Managing Kid’s Expectations at Christmas

by Andrea Robson
(Marbella, Spain)

Inspired Learning

Inspired Learning

The festive season will very soon be upon us; your calendars will soon start filling up with social events, additional preparation at home – and let’s not forget the ringing of shop tills as the bills pour in more easily than the cava on Christmas day. Christmas is a magical time of year – it can also be a very expensive one. This is especially true if your children are at an age where they are asking for more expensive gifts such as phones, tablets and the latest “must have” games or toys.

In general:

Christmas is a whole event – not just one day
Sit down as a family and make a big list of all the things you could do together over the holiday. It can be really simple, yet effective things like buying some popcorn, closing all the blinds, piling on the sofa under a blanket and all watching a movie together (let them choose, even if it’s not your cup of tea!) By planning together lots of activities, everyone gets a say and they will feel heard.

Charity donations
Christmas is a time of giving and this is a very important message, especially at this time of year. There are many companies and schools collecting for great charitable causes. This year, why not shop for your donation with the children, so they are involved in the process. It’s a great way to talk about what you are buying and why it is so important. Have your children help wrap the gift if this is what it needs, and write any message that needs to go with it. You never know, they might want to contribute some pocket money towards it.

Wrap the little things, even bits and pieces like their favourite body lotion. These are things you need to buy anyway, so why not wrap them up for a bit of fun and to “bulk out” what’s under the tree? Stockings are great for this with satsumas, chocolate money, pair of reindeer socks – anything that can be seen as a bit of fun and which are not expensive.

Buy a family game you can all play together – and play it with them. Keep to the rules, don’t bend the rules for some and not for others, and play the game over and over again if they ask. Christmas comes but once a year, and as one of my 7 year old clients wisely said, “Don’t waste time. Time is something you can never get back.”

Younger children:

Santa is Mum and Dad’s friend (oh yes he is) and he loves it when children get that one, or two, very special presents they really want, rather than lots and lots of things they won’t play with again. Again, if they have a list, ask them to prioritise what they want and what is meaningful.

Carefully scaffold your child’s letter to Santa with them, so the dreaming of it is as real as possible to what they will get. One of my 8 year old clients told me today he has made his Christmas list – which has over 40 things on it. So, I asked him, “What about if you could just have 2 – what would you choose?” After the initial amused surprise of only 2 presents on Christmas day, he sat down to think about it. Within minutes, the list had almost halved and he was still happily crossing things off and seriously weighing up which 2 he would put at the top. Most things he admitted he didn’t really need, and there were a few things that were far more important than others.

Older children / teenagers:

Talk openly about not going overboard this year – and introduce the idea of a budget. Discuss and share ideas about the best way to spend it so everyone has what they want. Be open, honest and reasonable. Create a wish-list and then carefully prioritize it and make it meaningful. This way, they have the power of choice and when they start thinking about hat they really would like, it makes the gift more meaningful when they get it. This is an important process to involve the children in, and they will far more “part of it” if they have prioritised and been involved in some key decisions.

What can they do to contribute? For example, they want a new phone - what about selling their current handset rather than relegating it to the back of the drawer? This way they have been an active part in contributing a small amount towards getting what they really want. There are many buy, sell, swap sites on Facebook – so what about developing a few entrepreneurial skills as well and raising a bit of cash? You never know, selling your things could make someone else’s Christmas.

And the key thing here is - you cannot protect your kids from disappointment. It’s simply not possible. We all face disappointment in our lives and we all need to be able to cope with it. If there is disappointment on Christmas day, acknowledge it, give them a bit of space, and then move on with a bit of distract and divert – do something fun together – put the music on and dance round the room! In life, we all get a bit of what we want – we cannot have everything. What is important is your time – take a real and genuine interest in the toys and games they did get – play the games they ask you to play, watch the films they want to watch with you – these are the important things. They may well not realise that now, but it is a lesson they will be able to acknowledge and reflect upon as they get older. This way, you’ve been open, honest, you’ve involved them in a process and you’ve given them the most precious thing – you and your time.

If you’re interested to know more about this topic and many others, or how I can help you and your children, please visit my page Inspired Learning.

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Nov 16, 2016
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