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  • Writer's pictureKaren Buffier

All I want for Christmas.

So it's a funny concept to raise our kids with the idea of 'all I want" at any time of the year.

In a time where technology and marketing drives the planet and many families have little need to actually save for the 'special things' in life thanks to the explosion of 'credit' (and the unethical retail credit market) it seems a good time of year to reflect on what really should matter to our kids at this time of year.

For me, many of these same values are the main reason I love to take my kids travelling. This is particularly true when we visit places with far less commercial appetite than Australia and the Western world.

My oldest daughter is only six years old but it makes me proud that she has started to recognise how fortunate we are and quite regularly reminds her little sister there are kids in other countries who have no toys and no food. She then goes on to explain that they shouldn't whinge that they are thirsty when on the odd occasion they don't have a drink bottle readily accessible in their nice, comfortable, air conditioned car.

Of course, like most six year old children this insightful and mature version only makes short appearances before her alter ego quickly resurfaces with the belief that she really may die without a drink in the next ten minutes!

I like to think that over the next few years of travel that this understanding of the world will continue to grow my kids patience, tolerance and consideration for the bigger picture. Ultimately I hope that travel will instil in my kids the knowledge and experience to be grateful for all the wonderful comforts they have in life and to really appreciate all the small things.

Increasingly, gratitude is being linked to higher levels of well-being and happiness for adults so it makes sense to concentrate on this as an important part of your child's development.

Now I definitely haven't mastered the art of gratitude with my own kids as I can vouch for a rather stressful shopping trip last week with my four year old to buy some small gifts for teachers. After the first hour of tears and tantrums over having to actually buy something for someone else I was left wondering where I might be going so terribly wrong.

So how can we encourage our kids to appreciate what they have?

Travelling can expose kids to harsh realities that makes them consider those less fortunate, and Christmas time can have this same effect as they may become aware of classmates or friends who don't have things quite as easily as they do. This exposure can often be the catalyst for conversations and kids wanting to do something to help.

Our role as parents must then kick in to help nurture this curiosity and to teach them about how they may be able to make a difference.

At this time of year it really would be lovely to think that limits could be placed on gifts and a renewed focus on spending quality time with the people that matter most. This could make a big difference to how our kids grow up and what they value as important.

I recall a moment travelling through Mozambique where we came across some kids playing in the street with nothing more than a toy car that they had made out of an old cardboard box and wheels made from milk bottle lids. This group of kids were so joyous and relaxed that it really made me ponder how badly we are screwing up our own kids with our cluttered and

stressful lives.

Imagine if we spent half as much time shopping at Christmas time and actually bothered to convert that into meeting up or calling someone throughout the year.

I am often left bewildered and a little disappointed at just how much new stuff my kids seem to have by the time the calendar flicks over to 26 December. After friends, family and santa all give a bit it does lead to a level of guilt over the environmental impact of our excess and the complete lack of need that they truly have for any of it.

I guess that is why so many of us then pile up the back of the SUV a few weeks later to make a guilt dash to offload a bit to charity.

Oh such idealistic expectations! It seems all kids will still have their long list of "all i want for christmas" wishes.....

I must quietly thank the very helpful shopping mall Santa who explained to my kindergartener that little girls her age really don't need a brand new i-pad from Santa!

Living life outside the square is a fabulous way of allowing your kids to grow into well rounded, mature adults. With a little bit of luck and many adventures along the way I really do believe that we can contribute to the outcome of our kids life choices.

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