Managing Children’s Expectations of Christmas

December 22, 2015 Published by

Think back to your childhood – what do you remember most fondly about Christmas?

Christmas is the highlight of many children’s calendars. With so much hype about it children can get carried away with their expectations of what Christmas entails.

In times of financial restraint, it’s worth looking at how to manage children’s expectations and ensure that parents don’t feel badgered into over-spending and getting themselves into debt in the new year.

Christmas is a whole period, rather than just one day – spread out some fun activities to take the focus off the presents on Christmas morning.

Think back to your childhood – what do you remember most fondly about Christmas? Try and create similar memories by starting traditions with your children.


The following are low cost or free ways of embracing the Christmas spirit and helping spread the excitement over a longer period:

  • Play family games
  • Go for walks to find holly to decorate the house
  • Encourage children to make presents for friends and family
  • Make the advent calendar a special event – maybe start reading a Christmas story when you open an advent window
  • Have a fun tea with Christmas goodies when you decorate the house – don’t forget the Christmas music to really get the atmosphere going
  • Go to see the local Christmas lights and displays in the shop windows – Oxford and Regent Street always have some lovely displays, but local shopping centres will have displays too


Santa Claus holding Presents

Whilst children believe in Santa you can explain that he doesn’t like greedy children so they shouldn’t put too much on their list. Instil a sense of giving as well as receiving in children as they’ll appreciate the presents they get when they’ve put effort into making or buying presents for others.

With older children, talk to them about what they’re putting on their Christmas list and if there’s an unrealistic amount, suggest the child asks for vouchers or money towards the more expensive presents.

Keep the fun of opening presents, without incurring extra cost by including some necessities in a stocking – children will enjoy having their own shampoo, or new socks, clothes, stationery etc. If you were going to have to buy these over the next few weeks anyway, make it more fun and wrap them up.

Children aren’t as materialistic as many people think and they will enjoy spending time doing ‘special’ (not necessarily costly) things together and will benefit much more from having parents who are enjoying the season rather than stressing about how they’re going to pay for it.

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This post was written by Dr Amanda Gummer

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