Don't buy into holiday commercialism

Posted: November 14, 2012

THE FORCES OF creeping commercialism of the holidays are making a big move on Thanksgiving this year. It has sort of turned into a "retail arms race," with Black Friday no longer even occurring on a Friday.

Some of the biggest box stores are going to start their Black Friday sales at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day. That means they are now camping on the perimeter of the big feast's pumpkin pie, coffee and post-meal conversation. Most people going to the 8 p.m. sales will leave at 6:30 to travel and get into position for the mayhem of the doors opening.

We'll see more of this type of intrusion every year, and our collective reaction is to get mad, shrug and say, "What can we do about it?" With our kids, we can try to shield them from the excesses of the holidays and model some degree of sanity in the face of the increasing materialism that pushes out the wonderful aspects of family time and making memories.

While this time of year is dominated by holiday commercialism, it's also a good time for materialism to take a holiday. I've often written that one of the best aspects of the holiday season is that it gives parents a great chance to develop empathy with your kids. It is a time to focus on compassion for those kids and families with so little at Thanksgiving and Christmas. In fact, the holidays are the best time of the year for teachable moments and for providng much-needed education about values to kids.

Just look at the lack of values exhibited by kids in their classrooms and our communities. When you see cruel and violent behavior by kids, it makes you wonder where the parents were. Where are the values? It's as if the parents of these sociopaths-in-training deliberately decided to raise rotten kids.

I believe that much of parenting is being ready to capitalize on teachable moments and embed values into their children's social DNA. These are moments when what you say and do can have enormous impact on kids and carry them through their teen years and into adulthood.

Starting a tradition with your child of contributing a gently used toy of theirs or saving and buying a present for another child is a great way to celebrate the holidays. This tradition naturally leads into teaching about service to others.

This year, the devastation and the aftereffects of Superstorm Sandy in New Jersey are still creating misery and difficulty for whole communities. In this tragedy comes a chance for parents to connect their kids to the value of serving others. You and your kids can actually be involved in the massive effort to restore places that your family may visit every summer.

First, find out if your child's school may be involved in relief efforts and offer to help organize and support their efforts. If the school is not yet involved, talk with them and with other parents about organizing an effort. This could consist of a bake sale, a walk or other fundraising ideas that engage kids in activities that reinforce the value of service to others. Of course, these activities offer moments about how to effectively take impulses of wanting to help and doing them in ways that are truly helpful.

I'm a big fan of kids reaching out in the neighborhood to collect supplies like blankets and batteries for those who are hard hit.

If you really want to commit to the relief effort and you think your child is ready for it, make a trip to a Shore community and see both the destruction and the efforts to restore homes and communities. There may even be opportunities to volunteer and help with the restoration.

Also, there is a fundraising effort, led by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and first lady Mary Pat Christie. The website is:

sandynj relieffund.org

Finally, Sandy not only offers a chance for your child to develop empathy for the victims and the need to be fulfilled by serving others, but it also provides evidence of resilience. It shows that Americans know how to come back from devastation and pitch in to make it happen as quickly as possible - developing this sense in your child that everyone gets knocked down, but how we get back up is the mark of a person.

I'd suggest that a good ongoing project would be to chart with your child the progress of New Jersey towns as they move forward. Hopefully, next holiday season, as the forces of creeping materialism start Black Friday sales at 5 p.m., much of New Jersey will be restored, and your child will remember that he or she helped to restore it.


Teacher-turned-talk show host Dom Giordano is heard on WPHT (1210-AM) radio. Contact Dom at domgiordano.com.

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