Managing children's expectations on Christmas morning and in the lead up to Christmas day is a challenge many parents can relate to. All parents want the best for their children, and to avoid temper tantrums that can come with disappointment. We’ve compiled a few triggers you may face as a parent, and how to best navigate them so that the Christmas season is a joyous occasion for parents and kids alike.

The Santa dilemma

The magic and mystery of Santa Claus is a double edged sword. It encourages imagination, creativity and excitement among kids but it can also make it hard to manage expectations around presents as surely Santa can just provide everything they want?! The focus is often on receiving gifts from Santa, rather than the joy of giving and sharing with others. Then there’s the matter of what happens when children get old enough to question the practicality of Santa; how can he fit down the chimney? How can he fly? Kidspot has some great tips on answering these questions when they arise.

Our tip is to try and shift the focus from what the man in the red suit brings them, and emphasise the importance of sharing, giving and other values associated with the holiday season instead.

Gimme, gimme, gimme!

In a world where we're constantly bombarded with messages and advertising promoting consumption it's no surprise that kids often develop a ‘gimme, gimme, gemme!’ mentality when it comes to what is under the Christmas tree. This is further amplified when kids are comparing themselves to their friends/cousins/neighbours who have the latest and greatest gadget, game or toy.

Our tip to mitigate this is to set expectations, and set them early. Whether this is around the amount of gifts, or the type of gifts. Encourage your children to prioritize their Christmas wish list, choosing one or two things that are really special and ask them why. Often their reasoning will surprise you, as it’s not always about the gift itself, but about the feeling that is associated with it.

Keep it as healthy as possible

Christmas day and overindulging in food and drink often go hand in hand. But just because it’s Christmas or the festive season doesn’t mean all your hard work of getting kids to eat their veggies should go out the window!

Our tip is to lead by example, if you’ve switched out all your healthy eating, drinking and exercise habits for over indulgence then how can you expect your kids not to follow suit? We’re not saying deprive yourself or your children, just ensure that there is balance in food and drink consumption. Consider baking healthy snacks, with less refined sugar than the usual Christmas treats. If you need some inspiration, Delicious has some great ideas that kids will love!

Instil values

Instilling values on your children is probably something you subconsciously do on a daily basis, and it can be really beneficial to keeping realistic expectations when it comes to Christmas and gifts. If you consistently remind your children that Christmas is not all about presents, and that your family does it differently to their friends/neighbours/cousins, they will likely be more accepting of certain disappointments that might arise on the day.

Our tip is to be firm and honest. Make Christmas more about the joy of giving, and sharing with others. While presents are a fun part of the day, they shouldn’t be the sole focus. Get your kids involved choosing gifts for others so they can share the joy of giving. This can be as simple as making homemade presents or cards together.

Another great way to get kids involved in giving is to donate time, presents or money to those less fortunate. Perhaps your kids could choose presents, food or donate their old toys to a local shelter or charity drive? This will give them perspective on how fortunate they are, and help them realise that the best gift is the gift of giving!

Here are a few options:

Salvation Army

City Mission Christmas Appeal

Barnardos Australia Gifts for Kids

Save the Children Christmas Gift Donation

The Smith Family Toy & Book Appeal

Further Resources

At HCI, we’ve partnered with the Nourish Baby program which provides a wealth of information on babies and toddlers up to the age of 3, including tips on behaviour and development which may be beneficial in navigating expectations not just around the Christmas period, but throughout the years. Best part, it’s free for our members with Gold Hospital cover.

And remember, when it comes to Christmas, the best things in life are free!

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