These past two years have been like no other, so it goes without saying that this will be a Christmas like no other, too. Many of us will miss out on seeing family, and the financial effects of the pandemic will likely mean a fewer presents under the tree.
But how do we tell our kids that while maintaining the Christmas magic?
Here are some ways you can manage their expectations to help them avoid disappointment – and learn a few important life lessons along the way.
Keep it real
If your gift giving situation will change this year, simply tell your children – it’s likely that your kids are more understanding than you give them credit for. When you have this discussion, though, be sure to keep it positive. They aren’t getting fewer presents because you don’t have enough money, or because they’ve been ungrateful in the past, or because, god forbid, Santa doesn’t love them – instead, it’s because mum and dad want to spend the money on fun or important things for the family, or because you would prefer to show generosity to someone less fortunate, or because Santa knows they already have just about everything they need.
Lay the groundwork
There are a number of ways you can prepare your children for Christmas to feel a little different than they’re used to. For one, make use of opportunities in your day-to-day life to teach your children important values like making do with what they have and giving to others – you could ask them to donate their leftover tuckshop money to a charity of their choice, or have them sell their unwanted toys if they would like to buy new ones. If your kids are likely to compare their Christmas haul to their friends’, be honest about why you have made a different choice to their friend’s parents, and point out things (not necessarily material possessions) your child has that that friend may long for.
Be a role model
Learning how to show gratitude in the face of disappointment is a skill your kids will take with them through life, and it’s something they can learn from you. But don’t just explain to them how expressing gratitude for something done or given by another person will make that person happy – demonstrate genuine gratitude and politeness every single day! From always using your best manners to doing kind things for others, your children will pick up on the habits you practice and start practicing themselves. What’s more, it’s important to show your children how giving to others can help them feel less disappointed. Shift the emphasis from receiving to giving during Christmas, and watch your children begin to see the world in a whole new way.
Make (affordable) holiday traditions
The real magic of Christmas doesn’t come wrapped under a Christmas tree – it’s the time spent with our nearest and dearest and enjoying the festive cheer that makes Christmas memories. Little things like listening to Christmas music, watching festive flicks, baking delicious treats, crafting decorations and making or wrapping presents for friends and family are all ways to indulge in the festive spirit. It’s also a good idea to use this time to focus on things you can do with the family, whether that’s driving around town looking at Christmas lights or coming up with your own fun family traditions. When years are pasts, these are the things your child will remember about Christmas – not the number of presents they found under the tree.
Show the love in other ways
Does your child’s Christmas morning disappointment really stem from the number of presents they’ve unwrapped, or does the reason run deeper? It sounds dramatic, but it’s not uncommon for children to feel unloved when they have fewer presents to open than their siblings – even after you’ve explained that their monetary value is the same. The idea of writing an extravagant list for Santa and not waking up to each and every item on Christmas morning can also be a lot for children to deal with. Knowing this, it’s important that you show them plenty of love in other ways. Take the time to sit with them and set up their new toy, read their new book or take photos of them in their new clothes to show your child that their worth isn’t defined by the number of presents they get to open on Christmas morning.