OPINION: Spend less time and money in malls, and more time with family this year

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Give your children an experience they will remember this festive season.
Give your children an experience they will remember this festive season.

The festive season is just around the corner, and already shopping centres are in the Mariah Carey and Boney M spirit.

It's bound to be a December holiday unlike anything we've experienced in recent memory, especially because of how the global pandemic affected our way of doing... well, everything.

However, one aspect of the holidays that will probably go unaffected is how parents spend time with their children over the holidays.

Or the lack thereof.

For the last few decades, I've sensed a trend was on the up - one that saw children wandering around shopping malls with clothing bags in hand, spending money they didn't work for.

Often unaccompanied by an adult, the children would cluck around one another and excitedly point towards the next shop where they can spend 'their' money or swipe their parents' credit card.

Each to their own as to how you raise your kid, I guess, but isn't this December an opportunity to do things a little differently?

Read: Avoid over-spoiling your kids this festive season 

Spend money, but where?

Over the last few months, families were forced to be in each other's company so much more.

Some parents came to realise that their spawn isn't so bad after all, while many children felt more at ease talking to their parents about things, other than why they need more money.

Granted, not every household was this lucky to connect again under the banner of lockdown, but those who did will surely appreciate the positive change it brought about.

Then, as the lockdown restrictions were eased, families began exploring the outside world again. Shopping malls were relatively quiet - at least until Level 2 came about - and outdoor spaces were 'trampled' by visitors.

During the winter, here in the Western Cape, families ventured out to Ceres to see the snow and engage with one another in a different space.

Together, as a family.

I, too, made use of the opportunity to spend time with my godchild, taking her to explore and experience other sides of life, showing her that there is more to life in the city than dressing up for the mall and going to the cinema.

For the last couple of years, whether it was visiting a crocodile farm, feeding lions, or going horseback riding, I have had no hesitation spending money on an experience, over a material-driven walking session at one of the malls in the Mother City.

It's always been my mantra when it comes to children: spend money on an experience they will remember.

Whether they enjoy it or not, at least there is a greater connection between the parties involved and the advantage of building closer ties.

Keep in mind

It would seem, though, to me, that as soon as business returned to 'normal' and parents could go back to work, the connection between families took a step back.

We can see it everywhere, and it's as if the unintended positive building of family ties the last few months have gone on to become a distant memory.

And while it seems that we are slightly disregarding the dangers of Covid-19, we run the risk of malls being overcrowded and controlled by children who are readying themselves to spend their parents' money.

Good on the parents who are giving their children the responsibility to buy our economy out of its slump, but why not invest in a physical and emotional relationship with your children instead of a monetary one linked to a pin code?

Although each family will spend their December holidays as they see fit, I will be using mine to grow my relationship with my godchild.

Not in a mall, but exploring the outside world and embracing nature. Maybe outdoor activities may seem too expensive for some, but so is your credit card bill at the end of December.

Visiting a mall is not the worst thing in the world, but if parents can turn the experience into one that will grow the relationship and understanding between them and their children, then surely there is a greater reward at play.

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