Helping Kids Deal with Holiday Disappointment

santaKids can get pretty excited about the holidays. It’s a time of year when they can ask for what they want and maybe, just maybe, get it. The hard truth for any child to learn is that you don’t always get what you want, and this is especially true for young children under 4.

As a parent, you need to help guide them through these feelings and to a place where they can be happy and appreciate the things they do have. Here’s how you can help your child deal with disappointment over the holiday season.

The Meaning of the Holidays

The holidays mean different things to kids at different ages. When they’re really little, around 3 or 4, Santa can be a pretty big deal. It’s a time where they can let their imagination run wild and look forward to getting that present they’ve wanted so desperately all year.


Kids can be very precise about what they want, even at a young age. They don’t want a video game; they want that specific video game. They don’t want a doll, they want that doll. They can, and often do, expect precise things – and that’s even truer if it was conveyed to Santa on his lap or in a letter.

When They Don’t Get What They Want

You have to lay the groundwork to help manage expectations before the holiday season begins. A great way to do this is to put the emphasis on giving instead of getting. As a family, volunteer someplace to help the less fortunate to show kids that not everyone has the same advantages they do. Buy a gift for a child in need and have your child pick it out, explaining to them why. It’s never too early to plant the seed of giving in a child’s mind.

If you are in a situation where you may not be able to afford gifts for your children, you can bring in the concept of “Santa dollars,” explaining that Santa has only so many Santa dollars to spend on families during this time of the year. He might have to do things a little differently than he has in the past and give food and clothes instead of a big toy. You don’t have to be apologetic about it, because not everyone is going to get what they want all of the time.

Remember, helping children to learn to navigate disappointment is important. As a parent you probably want your child to have the world, but it’s not realistic to think they will never be disappointed. You are helping them to build important skills by helping them to manage expectations.

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