The association of consumerism with the holiday season is, unfortunately, something that society begins to instill in individuals as early as young childhood. By the time the teen years roll around, “stuff” and “holidays” are almost synonymous. And if you think that it’s challenging to get your child to stop the cycle of consumerism for back to school season, then imagine how hard it can be for the holiday season. We’re here to help, of course. Today we’ve got our top tips for getting your teen to let go of the idea of holiday consumerism.
Tip Number One: Role Model Yourself
This one may seem incredibly obvious, and you may honestly feel as though you’re doing it already. But it’s worth it to take a step back and consider if that’s actually the case. Did you tell your teen not to get caught up in the gift buying while also coming home from Costco with gigantic packs of holiday kitsch? Did you buy a holiday item in October? Take a moment to pause and think about what you’re showing your teen and make one hundred percent sure it’s consistent with what you’re saying.
Tip Number Two: Limit the List
We know that, as parents, you always want your child to have better than you did, and that’s why it’s so tempting to buy them every item on their Christmas or holiday wish list. Resist the urge! It’s important that children learn that they don’t need every item that they want. If you give them every item on their list, there’s no way for them to disassociate “winning at the stuff game” with “holidays.”
Tip Number Three: Get Involved in Events
The more that you make the holidays about events instead of about stuff, the more that’s what will resonate with your teenager or child. They don’t have to be charitable events. They can be celebrations, seasonal theater, dinners with friends and family. The point is to model that the holidays are about actions, not boxes.
Tip Number Four: But Volunteer Work is an Important Part of the Mix
While making the holiday about events doesn’t need to be about volunteer or charitable work, showing your teen that the holidays aren’t about consumerism in ways that will resonate with him or her is an important part of breaking the consumer cycle. From soup kitchens to meal delivery for seniors to volunteering with underprivileged kids who won’t be getting lavished with “stuff” this holiday, make sure that your teen or child is seeing the other side of the holidays somewhat as well.
Tip Number Five: Show Them the Money
Especially if your child is an older teen, they can understand the realities of money (especially if you’ve been following some of our tips for teaching teens about budgeting). So show them your holiday budget (you did make a holiday budget, didn’t you?). Show them how much money you’ll need in the coming years to send them to college. Show them how much the items they’re asking for will cost and take out of that budget. Then ask them to make their own decisions about which “stuff” is important versus which bills and future goals. There’s only an upside to being financially transparent with a teen.
Tip Number Six: Show Them the Money, Literally.
Don’t give them stuff. Give them actual money. Yes, they likely are going to use that money to buy stuff, but they will end the day with a greater understanding of how far money goes and why “stuff” isn’t always the best use for it. Part of learning to avoid addictive consumerism is to understand that stuff has a cost and that cost can be used for other things as well.
Tip Number Seven: Be that Nag Who Points Out Consumer Messages
Think how many consumer messages you’re aware of as an adult in things like product placement, how characters are portrayed and subtle advertising that you weren’t aware of as a teen or child. Think how much more ahead of the game you’d be if somebody had educated you about these things when you were younger. Annoy your teen or child by pointing them out every time that you see them. You’re the parent – it’s okay to annoy your kid!
Tip Number Eight: Watch Movies that Celebrate the Season
That doesn’t have to mean religion in any way (though it certainly can if that’s a part of your life). We’ve actually created a list of holiday movies we love for a holiday movie marathon that also reckon with consumerism. The obvious choices are The Grinch Who Stole Christmas and It’s a Wonderful Life, but the point is to put media in front of your child that’s celebrating something other than stuff.
Tip Number Nine: Have Them Pick a Gift That’s Not Stuff
Just say no to stuff! Tell your teen or child they can pick gifts that aren’t stuff but are experiences. Gift certificates to restaurants, movie passes, charitable donations – if you’re financially lucky then even trips. You’re still the parent, and if you want to set a rule that gifts can’t be consumer goods, that’s just fine.
Tip Number Ten: Just Have a Frank Discussion
This may sound like crazy advice with a teen! But try just having a frank and open discussion with him or her about the realities of consumerism, holidays, the planet, the future and money. You may be surprised how responsive your teen is to upfront talk.
Did we miss a tip for talking to a teen about breaking the holiday consumer cycle? We’d like to hear about it. Tell us on the social media channels below.