Aaaaah, Christmas. It’s a time for families to gather, loved ones to mingle with a glass of egg nog, and presents. Lots and lots of presents.
For many families – and especially kids – the gifts are the focus of the holidays. With the ease of Amazon and other online ordering conveniences, it is easier than ever to stockpile gifts for your kids. Many parents don’t want to disappoint their children and end up going way overboard with their present-purchasing. However, parents can create a pre-Christmas plan for buying presents, so that kid’s expectations are clear and focused.
Create the Wish List Together
As a parent, I can remember asking my child to list all the gifts that he wanted for Christmas. Many of them were smaller, reasonably priced items, and so I convinced myself that I should just buy them all. I soon found the problem with this, though. All of those presents under the tree on Christmas morning sure looked good, but my son ripped through opening those presents before I could say, “Merry Christmas!” With so many gifts to open, each present lost its meaning and its value. I decided then to trim down the Wish List for the following holiday seasons.
This year, I sat down with my child and we created the list together. He wanted to list over a dozen different presents that he wanted Santa to bring. Remembering the previous year, I helped him whittle his list down to a much shorter version.
Through the power of persuasion, I convinced him that 3 very important gifts are better than a whole bunch of meaningless ones. He eventually “convinced” me that since he was such a good boy in 2019, he felt he deserved a bonus gift. I quickly agreed to that request: 3 presents plus a bonus gift sounded fair to me. I didn’t have to fight him about the number of presents, and he felt validated and rewarded for behaving well all year.
We ended up both being happy with the list that we came up with as a team.
Giving > Receiving
Another approach that parents can take around Christmas presents is pushing the idea of giving. The intrinsic reward of giving – the positive feeling of being generous and kind to others – is a lifelong benefit for kids to hold onto. If parents can make Christmas a time of giving and not just receiving, the season can take on an entirely new direction. When children look forward to giving, it creates a snowball effect. Through giving, kids grow and develop socially, cultivate high levels of empathy, and improve their self-esteem.
There are many ways for kids to give during the holiday season. Charities are one option, and kids can choose which type of organization they want their gift (or money) to go to. Churches and schools often arrange toy drives where kids can donate toys to those in need, as well.
Another bonus to children giving is that their expectations of what Christmas is all about can shift. If before, Christmas was all about how many presents they can receive, then hopefully the holidays can now turn into a time of positivity and compassion.
Changing Christmas Traditions
For many families, opening presents is a huge part of Christmas. For many kids around the world, Christmas morning is the most exciting time of the entire year. It is a lot of fun for children to find gifts under the tree just for them, and then tear the wrapping paper off to see what they got. By introducing new Christmas traditions, however, parents can take the singular focus off of unwrapping presents.
When I was a child, my parents would let me open one present on Christmas Eve. I remember that with fondness, but I also remember that it was sort of a letdown. It made me want to open all the presents right then and it prolonged the focus of unwrapping presents. By the time Christmas morning came around, I was in full present-getting mode.
I decided, then, to switch up my own family’s Christmas Eve tradition. One such tradition that my family likes to do is decorate gingerbread men. Every December 24th, each of us not only decorates our own gingerbread man, but we also have a full-fledged competition. The winner gets bragging rights and it is a big hit in our household. We all look forward to it each year. The gingerbread man decoration contest has become just as much of a tradition in our family as unwrapping Christmas presents on Christmas morning.
Countless other traditions can be changed or started during this holiday season, to get the kids away from just opening gifts. Every family is different and can come up with clever ideas to try.
Don’t Worry About Disappointing
I’ll never forget the first gift my son got me for Christmas. It was one of his old bookmarks, nearly torn in half, stuffed inside of an envelope. I still use that old bookmark today. The point is that it was a gift from my child, and it truly didn’t matter to me what it was.
Of course, children are different and they do care more about what they receive than parents. They have specific items on their Wish Lists, and they will probably be disappointed if those presents don’t appear under the Christmas tree. However, parents can get those lists down to a reasonable number of meaningful gifts.
By changing the focus of the holiday season, parents can easily manage their children’s Christmas expectations. Parents can teach – not just around Christmas, but throughout the whole year – that giving is very important and can be a regular part of a child’s life.
Adding or changing Christmas traditions can be another valuable tool for parents to use. By getting kids excited about events other than unwrapping presents, the season can take on a whole new meaning. Hopefully, with these different ways to manage kids’ Christmas expectations, children will never be disappointed during the holidays!