Christmas is a time of family, friends and of children writing hopeful lists to Santa Claus. The letter writing (and posting!) has already taken place in our household writes Cathy Black. A sigh of relief took place this year as those lists correlated with the allotted amount we had available to spend.
We are probably all a little guilty of wanting to spoil our children, particularly at this time of year but many of us simply do not have the funds to buy our children the 20 things they have seen on television and ‘must have.’
No matter how much I may have liked to, I must admit to being more than a little relieved that a heavily expensive game console was forgotten when my son compiled his list. There would be no way we as a family could have afforded it.
But with peer pressure and bright television commercials for the latest must have items it can become a bit of a mine field when dealing with children’s expectations on the run up to Christmas. How do you answer why Father Christmas couldn’t get your child the toy they had really wanted yet managed to get for their friend?!
Although we all know that they real meaning of Christmas is Family and friends there is no getting away from the commercial side, particularly if you have children of a certain age that whole heartedly believe in the magic of Santa Claus. Here are some ideas for how to handle your children’s expectation in the run up to the 25th.
List limit: When we compiled our children’s lists we limited it to five things. I created a personalised letter from each of them with five blank lines in which to fill with their present ‘hopes’.
Be mindful whilst list writing takes place: Whilst writing their list they of course did ask why there were only five spaces to which I replied ‘because father Christmas has a lot of boys and girls to get presents for’. I also kept correcting them when they would say ‘I want’. Instead I made sure to reiterate ‘you hope’ closely followed by ‘remember you may not get everything on your lists but that is ok because there are a lot of children in the world.’
Christmas is not just about receiving: Create activities that help your children realise that Christmas is not about receiving lots of gifts. You could help them put together a charity Christmas shoebox for example, or help out with the local food bank’s Christmas collection. This will offer a great opportunity to discuss how much the small things such as toothbrushes, gloves, and a good meal for Christmas day will mean to the people receiving them.
Presence, not presents: Your child values your full time and attention much higher than ‘that’ Christmas present. It makes them feel important and loved knowing that you are fully focused on them. Perhaps plan a frosty winter walk, play a favourite board game, have a festive movie night in your onesies or get creative with some Christmas crafts. In our house we like to make a festive decoration for each guest coming to ours on Christmas day. These are put on the table and the children love to tell everyone about how they made them whilst we eat Christmas dinner.
Make a family wish list: Create a list together, and be sure to include non-material wishes such as drinking hot chocolate by the fire. These wishes can be granted through “coupons” when it comes time to open gifts, or woven into the weeks surrounding the festive season to extend the celebration beyond one “special” day.
Get into the Christmas mood: Start to create the ethos that Christmas is a whole event, rather than just unwrapping expensive presents such as the latest phone or tablet. We will be taking our children to see the festive lights around our village and to the school Christmas fayre where they can play games with their friends and buy gifts that will give something back to the school, whilst also being able to feed the reindeer that are usually in attendance. Along with putting up the tree as a family and watching a festive film together hope to encourage our children to see that Christmas isn’t just about the presents under the tree and can still be magical without.
Don’t necessarily get everything on your children’s list: Remember you don’t have to get everything on your children’s lists. We always make sure we don’t buy one of the toys on our children’s list so that they know that not everything on their list will be given to them. Sometimes we choose to change one of the items for, say, a book we know they would like. This is also something you can share with them.
It can be hard at this time of year not to want to give our children the world but remember the true values of Christmas; Family, friendship and love, it really is these few things that your children actually need.