Thursday, December 18, 2008

Mommy, has Santa been hit by the economic crisis?

How do you tell a child its going to be a lean Christmas? Do children understand that Santa has been hit by the economic crisis?

Dear Dr. Josh,

I know the economic crisis has hit others much harder than my family, but I need your advice. We have always provided for our children and Christmas has been a time to splurge on them. As with many other people our financial situation has been pretty bad this year. We have shielded the children from it and tried to carry on with our normal life. But as I sit here and look at what we have for their Christmas gifts I know they are going to be disappointed... How do I let them know that they have done nothing wrong and that Santa wasn’t punishing them? How do you tell a 6 and 8 year old that mommy and daddy don’t have as much money right now?

Should she just explain to her children how they should feel fortunate? Yes- but to a 6 and 8 year old—gratitude and guilt and empathy are all very new emotions. So doing that can be a challenge—here are some points to consider:

1. Your children will think Santa punished them only if you let them. Your reaction if negative or apologetic will make things worse.

2. Don’t confuse your guilt with what you think their reaction will be. The likelihood is that they will love whatever they get. Your dread is most likely your own guilt. If you have gifts from Santa make it a big deal—let them know how good and lucky they were.

3. Empower your kids by letting them help others. Take this Christmas to show them where they stand relative to other children… we all know there are children who will have nothing this year… whether it’s your church or a shelter—let them learn about giving—by giving one of their toys (old or new) to a child who doesn’t have.

4. Children are resilient—the damage you think is being caused is likely to be non-existent—it all depends on your reaction—you model for them- so if you are happy they are happy.

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