DEAR HARRIETTE: I have three children. Two are under 5 years old. My oldest is 10. My concern is that we are getting close to Christmas, and it's getting harder and harder to manage the children's expectations of Christmas, especially when it comes to communicating with and about Santa. My eldest is ready to be a spoiler. He doesn't want to write a letter to Santa. He doesn't want to do anything other than talk about what his friends are saying about Santa in school. What can I say to my son to get him to keep the magic of Christmas alive for the whole family? My husband and I really get into the holidays, and we want our eldest to stay engaged. What can we say to him? -- Spoiler Alert, Athens, Georgia
DEAR SPOILER ALERT: Your 10-year-old needs holiday duties. Give him the big-boy role by engaging him in the duty of keeping his younger siblings psyched about Christmas. Anoint your son as Santa's helper. Assign him tasks such as helping his siblings write their letters to Santa. He can even help them think of what they want to put on their lists.
In terms of his school friends, encourage him to tell them that he is helping to make it a great holiday for the whole family. Remind him of how much fun it is when everyone pitches in. He can be cool at school without dissing the holiday. Instead, he can talk with pride about being a helpful big brother. You and your husband can point out that Santa remains alive and well in your home, and everyone is grateful for it.
DEAR HARRIETTE: My husband and I got married a year ago. We are so happy, but we are broke. I am still in college, and he is in his first job out of college. He is paying off loans, and we are just getting started. The holidays are coming, and I do not want us to overspend for Christmas. I recommended we skip gifts altogether and enjoy each other and our families. He hated that idea. What do you recommend we do so we give something but don't blow the budget? -- Creative Christmas, Dallas
DEAR CREATIVE CHRISTMAS: Congratulations on your first year of marriage. And kudos to you that you want to be frugal during the holidays. So many people get into debt buying lots of things they cannot afford and that are not necessary. Creativity is key here so that you and your husband can have tangible evidence of the love you have for each other without breaking the bank.
One couple I know took this fun approach. They picked a random low number, $7, and pledged to spend no more than that amount on each other for Christmas. What happened is that they scavenged places such as Goodwill and The Salvation Army as well as vintage shops and dollar stores to find little sentimental items that would bring smiles to each other's faces. They said that was one of their best Christmases ever because they devoted a lot of time to thinking about how to make their spouse happy.
(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)