!! It’s up to us parents to navigate this time with a little more thought and compassion for others, especially for the children.
If you really want/need to give children extravagant presents, be “honest” and tell them that you bought them and that Santa Claus can just give smaller presents such as cuddly toys, dolls or games as he has to get presents for so many children.
Children are very resilient, and if you’re struggling financially it’s much better to tell them that you can’t afford a certain present this year, but that Santa Claus will hopefully get a lovely toy or game (there still has to be that little bit of magic, uncertainty and an element of surprise…that’s just my personal view) Maybe you can start a little piggy bank together and save up during the year for a bigger present.
It’s not about disappointing children, quite the opposite. It’s about giving children “realistic” expectations and not leaving children in the belief that they are not good enough, or better than others. Children are able to understand and accept the truth of their own situation if it is handled fairly and explained truthfully and with compassion.
Christmas is a time when we should make sure we can all have a lovely celebration with friends and family, or even with new friends and people who care. There are many fantastic initiatives helping to make sure no child is left behind and we can all be a part of that. Donate to toy collections or support organisations that make it their mission to make sure it’s a Happy Christmas for everyone.
Wishing you all a peaceful Advent full of magic and joy xxx
To read more about introducing a more mindful lifestyle and being part of a positive change check out “Roots and Wings – Childhood needs a Revolution” and our Mindful Games. Thank you!
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