Managing your kids’ holiday wishes can be difficult, especially in a culture that admittedly goes overboard with holiday buying. Whether you need to temper your child’s expectations due to family finances or simply because you don’t think your kids should automatically get everything they ask for, here are a few ways to help manage your kids’ holiday wishes.
It can be tough, but in the long run, it’s better for your family’s finances if you teach your kids in these ways; plus, kids who learn early on that they won’t necessarily get everything they want will turn into more responsible, compassionate, and thoughtful adults! And isn’t that the point of parenting, anyway?
Let them know they may not get everything on their list
The first thing you need to do to manage your kids’ holiday wishes is to let them know up front what the situation is. If you’ve gone overboard in holidays past but can’t afford to this year, it’s okay to let your children know that you have to cut back this year because mommy and daddy don’t have enough money to spend. Your kids don’t need every detail of your financial situation, but they are generally able to understand this concept, and it’s good for them to know what to expect up front.
Help them make a more thoughtful list
One way to help your kids get what they really want for the holidays and to manage potential disappointment is to help them make a more thoughtful holiday wish list. Kids are prone to asking for things that they are only going to play with for a few weeks, and as a parent, you can pretty much pick out those items on the list from the get-go. Have your kids make a holiday wish list early, and then talk about what’s on their list to see what’s really most appealing to them.
Even if your kids have trouble making a thoughtful wish list, you can use your parental instincts here, too. You know your children, and you know which gifts on their list are most apt to bring them real pleasure for the longest amount of time! Use your best judgment. If Johnny says he really wants a toy that you know he’ll break in two minutes but has another toy on his list that he’ll probably get months of pleasure out of, it’s fine for you to make an “executive decision” and buy the toy he’ll like more in the long run!
Help them understand that everyone in the family is sacrificing
If family finances are the issue this holiday season, helping children understand that mom and dad are making sacrifices too can be helpful. You could share a few things from your own holiday wish list that you want but won’t be able to have this year because of finances, or just talk about everyday ways you’re cutting back on spending even though it isn’t as much fun for you. Again, older kids are able to understand this, and if your kids can see that you don’t get everything you want, either, they’re more likely to accept the cutting back on holiday gifts.
Don’t give in to guilt
Even if your kids don’t understand cutting back on the holidays or decide to throw tantrums about what they don’t get, you shouldn’t feel guilty. Your job as a parent, remember, is to raise kids who will eventually become responsible, compassionate adults and good citizens. Your job is not to fulfill your child’s every wish throughout childhood! Set a budget at the beginning of the holiday shopping season, and stick to it. Even if your kids throw a few fits, they won’t last long, and you’ll all be better off in the long run when you teach your kids to deal with disappointment.
Change the focus of the holidays
One of the absolute best ways to manage your kids’ expectations this holiday season is to change the focus of the season. Whether you’re a religious family or not, you know that at its heart, the holiday season should be about giving rather than about getting. You can teach this to your kids in several different ways.
Here are just a few options:
- Focus on spending time together as a family, and use some of your holiday budget to build memories. Go ice skating. Cut down your own live Christmas tree. Take your kids to see a holiday play, especially one with a good moral, such as A Christmas Carol.
- Give back your time as a family. Feed other families at a local soup kitchen so your children can see those who have even less than they do.
- Give your kids a spending budget to allow them to buy gifts for their siblings. Focusing on giving to others in the family is fun, and it’s a good exercise in giving rather than getting.
- Give back by purchasing gifts or food for local families in need. You can often find information on programs that do this through local churches or community centers. There are also programs, such as Operation Christmas Child, that send gifts abroad to children who would otherwise get nothing for Christmas. This is most fun if each child in your family can pick out gifts that they would love and can send them to a child of their own age and gender.
Using these techniques, you can build more character in your children and get through the holiday season with a minimum of tantrums. You might even find that less is more when it comes to the holidays and that you want to continue cutting back even if your finances change for the better in the future!