DEAR HARRIETTE: My family decided several years ago to adopt a family for the holidays. We find a family in need through our church and buy the things -- within our budget -- that they have requested. It works out great.
The only problem is that some of our family members are upset that we don't give them gifts anymore. They sort of understand the idea of giving to the family, but they want us to give to them, too -- never mind that they are adults.
How can we explain to them that we can't afford to do that, nor do we think it's necessary? We do cook the holiday meal and have them over each year. -- Spirit of Giving, Syracuse, N.Y.
DEAR SPIRIT OF GIVING: You might consider inviting your family members to participate in giving to the family in need. Until you become part of such a wonderful experience, it can seem remote. Some of the family members may take to it and truly be transformed in their thinking.
Shy of that, you can simply stick to your plan, with a twist. In addition to giving to the family from your church, give cards to your family members expressing your love and appreciation for them. Another creative option is to make a cake or other sweet treat and box it for them. It's a gift that you may already have been making for the meal that becomes more special because you wrapped it and gave it individually to them.
Do know, however, that the way you are handling your holiday giving is fine as is. Giving to those in need as you share your love with your family is perfectly great.
DEAR HARRIETTE: I have had to get creative this year regarding Santa. My 9-year-old made it clear that he is a believer, but he also told me his friends are teasing him about his beliefs.
We love that he remains entranced by the magic of Santa, and we don't want his friends to spoil it. Do you have any recommendations for how to manage this? -- Holding Onto the Magic, Bronx, N.Y.
DEAR HOLDING ONTO THE MAGIC: Plenty of families maintain their love of Santa for life. The mythology of Santa is so pervasive in our culture that I think it's wonderful when children and parents keep the tradition going.
What seems to work well is for parents to talk about the spirit of Santa and how his role is to share joy, love and gifts with children. That image is one that brings happiness and light to family members.
Your son can tell his friends that it's OK for them to have their beliefs and for him to have his. He loves Santa and looks forward to his visits each year.
You may also remind your son that the holiday season is a time for family love and sharing, so that he doesn't put all of his faith in the magical appearance of Santa. That should help as he transitions into a more mature and aware child in coming years.