Parenting Q & A

Ellen Barrett, a parent educator at Heights Parent Center for the last 12 years, fields questions from parents about the daily ups and downs of parenting. The same issues impact many parents. If you have questions you would like Ellen to respond to in this column, e-mail her at 

Q. Although my husband and I really want to keep the holidays simple, my parents and in-laws are already asking what we want for our son’s first Christmas! This is their first grandchild and many of our relatives are very excited to be able to celebrate with a young child -- bringing sugarplums, reindeer and all of the traditions around Santa back into the holiday.

We’re not sure this is what we want. How can we celebrate the holiday season with our family and keep it simple at the same time?

A. This is a great time to ask those questions and the perfect time to talk about what you and your husband want your holiday season to look like now and going forward. Your child doesn’t have any preconceived ideas. This is your opportunity to shape your own family traditions. 

So ask yourself: How do we see the holiday season looking when our child is three years-old? When he’s eight? When he’s 12? What traditions do we want to carry from our own childhood? What new traditions do we want to create? What role do we want gift giving to play in the holiday? How many gifts do we want our kids to get each year? 

Once you’ve thought it through together, your wishes will be easier to communicate with your family. 

Explain that you want to have the holidays be a reflection of family “old and new.” Give family members specific ideas for gifts. Give it enough thought so the gift fills a void (does your child really need it?), so the gift giver feels it matters. Consider a membership to the zoo, children’s museum or an annual pass to Heights Parent Center. Each year your relative can renew it, too.

You can also consider starting a gift tradition with family members: a similar item each year (trains for the train set for example), or exchanging ornaments for the tree.

However, it’s important to put yourselves in your family’s shoes. Be sure to recognize that gift giving is an expression of love and your child is loved by all of those family members. It should be within that context that you discuss the holidays with your extended family.

Read More on "Got kids?" Corner
Volume 2, Issue 12, Posted 10:28 AM, 11.17.2009