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Black Friday: Family-Friendly Alternatives

November 25, 2014

By Jessica Vician

Black Friday: Family-Friendly Alternatives | Cartoon images of people fight over items in a store, stack shopping carts full of goods, and race toward the front door of a store.

Black Friday. Those two words probably evoke a strong emotional response from you, whether you shudder in disgust or your heart flutters with excitement.

It’s easy to see that Black Friday has become a cultural phenomenon, with some national chains now opening on Thanksgiving evening. My Facebook feed on Friday morning is filled with photos and stories of how many cups of coffee people drank to stay up all night shopping, battles over the last $200 giant flat screen television, police interventions, and more.

We all love good deals, but what kind of impact does your participation have on your child? Are you at home the Friday after Thanksgiving enjoying breakfast together, talking about the fun times you had with family the day before? Are you decorating the house together for the upcoming December holidays? Or are you just getting back from a night out shopping, trying to hide presents before your child sees them and then heading back to bed to catch up on all that sleep you missed while your son or daughter plops in front of the television?

Black Friday deals are a great opportunity to save money on gifts you may need to purchase for the holidays, but they also prompt us to buy “gifts” for ourselves that we might not otherwise buy. If you come home with a new television or other adult “presents” that you start using right away, you start to model negative behavior to your child.

Stepping away from the family during a holiday to shop demonstrates the importance of materialism to your child and can devalue the significance of family and spending time together. And you don’t want to interrupt your child’s sleep routine to bring him or her with you on this shopping trip. That can leave your child cranky and a bit off all weekend.

While there is value in potentially saving hundreds of dollars on your holiday gifts and getting the shopping out of the way early, there are other ways to do both without giving up quality family time.

Small Business Saturday
As a response to Black Friday, which is dominated by big-box stores and national chains, local businesses and American Express founded Small Business Saturday in 2010. It has grown significantly in the past four years and is worth checking out in your town.

Bring your child with you on Small Business Saturday to local shops and let him or her help you choose gifts for family and friends. Not only is this a safer shopping experience (I haven’t heard of police needing to get involved or fights breaking out), but you don’t have to interrupt anyone’s sleep to shop during normal business hours, and you can use it as an opportunity to teach your child why you buy gifts for others at this time of year.

Cyber Monday 
Small Business Saturday sounds great, but if you ditch Black Friday and bring your child with you on Saturday, how are you going to buy him or her gifts on the sly? Cyber Monday is your answer. Larger stores keep the deals going on Cyber Monday, which is the first Monday after Thanksgiving. Order those gifts online and get significant savings, special products, and sometimes even free shipping.

These are just two alternatives to Black Friday, but I’ll bet there are many more. I don’t want to discourage you from holiday shopping, but these options can help you maximize family and parent engagement time while providing teachable moments with your child—instead of caffeine-fueled fights in the fluorescent-light glow of a store in the middle of the night.

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