“Santa Claus is a very nice man, but not even he can give you everything you want.”
Welcome to the season of great expectations. Children the world over anticipate a gift bonanza at this time of year, with many of them relying on Santa Claus to be the benevolent provider of absolutely everything they’ve wished for. Their faith in Santa’s generosity is only equaled by their parents sense of dread at meeting their expectations. Are you one of those parents, weighing up their wish list against your Christmas budget, and finding an uncomfortable degree of disparity? If it’s any consolation, you’re not alone. And there are ways you can manage young expectations at Christmas time.
Make Christmas More Than Toys
The commercialization of Christmas – and most other holidays for that matter – have transformed a traditional celebration into a retailers delight, and something far less pleasurable for those of us who have to pay for the gifts and merchandise that are now connected with the occasion. What happened to the Christmas holiday of old, where the decorating of the tree, delicious seasonal fare and family togetherness were the most important things? It all seems rather quaint in modern society to believe that mountains of gifts were not presented or, indeed, expected. Returning to old-fashioned Christmas values may feel like swimming against a commercially-driven tide, but if you can make the holiday fun in other ways than just unwrapping gifts, your children can gradually discover that the pleasures of Christmas don’t necessarily have to be wrapped in shiny paper.
To do this, make a big effort to involve your kids in everything else that is connected to Christmas. Give them more of a say in how the house is decorated – let them take complete charge if they’re old enough. Enlist their help in the preparation of food – every child loves that feeling of being grown up enough to handle such important tasks as helping you make Christmas cookies. Best of all, make it a time where all the family are together, enjoying each others company and a shared treat e.g. what could be more magic than a Christmas movie night, with all the family watching classic films with plenty of popcorn and soda? By making a bigger deal of everything other than gifts, you’ll introduce your kids to the broader delights of Christmas, and hopefully, just hopefully, you’ll reduce their expectations.
Time For Some Frank Speaking…
If your children are old enough to understand where their gifts come from, they’re old enough to understand the reality of your financial situation. Explain to them that your budget will only go so far, and suggest to them that they can help by sourcing their own gifts within an designated price range. They’ll enjoy the responsibility, and if they’re in charge of making the gift selection there’s no chance that you will buy totally the wrong thing if you were responsible for the purchase.
To further soften the blow of not giving them everything they want, ask them what non-material things they might like at Christmas, or any other time of the year. This will open their eyes to the fact that there is more to Christmas than gifts! It will also allow them to enjoy other things that are important to them e.g. more time playing football in the yard with Dad, or more help with a school subject that they struggle with. This will open your eyes to the things that are important to them…other than cool gifts that is!
…And Some Not So Frank Speaking
Young kids still believe that Santa is the kind man who squeezes down chimneys – even if there isn’t one there – to deposit a pile of gifts under the tree. How do you tell them that Santa might not be able to meet their every promise? Maybe some delicate rephrasing is the answer. Instead of saying that Santa can’t meet every promise, tell your child that Santa promises to meet your most special, special gift wish. So tell me one gift from your list you want above anything else, and Santa promises to provide that one thing you really want. Knowing that the all important Santa Claus has made such a solemn yet personal pledge could be a special moment for your child, and will immediately relieve you from the onerous duty of having to buy every single thing they desire.
By managing expectations at Christmas, you’re not only reducing budget stress but you’re bringing the true meaning of this holiday back into focus. Regardless of your personal beliefs, there is no denying that Christmas is a hugely significant religious and cultural occasion, not a commercial one.
Guest Blog by Ngaire Stirling. Ngaire Stirling owns Brisbane Kids – Brisbane’s largest parenting community and is a well respected authority on tackling the big parenting issues, head on! Ngaire’s website is visited by over 100000 people per month and around 1 in 10 Brisbane families regularly rely on it for advice and up-to-date information on things to do in Brisbane with kids.