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My wife and I are experiencing the effects of the economic downturn. With Chanukah approaching, how should we talk to our kids about not being able to give presents this year?–Sholom, Denver, CO

Sholom, as you well know, you are far from alone in these difficult times .   We all wish you and your wife a lot of strength and courage as you go through this time and pray that Hashem grants you hatzlachah (success) in securing a better financial situation for your family in the very near future.

About your parenting question….

Talking to kids about hardship involves some preparation.  Before you begin to talk, think about what you want each child to know.  Hold the intention to be reassuring and calm. It is fair to explain that things are a bit tough financially right now. While it is not necessary to give all the details, don’t lie to your children. With each child, keep the language and information age appropriate.    Most important of all, assure each one that the whole family is safe.

Next, have a  family meeting.   Explain that there won’t be regular gift giving for Chanukah this year.    This Chanukah will be extremely special for everyone.  You are going to be spending some quality time together as a family.   Then, go around the table and ask each child and each   for a fun-to-do but low cost Chanukah idea.  One person may ask for a family games night.  Another may suggest a gift exchange where everyone makes a card or gives a personal item to another family member. A third person may suggest a crafts night where Chanukah decorations are made and hung.  There could be a chesed night, a cooking night, a music night and a learning night.   Imagine the possibilities!

The biggest benefit is that the family connection that will emerge will be palpable.   Plus, your children will learn the lesson of the Chanukah miracle:  that when things seem dark, we  need to take the step to light a candle.. and Hashem will light up the room!

So, Sholom, why not make this the most memorable Chanukah you’ve ever had?  Your children will treasure the experience and your  neighbors and friends will learn so much  from your family’s example.

©2009 Deborah E. Katz , JPARENT, LLC All rights reserved.
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