The Santa Question!
I was recently asked to provide some expert comment on the issue of parents being worried that their children will be disappointed at Christmas time. The cost of living crisis has made Christmas harder every year, which is so hard for parents who want to give their kids everything, but just can't afford it.
This is a highly sensitive and emotional area, and unfortunately Christmas is rife with inequality which the enthusiastic marketing rarely acknowledges. Social media for millennial parents has also made these inequalities feel more profound. So, my point is, that this is a hard topic to answer simply and quickly, but I will give you my take on this.
First of all, let's take a step back from this for a moment. Are you still spinning the "Santa myth"? Are you as a family still collectively pretending to believe in the man in the red suit? If so, it might be time to ditch the charade! I am a massive lover of all things Christmas, Old Saint Nick included, but unfortunately for younger children perpetuating this myth can lead to all kinds of doubt, confusion, and disappointment.
Why would Santa bring one child so much, but bring so little to another? To be honest, by the time your child has started to notice these inequalities, and be affected by peer pressure, they have probably already heard the news at school that Santa is actually your Mum and Dad (usually around the age of 5). Send Santa to the realms of fairytale magic with witches, fairies and mermaids, and be a little more honest with your child.
And please remember that Christmas isn't all about presents (and these are often the things that children remember least). Christmas is about spending time with family, cooking seasonal foods, decorating your home, giving to those less fortunate, and hearing about the origins of this time of year.
I always advocate for the telling of ALL the Christmas stories - the pagan celebration of Yule, the birth of baby Jesus in the manger, and the adventures of Saint Nick. These are stories of birth, renewal, hope, and giving - and surely much better that a cheap disposable plastic gift?
There is nothing wrong with honestly and simply communicating to children the fact that toys and gifts are expensive, and as a family you are unable to afford the larger items. Children are very resilient, and are able to understand the realities of life. Give them autonomy over their understanding of the world. Incentivise your child to grasp the idea of saving up for something special by giving them a small amount of pocket money in exchange for chores, or starting a savings account in their name. These are excellent life skills, and it is never too early to start.
If you have managed to incorporate some of the above ideas into you family life, you are laying the foundations for your child to be able to understand the WHY behind these inequalities. But they still might sting a little. Validate your child's feelings of disappointment and envy, these are true feelings and should be accepted. But perhaps take some time to teach your family about helping those even less fortunate - donating food and gifts to those in need, and perhaps volunteering at a homeless shelter or similar over the Christmas period. Philanthropy can be the most rewarding gift of all.
Concerned about this inequality and FOMO having a negative effect on your child's wellbeing? Wondering how best to support them emotionally? The best ways to support any child through any challenging time are always: spending some extra time with them, giving them some extra care and love, and to be patient and understanding in the face of any unusual outbursts or emotions meltdowns.
And what about that extreme feeling of parental guilt? Well, all I can say is "Presence not presents"! Its an old one but a good one. Chidlren value your time with them and the experiences you enjoy together as a family far more than any toys, books or games. Which to be honest, most children have far too many of anyway, and hardly ever play with! We live in a society of massive over-consumption! But there are other ways to improve your mindset and feelings - spirituality, mindfulness, and talking things through with good friends and loved-ones are often the best medicine!
Want more like this? Visit the rest of my blog to learn more about fussy eaters, screen time, getting a pet, gift-giving for new parents, and advice from my pre- and post-natal nutritionist, my midwife extraordinaire, and my thoughts on planning the perfect playroom.
And visit the rest of my website to find out how to empower your parenting by booking your first coaching session with me!