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Christmas in hard times.

This year, many families will be downsizing their Christmas celebration because of economic hard times. According to Wanda Draper, a child development expert at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, lowering material expectations can be a positive learning experience for the entire family, especially children.

"First and foremost, parents should not apologize for not having as plush a Christmas as in previous years. [They] should be very frank with their children. They should simply say it will be a new kind of Christmas, with no apologies." She points out that apologies may aggravate the situation and increase the sense of guilt in youngsters, who often assume it was something they did that has caused the diminishment of the holiday season.

"Actually, celebrating a more modest Christmas materially can be a blessing in disguise. It can be an opportunity for children to take part in the Christmas celebration more fully than ever." She suggests the following for those sqeezed by the economy:

* Have a discussion about how everyone wants to celebrate the holiday. Talk about past Christmases and what each person recalls most fondly. Often, it is not the gifts people remember as much as the caring and feeling experienced. Emphasize those things that are valued most.

* Choose handmade gifts crafted by family members for other family members. This may be something as elaborate as an afghan or a piece of furniture or as simple as a book of poems or photos.

* Give something that's already owned to another. A good example might be when an older sister gives a cherished ring to a younger sister. "It is good for families to get away from the idea that the word `present' means a VCR, designer jeans, or a TV. Such gifts may fade away, but many times gifts that mean something to other family members are kept for life."

* When youngsters pitch in by doing extra work at home or taking odd jobs to earn extra money, it makes their contribution to the holiday more meaningful. Such earnings aimed at buying modest gifts "represent part of the person," Draper maintains, just as homemade and person-to-person gifts do. "It is really an opportunity to share the spirit of giving."

She recognizes that, especially for older children, the matter of peer pressure often must be considered. They must have the confidence to say something akin to, "We're doing something special at my house. People have been giving ordinary gifts for years, and we want to do something really special for each other."

Finally, Draper discourages parents from saying that, during future Christmases, there will be an attempt to make up for the modest holiday this year. "Once again, that is apologizing. It is much better to talk about the warmth of past holidays and this Christmas, and what everyone has liked about them. Parents and children must determine that a modest Christmas is not an inferior [one]. The family must [decide] together that such a Christmas is right for the whole family and must be determined to make it so."
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Title Annotation:reducing materialism in family Christmas celebrations
Publication:USA Today (Magazine)
Date:Dec 1, 1993
Previous Article:Many things old are new again.
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