How to Manage Your Child’s Expectations This Christmas

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Let’s be honest, most of us can probably remember a Christmas as a child when we were less than grateful. My age 6 festive disappointment is folklore in my family. But how can you manage your child’s expectations this Christmas… without being a Grinch?

There are a few simple strategies you can employ to help manage your child’s expectations and therefore avoid a Christmas morning meltdown from your kid, or indeed from you. These tips are not quick fixes, they’re life skills, which will help you to manage your child’s expectations for the festive season and beyond. The good news is you might well be employing these strategies anyway, but let’s look at how we can give them a pre-Christmas boost.


  • Communicate with your child.

It sounds simple, but unless we know what our children are expecting it’s very hard for us to manage any unrealistic expectations. Family Action have some excellent resources on how to start this conversation and tell us that it can actually be a great way to have a discussion with your children about the family’s finances. Lots of parents feel strongly that they don’t want their children to worry about money, but there are ways to have the discussion without causing them any anxiety. It’s important for you not to over-promise and place yourself under unnecessary stress in the lead up to Christmas. Instead, help your children to prioritize one or two gifts that they’d really like to receive, this is a great life skill to acquire!


  • Help your child deal with disappointment

Christmas Day disappointment is way harder on the parent than on the child, right? The guilt is too much to take if your child is crying because they didn’t get the one thing they really wanted. But the chances are, that memory will fade pretty quickly for the child so it’s important not to let it spoil your Christmas. Dr Andrea Gurney, a family pyschologist sayas that there are a few things you can do in this situation. Firstly; empathise with your child about how disappointed they must feel. Give them a hug and let them know you’re taking their feelings on board. Secondly; explain to your child why the gift they were hoping for isn’t here. Were you unaware they wanted it? Perhaps they asked too late or it was too expensive for you (or for Santa, depending on their age). Thirdly; offer perspective. Remind them of all the other gifts they have, of the people who surround them and love them, of the delicious food they’re going to eat today. Remind them of all the things you’ve done to make the festive season special for them. Try not to dwell on the disappointment and move on. You might not believe it now, but dealing with disappointment is another invaluable life skill!


  • Foster the two G’s: Gratitude and Giving

Something I do with my own children is that when they open their advent calendar door each day in December, they have to tell me something they’re really lucky to have/do/try that day. I find that it adds to the festive good vibes and that they go into Christmas already feeling they’ve got so much! Talk to your kids also about the joy of giving at this time of year. Get them involved with making or choosing lovely gifts for their grandparents, aunts and uncles. Stress that it’s not about how much you spend, but the time and effort you are all putting in to give them something personal and meaningful. Perhaps choose gifts that are good for the planet, or gifts that give back to a charity or cause through your purchase.

  • Encourage them to volunteer

I’m a firm believer that children should be doing some voluntary or charitable activities from a very young age, much to my kid’s annoyance! The good news is that at Christmas, the opportunities to get involved are plentiful. Whether it’s taking your child food shopping and dropping the bags off at your local foodbank, encouraging them to use their pocket money to buy a gift for a child in need, filling a shoe box for children in the developing world or taking part in a sponsored challenge; your child will get so much out of the experience. It will have the added benefit of teaching them empathy for children who don’t perhaps have as much as they do.

  • Lead by example

As with everything we try to teach our children, it’s so important to lead by example. Have a read back through those previous strategies and check you’re employing them yourself in your own life! Sometimes we all need to look at the quality of the gifts we send out to others, and we can easily purchase wicker hampers and create a cheap and cheerful basket of goodies for foodies. As hard as this may be for many of us who are used to “stuff,” learning to create a gift basket is a fine art that can teach us all about simple and effective gifts, and that we need to always set the example to those around us. Remind yourself of the magic of the season, which has nothing to do with the value of gift we get to open on Christmas morning. Let your children hear you speak to other family members with respect and gratitude and that behaviour will gradually rub off.


*Liked this post? Check out this one, it’s full of budget-conscious gifts for kids.

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1 Comment

How to stay calm this Christmas - whatever the festivities throw at you · November 15, 2021 at 12:54 pm

[…] I’ve written about this one already but I really think it’s important. The idea of me buying the wrong gifts/not enough gifts/generally rubbish gifts causes me no end of stress in the run up to the big day. Honest conversations about what you can afford to spend might feel awkward, but having a budget to work to makes life easier for everyone. After last years’ strange, distant festive season, this year we should all be too busy enjoying being in each others presence, to worry about presents. See what I did there? […]

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