Set Kids' Holiday Gift Expectations

Stem the Tide of Gifts This Holiday Season by Setting Kids’ Expectations

The holidays are a joyous and festive time for many families. Decorating the house, lighting candles, baking holiday treats, and, of course, giving and receiving holiday gifts. But when your oldest asks for an American Girl doll and doesn’t receive it, or your video game addict gets only one game instead of three, your joyful holiday celebrations may end in tears. Check out our tips for setting your kids’ expectations about gift giving, and you may find that your children learn a bit about appreciation, making good choices, and handling disappointment.

When children are of toddler or preschool age, the concept of the holiday season is new to them, so it may be easy to start setting their expectations regarding material possessions and gift giving throughout the year, so that they’ll be truly appreciative of the gifts they do receive when the holidays come around. Try limiting the number of trips to the toy store throughout the year. When your child spies a coveted toy at a play date, and asks for it for himself, remind him that his birthday is coming up, instead of buying it right then and there. And at birthday time, ask party guests not to bring gifts, so that your child learns that he’ll receive a few treasured gifts from family each year, but not a truckload of new gear. And if your child expresses a wish list of gifts for the holidays, remind him that he may not get everything on his list. Ask him what he wants the most from his list, and when he gets it, he’ll begin to understand the value of making choices and prioritizing.

So let’s just say that you’re already doing a stellar job of setting your kids’ expectations, limiting their material consumption throughout the year, and managing their requests. Are you still finding that your kids are frustrated when they don’t receive everything they’ve asked for and more? That’s OK! Frustration is a natural part of life, and kids tend to experience frustration the most keenly when they are learning. Allow your child to vent her anger and frustration, and when she has calmed down, ask her why she likes her favorite new toy. In time, frustration will give way to a deeper understanding of the reality that not everyone always gets what they want. And you’ll begin to see your kids’ appreciation for the cherished items they do have grow.

And remind your kids that there’s much more to the holidays than just receiving gifts. Allow them to help you decorate your tree. Let them help you light the first candle on the first night of Hanukkah. Take them with you to local holiday celebrations, and spend quality time around the house, playing board games, drinking hot cocoa, and building memories. Many families choose to volunteer their time at local toy drives during the holidays. What better way to show your kids how fortunate they really are? In time, your children will look forward to decorating, baking, and looking at holiday lights around town just as much as they look forward to tearing open wrapping paper.

Do you have gift giving all figured out? Has your family managed to keep material consumption within reason, with fewer tears and less frustration? Tell us your tips and strategies in the comments section!

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