You have done everything you can possibly do to give your kids the best Christmas Season possible, but no matter how hard you try the money just isn’t there. Perhaps you need to decide between putting that special dinner on the table, buying Christmas gifts and having some other form of costly tradition. You have probably been pretty stressed out, spent more hours with your head in your hands then you wish to confess to and now have finally realized that no matter how hard you try there is just nothing you can do to hide your financial situation from your kids any further.
Allow me to assure you from experience, that most children can be very understanding and are most of the time very eager to help out. The key is to give them the facts in a very age appropriate manner and convert their mind immediately by giving suggestions on how they might be able to help make the situation better.
Small children (Ages 3 to 9) very seldom have any sort of concept of money. They have no idea yet how hard it can be for an Adult to earn the funds necessary to take care of everything needed to keep them safe. On the upside of that is that most kids during within this age group are not yet quiet as jaded and are still much easier pleased with small things. As much as they love the flashy new toys, they are just as easily pleased with the opportunity of unwrapping “many” packages.
Think dollar Store and homemade presents for Christmas and enlist your kids in becoming Santa’s little helpers. If you have more then one little munchkin, take those that are old enough to help make gifts at a time and ask them to help you create some easy to make homemade gifts. Make sure to emphasize how much of a big help they are in making this holiday just a bit brighter. Safe money on wrapping paper by asking your kids to create some wonderful pieces of Christmas Art which you can use to wrap up presents for Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles and close Friends of the Family.
Ask little ones to help you make “ornaments”, which you can give away as presents. You can also ask them to help you put the Elf Christmas Dinner together. What would an Elf eat for Christmas? If you would like to keep it more traditionally Christian you can also explain that Marie and Joseph were very poor and didn’t have all that fancy food for the birth of Baby Jesus and that you don’t have to have Turkey, Ham etc to celebrate this Holiday.
Children 10 to 15 Years old
These kids are a lot smarter then most of us give them credit for. By this point, the belief in Santa Claus has long since stopped as well. You don’t want to destroy their Christmas, but if you sit them down you can explain to them why money is a bit tight right now. Let them know that you would like to give them everything they want, but you just can’t do it. You can ask them for their help in various ways.
Give them a price range you are able to afford and ask them to pick one or two presents they would really enjoy within that price range.
Ask them to help you make some presents for the younger children and those family members who are not living with you.
Ask them to help you pick between various Christmas Traditions. Let them know which ones the choices are and then give each person one full weight vote. (A good lesson in having to make choices that are not comfortable at all) Encourage them to weight out the Pro and Cons for each choice they have.
Tell them what you have available financially for Christmas Dinner and have your kids go shopping with you for it. You may just be surprised what you end up eating that Night. My kids did this with me one year and we ended up saving enough money on the Dinner (turned out to be extra cheesy Tuna Noodle Casserole and Apple Pie with Ice Cream for dessert) to be able to purchase a DVD we all wanted as a family Christmas Gift.
The big kids (Ages 16 to 18)
I am sorry to say, but at this point they have a right to know what is going on and even have the opportunity to help out financially. At this point they are so close to being Adults that they need to realize what happens when finances take a sudden nose dive.
Let your kids honestly know that there may not be any money for Presents this year and that if they want something very badly, they may have to get a small job and purchase it them-selves.
If they insist on a fancy Christmas Feast (for some reason this seems to be the age were they seem to be the most demanding and even most clueless ones) then you may give them to option to be the supplier of the feast. At this Age they are able to get small part time jobs, baby sitting jobs, dog walking jobs etc.
I know it appears a bit harsh to most of you, but at this point they really need to learn that just because you want something it will be readily given to you. Perhaps when it is on their Shoulders to earn the money to supply what they believe to be so important they will get a whole new appreciation of the value of a Dollar.
Not an easy lesson to teach a child at the last moment, but hopefully you have already installed an attitude of gratitude, being happy for what you can have and perhaps even that it is more important to be together with those you love then having a lot of fancy new things. Remember that nothing ever lasts forever and that when times are the darkest there is usually a small sliver of light somewhere around the corner. Keep your head up and use this opportunity in getting closer to your kids and teach them some important life lessons!