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Managing Expectations and Behaviour at Christmas

By: Sarah Edwards - Updated: 6 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
Christmas Children Behaviour Families

Christmas is a time fraught with expectations. If it’s not your children using pester power to convince you that you really MUST spend all your hard earned cash on the latest, greatest toys and gadgets, it is the expectations that we all have for the season of goodwill...to all men, women and children when we get together with people we barely see for the rest of the year. However, spending a couple of weeks with your nearest and dearest can be a bit of a culture shock.

Family time

The festive season is traditionally a time for families and friends to get together and spend time catching up, relaxing and being together. Although this sounds like a lovely idea, in practice things can be very different.

Concentrated time together

Many families do not spend a lot of time together during a normal working or school week. We all have busy lives, and often just finding time to catch up with your partner or help your children with their homework can be quite a challenge. Therefore, we are not used to the concentrated period of time that we expect to spend together during the holidays, and this can cause problems and stress.

Managing expectations

Quite apart from the fact that adults may struggle with their behaviour, you will inevitably find that the excitement and build up to the big day could well have a profound impact on the way your children behave as well.

Routines may be ignored!

Normal bed times and meal times will probably become more flexible and this is really what Christmas holidays are all about. However, for younger children this may have an adverse effect on their behaviour so it is worthwhile spending some time planning ahead to ensure that you can all have lots of fun and a lovely time, but with the minimum of stress.

Exciting times!

Christmas really is all about children, and you will have to accept that there has to be a certain amount of flexibility. They will expect to be allowed to stay up later, eat what they like and play noisy games, and within reason you should try and accommodate them. It is a fun time after all and you want your children to have good memories of happy childhood Christmases!

The joy of giving!

Ultimately, children expect to get presents and treats at Christmas and there is no getting away from the fact that they will have been planning their annual assault on your hard earned cash for quite some time! Therefore, well in advance of the big day it is worth spending time with your children to explain to them that Christmas is about giving as well as receiving! This may seem like a tall order, but that is what the essence of Christmas is about so it is good to talk to them about the festive season and why we do the things we do, eat the food we eat and so on. If you are at a bit of a loss, then try your local library and find a book about Christmas and yuletide celebrations that you can read together.

Dear Santa....

Children have always sent Father Christmas a letter in the run up to Christmas explaining how good they have been and that they feel they really deserve some presents. Opinions are always going to be divided on this one as there is an argument against using Christmas as a bargaining tool for good behaviour. Whatever your own personal beliefs, the fact is that some gifts will have to be purchased so manage your child’s expectations by encouraging them to have a short list or top five gift ideas that they would really love to receive on Christmas morning.

Peace and goodwill...to all men (women and children!)

Christmas is hard work! To make sure that your festivities run smoothly and all expectations are managed accordingly, invest a little time in some forward planning. Decide on a budget for gifts and stick to it. Explain to your children that they can’t have everything just because they believe their friends will, and that it has to be fair. Christmas is not an easy time for everyone and can be harrowing and full of guilt for many parents who feel they are letting their children down by not giving them everything they want. On the contrary, children need to learn about the value of money and the importance of giving as well as receiving and Christmas is a good time to try and instil these values. And always remember....Father Christmas DOES exist!

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