Handling the Holidays

by: 

Brandy King

This post was written by guest blogger Brandy King of Knowledge Linking. After spending the last eight years working with research on children and media, Brandy now faces the challenge of raising two young boys in our media-saturated and commercialized world.

 
Yet another holiday season has arrived with its doorbuster sales, cyber deals, and mile-long wish lists. What does a commercial-free family do when faced with the consumerism and commercialism that rule the season?
 
The wide variety of answers I received from some like-minded parents demonstrates just how many different ways there are to handle all the holiday hoopla. How does your family respond to these situations? Tell us in the comments!
 
Do you say anything specific to gift-givers about your preference for commercial-free gifts?
  • “Instead, we’ve expressed a preference for good quality toys that have an educational component, that encourage free, imaginative play and that aren't too noisy. Since both our moms were teachers, they appreciate this line of thinking!”
  • “No, I’m afraid to sound ungrateful by limiting people’s generosity.”
  • “The conversation about WHY we feel this way can get involved, especially in a large Italian family where everyone has an opinion. Sometimes it's easier to just let it slide and hide the toys at my mom’s house until I can figure out what to do with them.”
If your kids receive commercialized gifts, do you keep them?
  • “We have donated or consigned several items we thought were not for us.”
  • “It depends on the gift. I let the kids wear pajamas with characters on them, but do not allow characters on any other clothes since I don’t want my children to walk around like an advertisement.”
  • “We’ve given some items away, but there are some exceptions, of course. My sister made a pillow case for my daughter with Kermit fabric. We kept it and refer to it as "Auntie’s frog pillow." I think the difference with this gift versus others lies with intention and marketing (or, at least, that's what my gut tells me). The pillow case wasn't created to pad the coffers of a company, it was lovingly sewn by my daughter's aunt. “
What do you do if your children ask for an item you don’t particularly want them to have (commercial or not)?
  • “When my 5 year old daughter asked for a Hannah Montana backpack, I talked to her about what she liked about it. We figured out that she liked the “rock-star vibe” and found a neat black backpack with a microphone and guitar on it. Now she loves that she has something unique!”
  • “When my daughter saw dolls she liked in a catalog, I asked her why she liked them (rather than telling her that she shouldn't like them) and she told me it was because they all had pets. I was able to use this to move the conversation to pets in general, and specifically animal toys. It was both a conversation about marketing (at a two-year-old's level) as well as redirection to something more appropriate in my book.”
  • “With my fourth grader, I’m apt to ask questions and consider his answers. “Why do you want this product? How did you learn about it? What makes it appealing to you? Do you think it would still be fun in a month? A season? A year? How much money is reasonable to spend on something you’re not sure you’ll play with six months from now?” Also, I remind him that he is old enough to save up his own money to purchase items I may not be inclined to get him.”
As you can see in these answers, there are a lot of different strategies parents use to combat commercialism, and they draw the line differently depending on the situation. What's your advice for making it through the holidays as a commercial-free family? Weigh in below!

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