Your Life: Managing holiday gift expectations

Many children are making their lists and checking them. Well, let's say more than twice.

While gift giving is one centerpiece of the holidays, it can be stressful for parents to manage.

It's a spectacular time of year to celebrate, but it is also a time when people are absorbing an enormous amount of stress in an effort to try to make the holiday even more spectacular for their children and loved ones and that can damper the spirit of what the holidays are really about.

Budgets can be hard to stick to during the holidays, especially when so much emphasis is put on the gifts under the tree.

"Parents sometimes feel badly that their kids are going to be disappointed, but the kids can tolerate," Dr. Elizabeth Gosch, a PCOM psychologist, said.

Dr. Gosch says in an effort to avoid disappointment, parents often overspend. But disappointment is a feeling, she says, is OK to experience.

"When they have their parents there to help them get through it, that's a great time to learn about how to manage a little bit of disappointment and how to work it through and be comforted and move on and still have fun," Gosch said.

But Gosch says preparing kids about wish list limits ahead of the holidays is best and can be done without ruining the spirit of the season.

"We make these lists and you can add it to your list if that's something you're interested in and you'll probably get a few things from your list for Christmas," Gosch said.

Gosch also suggests taking self-inventory: are we the ones focusing too much on buying?

"It would be interested for parent for example about thinking how much time over the last week have I spent doing activities with my kids or thinking about things to do together versus shopping," Gosch said.

Lastly, Gosch says be practical.

While you may want to lessen the emphasis on presents these next two weeks, outside influences like extended family members, friends and a materialistic culture can make that a challenge.

"Ultimately, you can't completely control that so at some point you have to let it go and trust that in your home and in your family you will be able to influence your children; most studies suggest children tend to have the values most similar to their parents," Gosch said.

Gosch says it's also important to practice patience.

Just because your children are making long lists or express some disappointment doesn't mean they are selfish or materialistic or that you are performing poorly as a parent, it means they are kids.

And this is all part of the learning process, but it's up to you to give them the tools to manage it.

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