anxiety, children, christmas, Elf on the Shelf, family, mindful parenting, parenting, parenting tips

Managing Your Child’s Expectations During the Holidays


This time of year can be overwhelming, what with presents to wrap and meals to prepare and guests to attend to and all. It’s a lot for a grown up to keep up with. Now imagine you are an 8 year-old who literally can’t wait until Christmas morning — what does that feel like?

As parents we are often so caught up with playing Santa and moving The Elf and checking our own lists twice that we might not notice how the holidays affect our kiddos. It’s easy for us to think they should just be happy and enjoy all the Magic Of The Season, but that’s not always the case.

Did your child make a Christmas List? Perhaps he or she is feeling unsure about how his or her behavior has been perceived and is worried nothing on the list will be under the tree this year. Or maybe the list was filled with unrealistic or way-too-specific items that just weren’t attainable by her gift givers (see: Purple Cowgirl Outfit). Or maybe your child made her list last week, not understanding how the list might actually apply to real life. Or possibly your child thinks so much of Christmas Magic that she thought all she needed to do was wish really hard for her Dream Gift and never actually told you what you she wants…

Now, do you have family in town, or are you spending Christmas morning away from home? Has your child been staying up later and not eating as well as usual? That change in routine combined with forced socialization and unrealistic expectations may just create a monster you don’t recognize.

So what do you do?

Here are a few tips for parents:

1. Talk to your child one on one about his or her behavior. Calling him or her out in front of Grandma and Grandpa isn’t going help the situation. Either have a quiet side conversation to ask if something is bothering your kiddo or bring him or her to a different room to ask. Either way, ask with love first before deciding you have a rude or misbehaving child on your hands.

2. Be prepared for tears or anger. If the problem has been bottled up for some time, when your child shares it with you it may come out in a dramatic way. Support her while she shares her feeling with you.

3. Have a solution ready. Maybe your kiddo just needs a break from all the attention — let him know a specific time when he can take a break (“In 15 minutes you can go read/play a video game/go outside”). Or maybe he is disappointed in a gift he did or did not receive. Help him feel thankful that someone thought to give him a gift regardless if it was what he wanted, and help him look forward to a time he can get the thing he preferred. If what he preferred is unrealistic? Commiserate with him. Share a story of a time you really wanted a specific thing for Christmas and didn’t get it.

Have you had a child turn into someone you didn’t recognize during the holidays? How did you handle the behavior? Do you have tips to share with other parents facing the same problem?