The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Dr Elizabeth Kilbey Headshot

Avoiding Disappointment This Christmas

Posted: Updated:
Print Article

With all of the excitement around the festive season, managing children's expectations of Christmas can feel challenging. There are endless gift ideas, top 10 lists and tips on what and how to buy for loved ones. But, in my experience, the pressure you may be feeling is just as much about your own expectations as those of your child.

Many parents worry that as their children get older, reach adolescence or start secondary school, they become increasingly aware of what their friends have and they want to have the same or better. As a result, parents can feel under huge pressure to meet these expectations and the pressure is then on to get the perfect present and have the perfect day. I am certainly no exception here. Yet, the important thing to realise is that this is as much about managing your own worries and expectations as it is your child's.

My advice? Avoid pressure and potential disappointment by helping your child manage their expectations for Christmas and set an example by managing your own.

You can do this by setting clear and realistic goals for how you want your family Christmas to be and work backwards from there. It makes planning and preparation much easier while making it clear with your child what is reasonable and what is not. Most important of all, don't be afraid to point out when they are asking for the unobtainable. In fact it is better to do this early on, rather than risk disappointment on the day.

One way of doing this is to sit with your children and help them to create wishlists outlining the presents they might want. Be careful to ensure their expectation isn't that they will receive everything on the wish list, but let them know what might and might not be acceptable. This can be done on a piece of paper or even using one of the many online tools, PKTMNY for example, that can help build wishlists, goals and also set saving and spending targets that you and your child can work on together.

It's also important to remind your children that Christmas is not just be about the presents, it's about being together. Excitement can be created in other ways too. Plan activities that you can all take part in such as baking Christmas cookies or playing a board game that encourages everyone to come together and have fun.

In my opinion, setting your own family Christmas traditions can be the perfect antidote to feeling the pressure to spend. It moves the focus from materialism to spending time together. It is also something that you can come back to year after year. I guarantee that as your children grow up they will remember the family traditions and festive fun much more than the presents that they got (or did not get).