What Do Children Really Want For Christmas?

A Christmas angel decoration with cosy yellow lights in the background.

By Victoria Bytel, Associate Elect, Lighthouse International

With Christmas just around the corner, how can any parent even contemplate not providing their child with the long list of presents they have selected and been dreaming of for weeks? Nobody wants to imagine an upset, disappointed child on this day of all days, especially when they know it could have been otherwise, but what is the true cost of doing this?

A study from the University of Missouri, Columbia suggests that;

“children who expect many and expensive gifts can suffer negative social and emotional ramifications that extend well beyond their childhood”.

Furthermore, as adults, these children are;

“more prone to credit-card debt, gambling and compulsive shopping, feeding an insatiable hunger for more, potentially fuelling addictive behaviours."

What Really Makes Christmas Special?

Let’s pause and take a few deep breaths. We are not suggesting no presents.  🙂

However, there is something else that children value above gifts - your time and attention.   

Think back to your abiding childhood Christmas memories. Do you remember all the gifts you received or just a few special ones?

What will also stand out, if not more so, are the memories and feelings from that time. Maybe it’s the excitement of time with friends and family, helping (or trying!) to light the Christmas pudding, going with dad to collect Auntie Sue on Christmas morning, singing (badly in my case) Christmas songs with your classmates, attempting to beat your annoying brother or sister at Trivial Pursuit, or just that it was the one day of the year when everyone came together.

Developing Gratitude And Appreciation

So yes, fewer and more meaningful presents is important, but taking the time to enjoy them together is just as important.

Quality time together enjoying presents will also help your child develop important values such as gratitude. The University of Missouri study said that;

“Each time children express their gratitude, they become more aware of how fortunate they are, which paves the way for them to be more generous and less materialistic."

Spend time with your children and model warmth, gratitude and generosity to help curb materialism.”

Making This a Reality In Your Own Family

You may think you already have too much to do before and during Christmas that you can’t possibly take on something else. After all, you have all that shopping, planning, cooking and entertaining to do, and that’s on top of your day job!

There’s always something to do but what is most important? 

The principle of Personal Management, the third principle of effectiveness, is about prioritising your time and focusing your energy on who and what is most important.

You have an opportunity to create even more wonderful, life-long memories with your children at Christmas. It might be baking Christmas treats together as gifts for friends and family; making inexpensive table presents or crackers with awful jokes to enjoy and share around the dinner table; or making up your own words to classic Christmas songs. It may also be the choice between another computer game or a game for all the family to enjoy together, after all who doesn’t enjoy watching Uncle Tony lose at Pie Face and end up with whipped cream on his face!

So take an hour or two over the next few weeks to plan in time to enjoy the experience of Christmas with your family, up to and including the big day. It doesn’t have to cost more, in fact it will most probably save you money but it will return memories and gratitude for many years to come. 

And if you still need convincing, watch this video and hear what children themselves say really matters to them at Christmas. You might just be surprised:


Reach Out

Struggling to manage our many commitments and make quality time for our loved ones is a common problem. If you’d like help prioritising and managing your time better, reach out through our live chat on this page and arrange an informal chat with one of our mentors, many of us are parents too!


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