As a kid, I remember the excitement of counting my Christmas presents under the tree. The big boxes and the little boxes held so much mystery—when they were wrapped, I could picture them being anything that I wanted them to be. But that fantasy was sometimes better than what ended up being inside. I distinctly remember hoping for a Cabbage Patch kid and pinpointing one of the large presents under the tree as the doll—only to open it up and find a pair of winter boots instead.
As a parent, I am always trying to give my kids the best Christmas experience that I can. I have found that balancing the expectations of what they want versus what I can actually get them and what I think is really necessary, is a tricky balance. When they were younger, we often did one larger gift from Santa, and that was the unwrapped, left-under-the-tree-on-Christmas morning element. Sometimes it was a gift for both kids and sometimes just single gifts. Regardless, we put a lot of thought and effort into making that gift the show-stopper. My teenage daughter tells me now that she loved sneaking out in the dark to try and see what the Santa gift was, and if it wasn’t obvious, she would head back to bed disappointed and perplexed.
The holiday season is filled with our own expectations, mixed with memories of seasons past, some from our own childhood. The pressure we put on ourselves to out-do the year before or make it extra special can steal the joy from the season. When our kids don’t experience complete elation over the gifts they have received, it can be so disheartening for the stressed-out parent that has tried to give every family member a joyful experience.
What are a few things you can do if your kids are disappointed over Christmas gifts?
Acknowledge the feelings. Sometimes just acknowledging the feelings can make them feel better. Being listened to and heard, feeling loved and cared for, can make many bad feelings go away. Depending on the age of your kids, it may take a little bit of the sting away.
Watch how you create expectations. Most of the time, our disappointments are a realization that our expectations haven’t been met. Remember that the more you talk up Santa, and gifts, the more expectations you will be creating. If it has already happened outside of your control, then take the focus away and create new things to focus on, like family time tobogganing, or what you will be doing for New Years. Remember that there is a lot of buildup to the ‘day’, but once it is over, you have the power to shift the family’s focus to something else.
This too shall pass. Know that this will pass, and you probably haven’t created issues that will cause the need for lifelong counseling. Kids are going to have disappointments, and more likely than not, they will get over it fairly quickly. It may even become a funny memory—something to look back on with an older set of eyes and have a laugh. There are scads of Youtube videos online of disappointed kids opening presents—and most adults can have a laugh about it later!
The love we have for our children and the desire to be good parents can also be heartbreaking when we know our kids are disappointed. Despite the joy that receiving material things can give our kids, you can create solid holiday moments by loving them and creating memories by simply doing family activities and being together.