DEAR HARRIETTE: When I was growing up, my parents never had enough money to buy gifts for us kids. We were a family of seven, and money did not stretch that far. So every year at Christmas, my mother would bake a cake or make something else for us to eat that everybody could share.
I have not been able to get past what happened to me as a child in order to be there for my children. I have two kids, and my husband and I have good jobs. We can afford to give them multiple gifts -- not extravagant, but something. Still, I can’t seem to get there. I find it so hard to shop for them because I get lost in thoughts of my past. What can I do to break through? -- Frozen
DEAR FROZEN: Why not bake a cake with your kids to celebrate the holidays? You can make that a tradition in a way that honors what your mother was able to do for you.
The next step can be to establish a new tradition. You can ask your children what they most want for Christmas. Let them suggest several items with the understanding that you would like to get them something special. There can be some surprise in the final outcome if you do not tell them what you are choosing. Once you have their lists, you can review them to see if you feel comfortable getting them each of the items they have listed, or if you will choose only one or two. Do your best to give your children the same number of items so that they don’t mistakenly read anything in to the gifts they receive when they make comparisons.
Beyond that, you may want to consider a bit of therapy. You are holding on to some strong memories and experiences from your childhood. A professional may be able to help you unlock some of those old feelings and release them.