Managing Your Child's Holiday Expectations

December 1, 2015

Posted by Lisa Lomasney

The holiday season can be a busy and difficult time.  Families may have a list that seems never ending or have budget restraints to consider when choosing presents to give to special people this year.  Retailers and stores start marketing earlier and earlier each year with ads targeted directly at children.  Even running into a store on a quick errand can become a nightmare as displays that grab your child's attention are placed right at the door.  Come Christmas morning, a temper-tantrum or two can erupt once all of the presents have been opened and a specific choice or two are found to be missing amongst the packages, boxes, and bags under the tree.


Discussing a Budget Isn't Just for Your Accountant

Discuss a reasonable, expected budget for what will be spent on your child with your co-parent - and then stay on budget!  You will also want to have a discussion with grandparents, aunts, uncles, and any other people who will be purchasing a gift for your child.  Clearly communicating your intentions and that you want to keep the best interests of your child at heart may help to avoid conflicts.

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Determine "Wants" and "Needs"

If your child is old enough to think logically through their list, work with him or her to note items that are "wants" and "needs."  This will help your child learn how to make choices and prioritize their items.  Choosing the top one or two things that they really want can help you to communicate to Santa and other gift-givers the most important items.  If prioritized items are "big ticket" items that are above the pre-determined budget of one gift-giver, perhaps a couple of people can coordinate to purchase the gift together or purchase gift cards that the child can save.  Discussing each item can help you understand why your child wants something.

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Mom & Dad - Santa's Helpers

If your child is hoping for one large big ticket item, talk to him or her about how Mommy and Daddy help Santa pay for more pricey toys and that gifts from Mommy & Daddy may be smaller if Santa is bringing something extra special.


Emphasize Gratitude

Prior to opening presents, talk to your child about how they must always be gracious recipients that are appreciative of the gifts they receive - even if they are disappointed or receive a gift that is not of interest to them (such as clothing).  Expressing gratitude to avoid hurt feelings is an important social skill throughout the holiday season and goes beyond a half-hearted, muttered "thank you."  Teaching genuine grace and thankfulness can go a long way for holiday spirit.


Traditions & Magic of the Season

Focusing on traditions that your family enjoys each year - including special moments, trips, experiences, and privileges such as going shopping together, wrapping gifts, writing cards, enjoying time in the snow, and decorating cookies - can become a large part of what your child looks forward to the whole year through, instead of only gifts.  Express the importance and enjoyment of the "giving" part of presents as well and show excitement during shopping trips choosing presents for others.

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