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As the holiday season rapidly approaches, the quest for the "perfect gift" for a child is in full swing. Along with the list that the child has already made, all of the manufacturers are flooding the various media sources with all of the "must haves" for your child. Most are cleverly packaged junk that is designed to be very appealing both to you and your child. Yes – parent appeal is always built in. After all, who could resists such lines as "Baby is a genius" or "Laugh, play, grow!"  

I am not necessarily demeaning these particular items – just noting that the ads are obviously not aimed at the child. That's why dolls for little boys are called "action figures." Boys could usually care less – but uptight fathers usually object to their little man playing with "dolls." The lists of this year's toys that are later found to be dangerous will come later.

So what is a parent to do?

The most enjoyable, meaningful, and fun gift that you can ever give your child – is YOU! It sounds too simple doesn't it. Being with you and being a part of holiday things is more important to a child than you could ever imagine. Years from now your child will have fond memories of all of the things that they did with you during Christmas – not just what they received. Think back on your own fond childhood Christmas memories and you will find that more often than not, this is true.

The list of ways to involve your child is almost endless, but here are some suggestions that with a little bit of effort, most parents (or grandparents) can do;

Make at least one ornament for the Christmas tree together. Styrofoam balls, pins, and such are very cheap. Remember that it is the process of doing it together and putting it proudly on the tree that is important – not how wonderful it actually is. Be sure and write the date on it.

Let the child help you decorate the tree. I know that takes twice as long – but again remember that it is the process that is really important. If you are going to buy a tree – or new ornaments - or lights - let your child go along with you and help pick them out.

Encourage the child to make gifts for presents. I still use a small jewelry box made from popsicle sticks that my daughter made for me 30 years ago. Drawings are also great gifts that last over the years. If you decide to make a gift – let the child help you.  

Decide that you will make at least one long string of popcorn for the tree. Let the child help string it and put it on the tree. If the child is younger, let him/her ho;d the string or hand you the popcorn. There is always something they can do to help you. This is also a subtle way of teaching that the value or beauty of something does always depend on just the price – but rather on the thought and effort that went into it. Remember how you felt when your child proundly brought your first dandylion in from the yard and gave it to you?

Take a walk or a drive around your neighborhood or town to admire the Christmas lights and decorations. Talk about them. Who likes what and why? Like so many other things, have fun with it and your child will have fun with you.

As far as the gifts themselves go, try to avoid games, or videos, or movies, or toys that glorify violence or lawlessness. Be careful - many cartoon based "children's movies" and "children's books" are packed with real or implied violence.  

In my opinion, one of the very best gifts for any child is a suitable book – IF IT IS USED PROPERLY. Reading to your child from their own book is a wonderful bonding experience that teaches so many meaningful things and opens the door for real conversations about important things. Trust in talking to you about difficult things happens. Learning to listen and feeling safe to ask you questions are critical events to a child's learning and feeling of acceptance and safety.  

I know some of you are thinking, "Bah. My child can ask me anything!" Really? I hear that phrase from parents all the time. How often does your child actually ask you about things that are really important to them? This is a learned skill – and trust is always earned - it does not just happen by accident. You might want to think about that a bit.

Also be careful in the children's books that you select. Who recommends it? Anybody whose opinion you value? Like most things on the market for children, most of them are simply garbage – and in some cases they are very inappropriate in the violent or social content. Always read the book first before you read it to your child.  

My series of Seamus the Sheltie children's books were designed specifically to foster the meaningful communication and value lessons that I have mentioned in a fun and safe manner. Both "The Adventures of Seamus the Sheltie" and "More Tales of Seamus the Sheltie" were granted multiple awards from the National Parent-To-Parent organization. Awards were won in the "Best Gift for Children" and "Best Children's Book" categories.  

The books are available everywhere but if you order directly from my website, I will personalize the book(s) to your child. Visit [Link Removed] for more details and professional reviews. You can even listen to me doing a 3 minute reading from the book! Hint: If you join the Seamus Fan club (which takes about a minute) you can download Seamus posters and a Seamus coloring book for your child at no charge and with no obligation.    

Help make this Christmas a fun and meaningful experience for your child by letting them share in the family events.  

And shop wisely for them.

**James is a Masters level Child Psychologist and Internationally Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor who has worked with distressed families for 40 years. He is the author of the Seamus the Sheltie series of children's books that were designed to assist parents in discussing difficult issues with younger children. Both books have received multiple national awards from parenting organizations. Mr. Beverly has written and published articles on parenting in a variety of media.

Jamesbeverly001, Your links have been removed, please consider upgrading to premium membership.

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Member Comments

    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Addicted2scents wrote Dec 12, 2009
    • Thank you for a different yet more important view of the Holiday Season and how to give your children a [Link Removed] and memories that will last a lifetime instead of a toy that will be lost or forgotten within in months.

      Addicted2scents, Your links have been removed, please consider upgrading to premium membership.

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