envelop instagram twitter linkedin facebook youtube triangle-down triangle-left triangle-right triangle-up article map-marker chevron-down chevron-left chevron-right chevron-up youth-passageways-nameplate lil-guy dashboard map

Meaningful Holiday Gifts with Dr Arne


What a conundrum. Why do we often go for the most advertised and most expensive toys and gadgets? Tragically what I often see is that these toys run the agenda and actually dictate to our kids what to do. Like a Lego set that makes you build a helicopter from the instruction manual.

And I really don’t believe that our kids need another version of a screen by way of the latest iPod, phone or mobile gaming device.

So is there a way to give our kids something we actually feel is genuinely good for them? I absolutely believe there are some great presents out there and I work on the principals that if it teaches them new physical skills, is musical, stimulates their creativity, or is a good story then it is worth considering. Here are some ideas for your last minute Christmas gifts:

  • For new physical skills – slack lines are fantastic. I also recommend juggling balls, diablos or even bosu balls.
  • For music – djembe drums can be great, electric pianos or guitars just to name a few (god I wish I had started learning guitar when I was a kid).
  • To stimulate their creativity – paints and an easel, different sorts of clays, even a hammer and saw to start their carpentry career.
  • As for stories I would steer away from fantasy and look at educational stories for kids, fictional biographies or stories that teach them about the culture in different countries at different times.

And there is another gift that you can give kids that doesn’t cost a cent and it is the best one of all. The idea stems from something that we do on all of our camps and it can certainly be adapted beautifully to your Christmas celebrations. It goes something like this. When we are doing a program with fathers and sons we gather towards the end of the camp in front of a special chair that we have built. We call up one of the boys to sit on the chair in front of everyone who is on the camp.  While the boy is sitting there his father comes up and in front of everyone tells his son what he loves about him, the gifts and talents that he sees in him. He also tells him what he admires and respects about him. After the father has finished speaking another man comes up and tells the boy what he admires and respects about him. Then another man does the same thing. It is a profound and deep experience for the boys and one that I believe changes their lives. I love nothing better than to watch the pride in a boy’s eyes as he is honoured by people who see his genius and his spirit.

So here is a great idea for what you can do at Christmas lunch. Put a special chair at the top of the table and get the kids to sit in it one at a time. Take turns telling the boy or girl what you love about them. Take your time and try to identify the special things that are unique to them, the particular gifts and talents that you see they have and the most beautiful sides of their personality. If you want an example go to my TEDx talk and fast forward to 13.28 minutes.  You can have just the adults speaking or even better get the other kids to also have a turn. Make sure that only one person speaks at a time and ask the child in the chair not to say anything and to just listen.  I guarantee it will be a Christmas celebration that you will never forget.

Please support our campaign to have 1,000,000 parents tell their children why they love them this Christmas.  Share on facebook, twitter, email and in any way that you can.

To find out more about our work visit our website HERE

About the Author: Arne Rubenstein

Dr Arne Rubinstein is an expert on adolescent development, with 30 years’ experience as a doctor, counsellor, mentor, speaker and workshop facilitator. His programs and seminars are designed to support boys and girls to successfully make a safe, healthy transition from children to young adults, with a particular focus on creating coming of age Rites of Passage. In 2008, he was nominated for Australian of the Year for his groundbreaking work with youth.

his 2013 book: The Making of Men, has become a bestseller and is a practical handbook for parents and teachers of boys. It is the culmination of his years of experience in working with teens and their parents, in particular fathers and sons.

He was the Founding CEO of the Pathways Foundation, an organization that creates contemporary Rites of Passage for adolescents. More recently, Dr Arne was the founder of Uplifting Australia, a not for profit set up to improve the emotional wellbeing and resilience of children and their families around Australia. His work has also been informed by practicing for 15 years as a GP specializing in adolescent health, and preventative and emergency medicine.

He is the passionate father of two wonderful young men, a mentor to many, a practicing ER doctor, as well as being a keen surfer and musician.

Youth Passageways Blog

Welcome to the Blog. Here you will find current and archived versions of our ENewsletters, Updates, and posts from partners, and guests.

Interested in contributing to our blog? Contact us at: dane@youthpassageways.org

Youth Passageways is thrilled to provide a platform in which a wide breadth of perspectives can commingle and paint as comprehensive a picture of our partner base as possible. As such, the views and opinions expressed in individual letters, posts, or media content of any kind do not necessarily reflect or represent the Youth Passageways network as an organization, or collective.

Back to top