Before becoming a parent, Christmas with children seemed like a dreamscape; think angelic children with a twinkle in their eye, frolicking around a colour-coordinated hand-picked tree, opening presents with sheer delight.
Yet, Christmas, as with life, doesn’t always play out like a greeting card and can easily decline into a rushed day of family arguments, overtired children and broken dreams.
To avoid Christmas feeling like an event you need to survive rather than something you look forward to, here’s some tips on how you can best manage your children’s expectations at Christmas, and your own sense of responsibility in meeting them.
1. Keep it Real
With all the commercial hype, it’s easy to get sucked into the myth that your child’s eternal happiness depends on whether you chose the right Oshie or secure the right Minecraft Lego.
The busyness gets to you and as the to-do list grows, so do the expectations to make the day Instagram-worthy.
At Christmas, it’s easy to feel like if it’s not unforgettable – it’s on you. That normal standards of home presentation and entertaining no longer apply – it’s the festive season – won’t guests expect home-made custard as smooth as Nigella Lawson’s voice, and a twelve-lemon decorative centrepiece?
In reality, few parents of young children without hired help have the time or energy to make sage gravy from scratch. Your family shouldn’t expect white linen service, nor should you feel like an underachiever for not giving it.
Think simple pleasures and basic decorations – expensive ornaments often become chew-toys, or found in the sandpit mid-December anyway…
2. Be mindful of raising expectations by over-giving
Start as you mean to go on. Many kids have toy-overload, resulting in gifts being abandoned, broken or boxed up for donation fairly quickly. By consciously deciding to purchase less when they are little (and often prefer the wrapping to the gift itself) you are also paving the way to limit their future expectations.
Christmas will look different as your child grows – and older-kids’ wish lists are far harder to fulfil financially than a few cheap plastic toys that may satisfy the rambunctious toddler.
Limit yourself to a few gifts you know your child will enjoy using throughout the year, and don’t be tempted to ‘fill a gap’ under the tree with last minute additions if your budget has been reached.
3. Start an inexpensive tradition you can maintain.