Celebration Burn-Out. How to shift our kid's attitudes about holidays and birthdays? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 6 Old 04-20-2014, 01:12 PM - Thread Starter
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Wondering if any other mamas noticed a shift in attitude and energy with their children about birthdays and holidays/special days as their kids got older. When I first became a mom I wanted to focus on the meaning and celebration of special days and less on empty materialism and commercialization. I have worked over the past 8 years of being a mom to weave in a lot of old (from me & DH's families) and new traditions. We often redirect our children in discussion when they are fixating on the "stuff" (candy, presents, etc) and remind them of what the celebrations represent and how family, sharing, giving and meaning are a big part of why we celebrate. I know they are children and I remember fixating as a child too on the material things, It's just that DH and I have noticed that our 3 oldest- especially in the past year or two- Almost seem to not even ENJOY themselves anymore during celebrations- due to competitiveness, jealousy, fixation on material things, "what next?", feeling lack instead of abundance, and burnout form overstimulation.  A big factor, i think, is both DH and I grew up in singular families and out older children have two families, so every celebration is doubled up, not to mention visiting and celebrating with grandparents etc. We have tried to smooth out these busy times but it is hard!


For example, yesterday was DS2's Birthday party and today was Easter. I accidentally planned the party before I realized Easter was the next day. I let DS2 help plan the party, hand made a lot of the decorations etc, and did not get overly elaborate gifts but things he really wanted. His attitude during the whole party was "what comes next?!" instead of enjoying ANYTHING. Even opening presents, he immediately put them all in a  bag, set them aside, and wanted to know when he could have a party favor!  i caught him sneaking other party favors and putting them in his bag after opening presents. He and DSS bickered the whole time, we kept redirecting them or saying "it's a birthday party! Relax!" cheerfully but DS2 was just too stressed about his party that he was trying to micromanage everyone and everything. (He just turned 7). So today was Easter, and I do an elaborate riddle-hunt every year that last year the kids loved. It was a tradition- My parents did the same thing. After finding his basket (10 or 15 minutes later) DSS told me the riddles were lame and "too easy", and said that the one at his mom's house was boring and "too easy" too. They were mostly disinterested in their Easter things after, and Only argued about who got more eggs after the hunt. (I would like to add we do a lot of other things to celebrate like sharing stories, crafts, cooking, meals, rituals/traditions, etc- Just pointing out what the children tend to be hyper focused on).


I'm just wondering, is this an age thing? I remember holidays when they were younger feeling a lot more joyful, simple, and more gratitude. I know I can't force gratitude and joy, We try to demonstrate it as parents often, but I'm sort of at a loss, and wish in some ways we could just do a complete overhaul on how we celebrate and embody our values in our family. It's complicated because even if we toned things down a lot at home, our children have expectations stemming from their other household experiences and those with extended family. I'm at a point where I feel like if they don't seem to value or appreciate or enjoy several gifts and a thoughtfully planned party, why not just scale down a lot and refocus?!


Does anyone else relate? Is it an age thing? How do you celebrate while embodying your values with your kids? Have you ever changed the way you celebrate to make it more simplistic or less materialistic? How do you talk to you children about holidays and their meanings, and what do you do when they seem overly focused on the material things or are unhappy?

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#2 of 6 Old 04-20-2014, 05:50 PM
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I think things have become very commercialized and kids just get bombarded with so much that any single thing gets lost in the crowd of gifts.


My daughter just turned 6 last week.


For birthdays - I keep it very simple:  On the actual day (last Tuesday), we had a small family gift exchange and my 6 yo got 3-4 presents from family and that was enough.  Then pizza and cake (her choice) and that was it.


 On the day of the "friends invited party" - NO GIFTS!  Who needs the junk?


My daughter had a birthday swim party yesterday at a local rec center - I specified on the invitation:  No gifts, please just bring a suit, towel and a smile (and only one child out of almost 20 brought a gift and I discreetly put it in a bag to open later - I think parents were relieved).  The focus of the party - an hour of swimming, I provided each child with a net/string bag for wet suits and inside the bag was a cheap beach ball.


They all ate pizza, then ran around like crazy with the beach balls, ate cake, played a bit more and then families started leaving.  Not a single comment about gifts from any of the kids - they seemed to think it perfectly normal to have a party with no presents.  And the goodie bag was a net bag with a cheap beach ball - how easy (and utilitarian).


This is her second year of parties with no gifts.  Last year, when she turned 5, a few friends (NO GIFTS) and pizza and "Build A Bear" and each of the children was able to pick a bear.  My daughter didn't feel cheated.  The big excitement of the day was getting her ears pierced.  Again, no gifts.


Christmas - 2-3 Santa gifts and a fun stocking and a few things from relatives.  We spend more time watching what other family members are opening.


Today - a basket of chocolates and jelly beans and she just thought it was too cool that the Easter Bunny gave her MILK DUDS, her favorite.

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#3 of 6 Old 05-04-2014, 05:36 AM
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I can relate to your plight! In our house we have 4 birthdays, Easter, Mother's Day and an anniversary all within the space of 5 weeks. Even I get burned out on it! (Mine is the last birthday of them all and you can just feel people thinking "another birthday??!! Crap!)


When children are little everything is so magical, that you can infuse 'the holy' or special into things very easily. When they are older and more logical thinkers, they kind of 'want what they want.' 


However, my older teenagers now say to me that the rituals we have done with holidays and birthdays are the most meaningful to them, and they would be upset if we didn't do them. So hang in there! Keep doing what you think is valuable and just act like everyone likes it! Many years (especially the 9-13 year old years) I felt like a fool keeping all the traditions up, but they have now verified for me that I did the right thing!!!

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#4 of 6 Old 05-04-2014, 10:21 AM
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I think they sound very normal. I do think its an age thing. My kids often seem ungrateful for what they have, and always seem to want more. It takes lots of redirection and gentle converstations to keep everything in perspective. My 8YO is getting a little better about this (seems like 7 was the worst age). She still has a hard time with some things though. Both my kids have been known to fight over party favors and trinkets. I have to keep asking, "Do you really want this trinket? What are you going to do with it? How often are you going to play with it? Where will you keep it?"

Another thing we've done is started an allowence for the kids. They each get $2 a week. It cuts down on the , "....but I really wanted XYZ" at holidays, because they know my next answer will be, "Lets go count your allowence money and then figure out how long it will take you to save up for XYZ". Its funny how once they have to budget their own money, they can suddenly prioritize what they really want.

I think as the kids get older, we will start focusing more on giving, rather than receiving (though they will continue to receive). Last year, I had my girl scout troop make ornaments for all of their teachers at Christmas time. They really enjoyed making and giving, and it took some of the focus off of everything they receive that time of year.
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#5 of 6 Old 05-04-2014, 10:38 AM
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I totally sympathize! My IL's live right next door and my kids get tons of stuff for holidays but then also every time they visit, which is obviously very often. We do very minimal holiday stuff other than bake cookies, or make something, decorate the house a little so it gets very frustrating. Lately, my 3 yr old will complain or pout that she didn't get anything (as in a present) when we are just going to the grocery store. We have just pretty much stopped doing much for gifts, 1 or 2 at bdays, 2 or 3 for Christmas, no Easter baskets but maybe a coloring book, and then whatever the IL's give I just try to politely ask the kids to pick out one of the presents to bring home with them and then the rest stay at grandma's house for when they visit. My house would look like I should be on "hoarders" otherwise, not to mention the amount of candy and junk food that we would get stuck with; and I cant stand 'stuff' in the first place.

MIL has a shopping problem and hoarding issues along with over eating and food issues and I just refuse to let it project onto my kids or follow us into our house.

I think 'society' and the 'media' really make it so much harder on our kids too. I think trying to limit the over stimulation and materialism is a 365 days a year project. Limiting tv and internet, discussing why we are not bringing home 5 bajillion gifts home from grandma's house or why we dont need a new Barbie because we did just get some good food that we get to look forward to having at home, etc. It makes me sad that I had to start having these conversations so young but hopefully it will be easier than 'untraining' their way of thinking later on.



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#6 of 6 Old 05-04-2014, 03:51 PM
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At least in our family, we've decided that we do one X whether Easter celebration of birthday celebration. We may or may not host (usually we do) but there is never going to be two egg hunts or multiple grandparent shindigs. That is completely overwhelming. Also, we ask the grandparents to limit gifts and that helps a lot.

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