Rich Batten: The gift of a father’s time |

Rich Batten: The gift of a father’s time

Rich Batten

As the holiday season approaches, children will soon be handing their parents a list of presents they would like to receive. For many of these children, whether or not they get these often expensive gifts could make or break their holidays, leaving a great deal of pressure on their parents. But fathers who may be struggling financially can take comfort in the fact that buying the best video game, CD or toy is not the only way to make a child happy. This year, Colorado fathers are encouraged to spend quality time with their kids, stressing that the true meaning of the holidays does not lie inside a box covered in wrapping paper.

Unfortunately, the holidays have turned into a material event where a parent’s love is often measured by the amount of gifts they give to their children. Instead of worrying about emptying their wallets during the holidays, fathers should concentrate their efforts on building relationships and traditions with their children. These are gifts that do not cost much but payoff in a big way.

Getting a child’s mind off of material possessions and on to what really matters can be a difficult task during the holiday season when television commercials are aggressively advertising the latest gifts. But like many lessons in life, for a child to learn the true meaning of the holidays, they need to witness it firsthand. provides the following ways for both fathers and their children to spend time together and learn this valuable lesson:

Teach kids to give of themselves

Volunteerism can show kids that giving your time, effort and kindness is more rewarding than just expecting to receive lots of presents. Choose to help an organization that fits with your family’s values and the things you believe in.

Sponsor another family in need or purchase presents for less fortunate children through a toy donation program. Let your kids pick out and wrap the gifts themselves.

If your kids love animals, talk to your local animal shelter. Many distribute staples like pet food to low-income pet owners over the holidays and need volunteers to help.

Give back to the elderly in your area. Volunteer at a nursing home; visit with older people who could use a little extra joy and company around the holidays; bring gifts or meals to those who are homebound; or lend a hand to elderly neighbors with decorating, cooking or wrapping presents.

Focus on family traditions: Traditions that focus on family or friends can be a great way to put meaning back into the holidays. Here are a couple of ideas:

Talk about which family traditions your family loves the most and figure out how you can put more emphasis on them. If you love the tradition of lighting the menorah, get together as a group to make your own candles. If you enjoy the family trip to pick out a Christmas tree, make it an all-day event and head to a tree farm to choose your own.

Find out what the holidays mean to others by having your kids talk to a grandparent, uncle, aunt or family friend about how they spent the holidays growing up. Some holiday traditions that used to be strong – such as neighborhood caroling – are all but lost today. Maybe you’d like to revive some of these as a way to share the holiday spirit.

If you don’t have any family traditions, build new ones. Get together around activities that you all enjoy, such as cooking or ice skating. Ask your kids what they would enjoy doing every year and make an effort to do it.

Give gifts with meaning

Gift giving will always be a large part of the holiday season with good reason; it can teach kids to really consider what might make others happy and what’s important to people they care about. Here are few present ideas that are not bought in stores for your children to consider:

Create photo albums, or small “brag books” that family members can carry around with them.

Design a customized family tree for family members (something grandparents would especially appreciate).

Make your own batches of presents, like ornaments, wrapping paper or wreaths.

Teach kids to consider giving gifts of time. For example, family members can create special gift certificates such as ” “two free car washes” or “10 free loads of laundry.”

Rich Batten is a fatherhood and family specialist with the Colorado Department of Human Services and part of The Responsible Fatherhood Initiative. For more information visit

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