When children have unrealistic expectations at Christmas

Dear Santa

Here’s a letter from a boy in Dublin. You can see he’s got high hopes. Dad’s out of work and things are pretty tight down there. What are we going to do?

Percy PostElf

Dear Percy

Thanks for your letter. Wow – quite a list.  There’s a financial freeze here in the North Pole too – so if James gets one thing on his list he’ll be fortunate. It makes sense that the parent will  be wondering how to deal with his disappointment.

Let me tell you a story.

A few years back when everything seemed a lot more jolly on the financial front, I planned to have a holiday after the Christmas rush. When  the reindeer and I were delivering presents in the Carribean I thought that would be a lovely sunny spot to take a break.  The holiday agent sent us a promotional  video all about the cruise ship  –  wonderful big swimming pool, cabin with ocean view. Mrs Claus and I couldn’t wait. Our ship turned out to be a glorified rust bucket.  The swimming pool was hardly big enough for my rubber duck and our cabin didn’t have a window at all. On the second day of the trip one of the engines broke down and, we limped back to the harbour without even a  sniff of the Caribbeans. Huge disappointment!

Later that year I was having to check on some of our new Christmas delivery  plans on the Greek islands. So I caught a ferry out to the islands. I’d heard about Greek ferries so I  had no illusions  – I expected an old crate of a ship and I got one.  But this was a fabulous experience–  Rudolph and I sat on the  rough deck,  soaking up the brilliant sunshine and dazzling ink-blue sea.  We even saw a seal swimming alongside the boat.

What’s this got to do with Christmas presents?

When I had huge expectations, all I got was disappointment.  The first trip had been a disaster because I’d expected it to be so much more.

The one difference was my expectation.

Percy, here’s a few suggestions for parents from me:

1. Help children to have realistic expectations.

With older children you might discuss your financial situation – and what amount can be set aside for presents this Christmas. (I don’t  mean worry  the children with all the concerns – but the children will deal better with the situation if parents aren’t pretending it’s something it isn’t).

2. Encourage children to make a list of two or three things they would like, within the possible price range, explaining that they will only receive one.

3. If the children are expecting me, explain to them that there are so many children needing a present this year that Santa will only have room on the sleigh for each to have a small toy.

The bottom line is:

When the children have realisitic expectations they are more likely to be happier with their presents.

Looking forward to hearing back from you tomorrow, Percy. I’m sure there’s lots more questions you’re hearing.



Day 2  ‘Need’ or ‘Want’

Day 3  Dealing with Disappointment

Day 4  Christmas Surprises

Day 5  Three Key Questions Regarding Purchases

Day 6  No Money This Christmas

Day 7  Christmas is for Giving

Day 8 When Sad or Bad Things Happen at Christmas

Day 9  When Grown Ups Fight

Day 10 An Attitude of Gratitude

Day 11 Can’t Forgive

Day 12 Christmas – What Really Matters