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Presence over Presents

Image of Presence over Presents

When reminiscing about your childhood, do you remember the gifts you received, or the cherished moments spent with family? Often, joy is found in both experiences and gifts.

In modern times, there’s a growing trend favouring gift-giving over spending quality time, driven by the belief that children find greater happiness in material presents. Supporting the benefits of gifts, Chaplin et al. (2020) found that children between 3-12 years old may initially prioritise gifts over experiences for happiness. It is however important to note that, as children develop and their cognitive abilities improve, the value of interpersonal interactions and experiences tends to grow more significant. Hence, the significance of parental presence remains essential, even for young toddlers.

Understandably, parents face significant pressure during holidays heavily influenced by marketing strategies, leading to the desire to offer their children the ideal childhood, often expressed through gift-giving. Particularly in Singapore’s fast-paced society, parents emphasise material provisions as an expression of love, given the focus on financial support over emotional companionship and attention to their children’s needs (Li & Guo, 2023).

Gifts are also not inherently bad and do still carry value to reward or celebrate significant events. A study done by Parsons and Ballantine (2008) discovered that being child-centric is the most important criteria for children’s gifts. Recognising that, here are a few general tips to ensure your child does receive a good gift.

– Ensure the gifts resonate with the child’s preferences rather than aligning solely with your parental perception of what might be best for them.

– Gifts should ideally complement the child’s personality and may even incorporate educational aspects.

Apart from fulfilling material needs, the greatest gift you can offer your children is your time and unwavering support. The 5 Love Languages echoes this sentiment to go beyond material gifts as every individual have varying preferences as to how they want to express and receive love. Other forms of affection include words of affirmation, spending quality time, providing acts of service and physical intimacy. Aligning the child’s preferences to parental display of affection can in turn nurture a more secure parent-child relationship.

Parental presence is pivotal during the formative years of childhood, often recognised as a crucial period for human development, as interactions and experiences significantly shape the developing human brain (Tierney & Nelson, 2009). Presence encompasses more than physical proximity; it embodies being there for them during life’s milestones and challenges, offering unwavering support, guidance, and affection as they navigate their growth and development. This strengthens the parent-child relationship as trust is fostered through shared experiences.

When parents spend more time with their children, it is more likely for their children to have a higher well-being (Li & Guo, 2023). By seeking to create joy and an emotionally warm relationship, quality time spent will also lead their children towards a healthy well-adjusted personality (Fan et al., 2020).  Similar to attachment styles, shared parent-child interactions are key to child development as children form their world views and unique perspectives based on these experiences.


Written by: Shiah Jing Heng, Intern, Fei Yue Community Services



Chaplin, L. N., Lowrey, T. M., Ruvio, A. A., Shrum, L. J., & Vohs, K. D. (2020). Age differences in children’s happiness from material goods and experiences: The role of memory and theory of mind. International Journal of Research in Marketing, 37(3), 572–586. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijresmar.2020.01.004

Fan, H., Li, D., Zhou, W., Jiao, L., Liu, S., & Zhang, L. (2020). Parents’ personality traits and children’s subjective well-being: A chain mediating model. Current Psychology. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12144-020-01078-4.

Li, D., & Guo, X. (2023). The effect of the time parents spend with children on children’s well-being. Frontiers in Psychology, 14, 1096128. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2023.1096128

Parsons, A. G. & Ballantine, P. W. (2008). “The gifts we buy for children”. Young Consumers, 9(4), 308-315. https://doi.org/10.1108/17473610810920515