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Why Sandra Bullock's kids are getting 'three small gifts' this Christmas

Christmas is so fun and magical, but if we don't keep ourselves in check it can get really overwhelming.

Sandra Bullock is the latest high-profile mom to talk about toning down presents to make more room for what matters in her family's Christmas celebration.

Mom to Louis, 8, and Laila, 6, Bullock was on the Today show this week when she explained how over the years her Christmas celebrations snowballed until she felt like her family was missing the point.

"I overdo it, and then I panic that I didn't do enough. Then I get more—and then everyone else has overdone it," she explained, adding that this year, she just stopped overdoing it, and she's feeling a lot less stressed this Christmas season.

"We just stopped. Because there's so much happening in the world where people don't have anything. And we said, 'Why don't we just make this about other people?'" Bullock explained, adding that her kids were totally into the idea of giving instead of getting this year.

"They were amazing about it. So, Christmas is three small gifts," she told Today's Hoda Kotb.

Why three is the magic number of presents 

Bullock is hardly alone in toning down Christmas. Tons of parents are simplifying the holiday in order to focus on the more meaningful parts, in part because (as Motherly previously reported) giving your kids fewer toys at Christmas actually makes them happier!

Combine increased happiness with the modern desire for less cluttered, minimalist living and you have a trend. In fact, even the number of gifts Bullock is doing this season is trendy. Three gift Christmases are a thing.

Three is kind of a magic number when it comes to Christmas celebrations. There are enough presents to make the morning feel magical, but not so many that the kids are lost in a mountain of wrapping paper and materialism.

With three gifts, kids have an opportunity to feel gratitude instead of overwhelmed. They can truly appreciate their presents and parents can feel less overwhelmed as well, because it's way easier (and cheaper) to buy three presents than try to bring the whole toy aisle home.

Making Christmas about giving 

Research demonstrates that children whose parents talk to them about giving to others are 20% more likely to make charitable donations than kids whose parents did not have that talk. Simply by talking to Louis and Laila about giving to others, Bullock is building capacity for giving in her kids, and in this case, talking does more than modeling, researchers note.

Bullock has the resources to give both a huge charitable contribution and a massive Christmas to her own kids, but both society and her kids are probably better off with her new Christmas plan.

A 2013 study, a 2013 study conducted by the Women's Philanthropy Institute at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy found that just having a parent who gives their money and time to charity isn't as impactful as having a parent who talks to you about why it's important to do so.

By having the conversation about making Christmas about others, Bullock is instilling her values in her kids in a lasting way.

Helping kids give 

Bullock didn't go into detail about exactly how she's helping her kids make Christmas about others, but there are a lot of ways that parents can do that.

You can help your children choose or make gifts for other important people in their lives, like grandparents, teachers and friends.

You can ask your children to help you choose toys to give to charities that help families who can't afford to buy their kids gifts this year.

You can take your kids with you to volunteer at an organization that's doing good in the world.

You can involve your kids in making a monetary donation to a worthy cause.

The important part is doing it together, and having conversations about why giving is so much more important and impactful than getting.

We're all trying to raise empathetic kids and keep our houses free of clutter, and it sounds like Bullock's plan could help with both those goals.

If you're feeling overwhelmed and like you've been overdoing the holidays, consider taking a tip from Bullock and giving yourself permission to just stop.

Christmas doesn't have to be overwhelming to be magical.

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