Image by Aaron Jacobs, used under Creative Commons license
Christmas is a magical time of year for a lot of people, but that means a lot of pressure too to deliver a special experience. For kids, Christmas is an even more magical day and the last thing any parent wants is to disappoint their children on Christmas morning. So what do you do when your kids ask for that age-inappropriate game or those action figures that are too expensive action figure and the countdown to Christmas starts to fill you with dread? I’ve come up with a few ideas for letting kids down gently or, better yet, avoiding the disappointment altogether.
Letter to Santa
Part of the problem is that sometimes parents genuinely don’t know what their kids want. One simple way to combat that during the lead-up to Christmas is getting them to write a letter to Santa early on. Right after Thanksgiving is a prime time to see exactly what they want and how realistic it will be for Santa to get it for them. It’s also a way to get your opinion across without spoiling the magic of Santa for them, because you can look over the list before it gets “sent” and discuss any concerns you have ahead of time.
In terms of managing expectations there are a lot of ways to help kids understand what is appropriate for them to expect on Christmas.With all of the movies and TV shows about Christmas, it’s hard for kids to have a normalized idea of what Christmas morning should really look like. It’s up to the parents to set those boundaries, which can be done in a myriad of ways. When kids make a Christmas list, it’s totally natural to give them a set number of presents to write down. This way, kids won’t expect 50 presents when they will be getting 10. Another way to set Christmas boundaries is to start from the beginning. Really young children won’t have expectations for Christmas morning, which means that the number and type of presents they receive will set a precedent for years to come.
Santa & Me
For older kids, explaining that something isn’t appropriate or costs too much money is simple. I tell my kids that, while Santa brings some of the presents under the tree on Christmas morning, their dad and I also buy presents for them. This sharing of responsibility explains why certain items that kids may be passionate about aren’t there because parents can let kids know early on that something isn’t going to happen.
Many families use Christmas as an opportunity to teach their kids about empathy. This can be done in a number of ways, but getting your kids to think about other children — either those less fortunate at home or abroad — can help them manage their own expectations for Christmas. In practice, this could be as easy as encouraging your children to buy or give a toy as a gift to someone less fortunate than themselves. Aside from building character, this also teaches them the value of money and how important it is to appreciate what they have.
I hope these tips help you navigate the lead-up to Christmas with your kids successfully!
Angie Marlon is a busy mom of five. She loves to follow comedy shows and soaps. Her favorite show is Friends.