“I Can’t Wait!” — Helping Kids Avoid Christmas Anxiety

I’ll try not to be much of a downer, but there are a lot of things about Christmas that I just plain dread. I dislike the stress of trying to do normal life with CHRISTMAS IS COMING hanging over my every move for a solid month; I hate the need to spend extra money on gifts that are an obligation and unnecessary; and I am exhausted by the pressure to make every day (or most days) magical and memorable for my family.

But the one thing I just “Hate, hate, hate…double hate, loathe ENTIRELY” [just like the Grinch] is what I am naming “Waiting to Open Christmas Presents Anxiety.”

Starting around November 1st, the Christmas list-making gets real. All year long, the munchkins have been tossing gift ideas at me randomly and I just said, “Remember it and ask for it for Christmas!” and now it’s like gift idea vomit and I am standing in a muck of PJ Masks-Pokemon-Star Wars-Lego-Daniel Tiger-football regurgitation and have no clue how to weed through the madness. Except for the time my three year old asked for his favorite amusement park ride — that was an easy NO. I have several filters for what goes on the real list: annoying; battery powered; does it share well?; no anime of any kind; how can it hurt a sibling if hurled; and will the baby eat it?, so by the end of all the suggestions, my kids don’t really know what will actually be under the tree.

And then the waiting begins.

I keep telling myself that it is character-building for them to have to endure this period of waiting, but by December 24th, I am done with the questions, the pleading, the counting of how many there are, the what could they be, the WHEN WILL WE OPEN THEM, MOOOMMM??!

It got really bad one year when my oldest was only four and he had been watching the pile of presents growing daily. He had also been asked by every person we encountered at the store, the library, the gas stations, etc., “Hi little boy! What do you want/what are you getting for Christmas?” I want to shove hot chocolate up people’s noses when they ask this question. It isn’t like the old days when every single person got roller blades or a bike for Christmas every year and that was the only thing they wanted every year, apparently. Now you can’t go into Target twice in a week without all the toys be changed around, replaced, updated and restocked. My boys can’t keep up — they want to have all the things because, well, the other toys might disappear and new things will come! Anyway, after the drama of waiting, waiting, waiting for Christmas day to come, my son was up early and ready to open presents. Being the practical adults we are, we suggested that maybe we should eat before digging into to presents. TEARS. Not like temper-tantrum, you-are-so-unfair tears, but just plain sad tears because the day had come and he had waited SO long, and here was another roadblock on the way to finding out what was in those wrapped boxes.

As much as it sounds like I don’t, I do love a big, present-filled Christmas.

Opening presents is probably one of my favorite activities, but I have tried since that fateful year to help my kids avoid potential Waiting for Christmas Presents Anxiety by not constantly emphasizing presents. We make the lists and then we can’t add to them. We try to focus on other parts of Christmas that can be enjoyed like being thankful for a warm home during the cold weather, the meaning of the Christmas holiday, extra time to spend with friends and family, decorating spaces in our home with color. When people ask my kids about presents, I try to gently explain that it is an overwhelming question, and I try not to ask other kids the same question. We make lots and lots of Christmas cards and ridiculous ornaments for the tree.

Christmastime is a part of the year in which people make an extra effort to be more generous with their time, their money, and their emotions, and a time in which they look for peace, joy and love. Being generous in all of these ways with our children is equally important — to seek truth and look for wonder with them during the season is just as important as showering them with presents.

So, here’s to a non-dramatic Christmas morning to you and your children. I hope the joys of the season extend to more than what is wrapped under your trees and that hope comes into your hearts in a way that can never be purchased.

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