J.Kids & Teens: With Focus Off Gifts, Everything Has Meaning!

Hanukkah has all the ingredients for a wonderful family holiday – a good story, strong rituals, fun songs, delicious (fried!) food, a kid-friendly gambling game, colorful candles and, of course, presents.

Despite all the potentially delightful parts of the holiday, oftentimes the presents become the dominant focus, which can be unpleasant and stressful for parents. We feel pressure to have “exciting” gifts each night. We are dismayed when our children want to rush through the prayers and songs. Buying all those gifts is expensive and lots of work. And finally, the influx of so many new playthings into our houses can create clutter, mess and stress.

Given the above, are you hoping to celebrate Hanukkah differently this year to take some of the focus off of presents? Well you are surely not alone! Here are some ideas about how to keep things balanced this Hanukkah:
• Invite friends over on several nights of the holiday. When friends are over, the focus shifts from presents to fun conversation and lively games of dreidel.
• Move beyond basic potato latkes: have fun exploring different latke toppings and other fried-in-oil foods, such as sweet potato latkes, apple fritters and sufganiot (jelly donuts). Better yet, cook these holiday treats together with your children!
• Reinvigorate your dreidel game by stocking up on various items to be used in place of gelt or pennies: chocolate-covered raisins, jelly beans and gummy bears are all fun to use.
• Add to your Hanukkah song repertoire. There are so many great Hanukkah songs – make sure your family knows lots of them. Have another family come over and teach each other your favorite songs for the holiday.
• Finally, don’t make presents the end point of the evening; sing some more songs and play some dreidel after the present exchange.
After you restore some balance by focusing on the other wonderful parts of the holiday, it’s time to thoughtfully embrace the present-giving:
• Clarify your values and make sure the gifts you give are aligned with them.
• Art supplies make great gifts – not only do they encourage creativity, they also eventually get used up!
• Think “experience” gifts: magazine subscriptions, zoo or OMSI memberships, gift certificates to a local coffee shop where you can have a hot chocolate date, etc.
• Games are a fun choice because you get to spend time together while playing.
• Don’t give gifts that will drive you crazy! You’re the parent, you get to choose what you bring into your home. Tired of stepping on Legos? Don’t buy ‘em! Dislike the frantic search for batteries? Buy toys that run on imagination instead.
This year, your family’s Hanukkah can be a time of joy, fun and connection where presents are not the sole focus, but just one of the many wonderful parts of your eight-day celebration!

Lisa Weiner, MSN, is a nurse practitioner, certified Simplicity Parenting counselor and mother of two wonderful boys. To find out more about Lisa’s classes, workshops and family consulting, visit HandmadeParenting.com

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