The Cost of Living Conversation – Managing Your Child’s Expectations this Christmas

As we move into December, Christmas is very much on its way. Mariah Carey is on the radio, children’s performances are planned and shops are decked with tinsel- I have even had my first mince pie. There is no denying it. The festive period is here. 

Whilst it is very exciting, especially for the children in our lives for whom these celebrations are a sort of magic on earth, for many parents the costs and logistics involved bring them plenty of stress as well. 

This year particularly as the cost of living continues to rise, more parents than ever, three in five according to a poll last month, have said they will be cutting back on Christmas spending. 

And whilst, as adults, we are not going to kick up a fuss if we get one fewer present this year, it can be really hard as a parent to not be able to give your child everything they want. It can also be confusing for your child to understand why the festivities are not as big this year. 

It is important to manage your child’s expectations ahead of the big day. Whether their stocking is smaller, they won’t be receiving material gifts or there are fewer trimmings on the Christmas dinner, it is important to set an idea of what they should anticipate to avoid disappointment on the day when excitement and emotions are running high. 

Parenting expert and CEO of Triple P Matt Buttery has some simple ways in which parents can help manage expectations for their children and make the day exciting on a budget. 

1. Put your own well being first 

“This is a tricky period for everyone. It’s natural to feel anxious and stressed, and that is why it is so important to ensure that you take care of yourself. 

Take the time to recharge your batteries, and focus on doing something each day for yourself – however small that might be. Your children will take a lead from you being calm and positive.” 

2. Openly communicate if you are making changes 

“Children understand more than we give them credit for and will be aware if you are stressed or if you are cutting back on certain goods day to day. 

Whilst you don’t want to worry your child, it is important to help them understand why your family, among many others, are having to look after their money this year.”

3. Set clear expectations on gifts 

“Children often have a number of requests for gifts, but less can be more. Ask your child what the most special gift would be and set clear expectations on what they are likely to receive. 

This not only sets clear boundaries, it also means the presents are more likely to be appreciated and used.”

4. Make the festivities about more than gifts

“Excitement doesn’t need to be generated from expensive gifts. Experiences and new traditions can be just as exciting and special as receiving presents. 

This could be as simple as organising a scavenger hunt for your kids, or spending time with them doing crafts or playing games.

You could set a special time aside in the holidays for activities with your children, or you could create a new Christmas tradition by going to the local market, a lights switch-on, or a carol service. 

If children see that you place value on something, they will share in that too.”

Christmas need not be a point of stress for parents and by searching for new traditions and setting expectations for your child, it can be a great day for the whole family – even when faced with challenging circumstances

Charlotte Giver

Charlotte is the founder and editor-in-chief at Your Coffee Break magazine. She studied English Literature at Fairfield University in Connecticut whilst taking evening classes in journalism at MediaBistro in NYC. She then pursued a BA degree in Public Relations at Bournemouth University in the UK. With a background working in the PR industry in Los Angeles, Barcelona and London, Charlotte then moved on to launching Your Coffee Break from the YCB HQ in London’s Covent Garden and has been running the online magazine for the past 10 years. She is a mother, an avid reader, runner and puts a bit too much effort into perfecting her morning brew.