Kids Disappointed at the Holidays

20 December 2022

As adults we often deal with disappointment. Children have a more difficult time with emotions. At Christmas we all want the children to be as happy as possible and we are often crushed when we hear our children didn’t have the best time ever. Sometimes it is due to economic difficulties and we just were not able to afford all or the special present they were expecting. Other times it is because a relative or close friend was not able to be with you. It is difficult to respond.

Empathy is a good place to start. “We all wanted Gramma and Gramps to be here this year, but it just wasn’t possible.” “I’m sorry Santa didn’t bring you that special gift, but maybe later this year or for your birthday, we can see.” Acknowledging feelings and letting the little ones know they are being heard can go a long way.

Kids can’t always control their emotions. Give them a chance to recover on their own. Depending on the age of the child and their personality, it could be that they didn’t say anything to you about the special gift or didn’t realize they wanted it until their friends got it. Giving anything a name can help with understanding. This is a big emotion and those children who are introverted or intense can feel more in control. It is also a good time to point out that you have faith that your child is mature enough to deal with the emotion and the situation.

Hard as it may seem, it might be a good time to help your children understand that they are not automatically entitled to everything they want. Yes, you could increase your debt to give them the toy or experience they think they want, but is that really the message you want to send? This can be a life lesson in learning how to adapt and rebound. It can be a matter of allowing them to manage their expectation. Go back to empathy and keep explaining on a personal level but don’t talk down to your kids. They are more resilient and understand more than you think.

Don’t shame them for showing feelings. Deal with outbursts privately and with the same consideration you would expect when you lose a big promotion or other goal. Look for a quiet moment to discuss alternatives. Dismissing the disappointment may not be as effective as finding out the root of the sadness.

Focus on gratitude for the gifts they did have or the parties they enjoyed rather than the missing elements in what they would have considered perfect.

Consider whether this is an isolated incident or an ongoing problem. Expecially if it is something like a parent pulling a no-show…again. Finding a counselor who can help you and the family come to some reasonable methods of handling the situation or realization of its impact can go a long way toward a better adjusted child. Through this process you both can develop coping skills. Give the child a chance to work through the thought process on their own but be available for questions or just to listen.

Remember to observe the results of the tactic(s) you decide to use. If the feelings don’t diminish, you may need to try another alternative.

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