This article originally appeared in the Nov. 24, 2011, edition of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
“Black Friday” may have an ominous name, but for many families across the country, it marks the start of the holiday season. While many have embraced this unofficial holiday as a sacred part of their traditions, others wonder what a day devoted to shopping can teach children about the meaning of the holidays. Do parents who want to instill generosity in their children need to stay at home on Black Friday?
Savvy shoppers, take heart: There is room for both doorbuster sales and teaching children to be generous and to give to others. Parents can take the opportunity to save money and teach their children lessons about generosity and kindness.
“If a family can truly afford to buy something nice for their children, it’s good to talk to the kids about the blessings that particular family has,” said Dr. Heidi Sallee, a pediatrician at SSM Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center and associate professor at Saint Louis University School of Medicine. “Parents can talk to their children and explain that they’re able to get nice things but other people might not be as fortunate, and talk about what they can do to help other children.”
A growing trend among parents is to make the weekend after Thanksgiving an opportunity for children to weed out their toy collection. As children get older, the toys they received in past years will become less appealing. As the holiday season approaches, children can take the opportunity to determine which of their gently used toys would be appropriate to donate to charities.
Some children may have trouble parting with their toys. It can be human nature sometimes to hold on to what is “mine” even if the child doesn’t play with the toy very often. However, parents can use the toy purging as an opportunity to talk to children about the importance of giving to others who may be less fortunate. Not every child is lucky enough to receive toys, and parents can teach their children to be grateful for what they have and compassionate to others.
Although SSM Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center cannot accept used toys, many local charities will accept gently used toys in good condition. Most resale shops gratefully accept used toys and games and sell them to families at a reasonable price.
Parents can give children freedom to make choices as they sort through their toys and determine which to give away. One pile can be donated to charity and another to a younger sibling or family member, or perhaps to a friend. As parents sort through the toys with their children, they can ask where the toys should go.
Toy purging can be a game, as well. As the child selects where the toy should go, parents can ask to share favorite memories about the toy. Parents can remind children that these fun memories will stay with them even though the toy is going to make another child happy.
Although Black Friday is often a great opportunity to cross wanted items off a holiday list and replace donated toys, parents walk a delicate balance between wanting to give their children everything they want and raising young people with a sense of financial responsibility.
“As my daughter has gotten older she has said, ‘I would rather get just a few presents that I really want instead of lots of things I don’t really want as much,’” Sallee said. “It is important to help kids prioritize and understand that, when they want something that is really expensive like a gaming system, they won’t necessarily be able to get everything on their list.”
No matter how elaborate your holiday giving plans, it is important to talk to children about the true meaning of the holidays and the spirit of kindness and generosity that surrounds this special time of year.
Dr. Bob Wilmott is Chief of Pediatrics at SSM Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center and is a Professor of Pediatric Medicine at Saint Louis University School of Medicine. If you have a question about your child’s health, go to the “Ask Dr. Bob” section of the Cardinal Glennon Web site at www.cardinalglennon.com.