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Managing children’s expectations at Christmas

by Tony Churchill

Managing children’s expectations at Christmas

Christmas is certainly the highlight of many children’s calendars. The excitement can start early on and continues to grow and grow until the big day itself. Expectations, if not managed effectively, can also grow and grow and it’s important to help children understand what is realistic at Christmas.

We live in an increasingly material world. Children are enveloped by television adverts, the media and playground banter with regard to what presents and toys peers are getting/have got for Christmas. As a parent, feeling the pressure to over-spend and clutter your house with yet more ‘stuff’ can be overwhelming at times. So what can we do to manage the situation?

Sit down and talk to your children

Sit down and talk to your children (if they are of an age where they will understand) about their Christmas lists and presents. If they still believe in Santa the same principles apply: encourage them not to be greedy and try to instil that Christmas is a time of giving too, not just receiving. If you have older children you can discuss what is going on their Christmas list and the cost of things and agree what is reasonable and within the family budget. If they are involved they can learn life lessons from these discussions, and not to expect to get everything they want. Getting vouchers towards the cost of more expensive gifts can be an option. In all cases it’s important for children to know they won’t receive everything on their wish list.

Other tips for managing the festive period

Instil a sense of Christmas being a whole period, not just one day. This will take the pressure off the day itself. You can plan some fun activities to take the focus off it being all about the presents on Christmas day.

Try and create lasting traditions. If you think back to your own childhood Christmas and the things you really remember, it’s very likely the traditions year on year and not the presents themselves. Try this advent wishes idea if you would like an alternative to the increasingly commercial advent calendars - Advent wishes

Reiterate how spending time together and doing some fun things is another very important part of Christmas.

Free/low cost ideas of things to do:

  • Go and visit some Christmas lights and displays in the shop windows or in the local neighbourhood.

  • Make some festive treats – biscuits you can decorate or sweets for family or friends.

  • Go on walks together gathering holly and pinecones to decorate the house.

  • Encourage the children to make presents or cards for family or friends – put on the festive music and have a mince pie while doing it to really create a fun atmosphere.

  • Play a family board game together.

  • Make paperchain to decorate the house. These can be done very easily by all ages.

It’s also worth reminding children that there are people who are alone at Christmas and feel very left out of the festivities. If you have an elderly neighbour or relative you could make a special point of paying them a visit, maybe bake something with your children to take with you.

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