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Spend holiday time with grandparents

By Bonnie Coblentz

MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Grandparents and even children can feel on the outside of the consumer whirlwind that seems to pick up intensity at the holidays.

Retailers tell consumers that the holidays are about spending lots of money to buy fabulous presents. Mississippians participate in this buying frenzy, and many spend more money than they should but still don't get the peace and goodwill they want on Christmas.

Some grandparents are on fixed incomes and may not have a lot of extra money for holiday gift-buying. Children, especially young ones, usually have very little money to spend on the people they love.

Louise Davis, child and family development specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said spending money and buying gifts do not determine whether or not the holiday season is happy.

“When people get older, what they really want more than anything else is our time,” Davis said. “Activities we do all year can be meaningful ways to share time with grandparents and older people who are important in our lives.”

Many grandparent-grandchild relationships are long distance, and the holidays are a good time to work on improving and strengthening those relationships.

While giving and receiving gifts is an expected part of the holidays, Davis encouraged people of all ages to remember that the idea behind giving gifts is to show love and caring.

“A grandparent could write a special note of caring thoughts to share along with giving a gift,” Davis said. “Sharing oneself in that way is more meaningful than giving a material gift.”

Carla Stanford, Extension child and family development area agent based in Pontotoc County, offered tips on cross-generational gift-giving without emphasizing money.

“It's easy for small children to make a dollar doing a chore, then they can spend that money at a dollar store to buy something fun or useful for a grandparent,” Stanford said.

She encouraged grandparents to focus on giving their grandchildren gifts that are meaningful rather than expensive.

“Something from a grandparent should be really special,” Stanford said. “Children may lose interest quickly in electronic games or the latest style, so grandparents can choose to give gifts that the child can keep and learn from and that will make a lasting impression.”

Holidays often involve traveling to visit grandparents or extended family, and Stanford said the visit is part of the present. Young children can sing a song or put on a little play to entertain the grandparents. Older children and adults can ask grandparents to show photo albums, scrapbooks or family videos, and listen to the stories that accompany these memories.

“Parents and grandparents should do what they can to teach children that the holidays are not just about giving gifts,” Stanford said. “The holidays are a great time to share time, memories and love.”

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Released: Nov. 16, 2006
Contact: Dr. Louise Davis, (662) 325-3089

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