Helping Children Deal With Disappointment Around The Holidays


We all have high expectations around the holidays. The media is advertising good tidings and cheer and beautiful gifts. Images of happy families flood the television screen and the delighted faces of children unwrapping the very present they were hoping for is shown in commercial after commercial. Is it any wonder that our children expect non-stop happiness and excitement during the holiday season?

But we all live in the real world – not the fantasy world of movies and television. And it is possible that your child will be disappointed with some aspect of the holiday. A favorite and hoped for toy may be too expensive to buy this year. Perhaps the toy that looked so fantastic on television is not that terrific after all. Or maybe a favorite cousin was planning to visit and the plans were changed. There are a variety of reasons why children may feel disappointed during the holiday season – and for that matter – at any time of the year.

Learning to handle disappointment is an important lifelong skill. There are several things you can do to help your child learn to manage feelings of disappointment.

Be a role model
Demonstrate to your child how you handle disappointment. Let him know that you are sad or even frustrated, but then show him how you stay calm. this will help your child understand that even when we are disappointed, life goes on and we are fine.

Listen, listen, listen!
This might be the hardest thing to do with children. It is difficult to see our children upset and often parents try to talk their child out of his feelings. We often tell children not cry or feel angry. But staying with your child, letting him know that you are there and that you care, and then listening to him as he describes his disappointment can be very helpful to children. When you listen, you are showing your child that his feelings are important. Listening validates your child’s feelings and can be very comforting to children.

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Brainstorm ideas for feeling better
As parents, when we see our children upset, we want to fix the problem and dry their tears. So it is very difficult to resist the temptation to make the disappointment go away. But when we try to solve our child’s problem, we are denying him the opportunity to learn how to handle his disappointed feelings. Instead, begin a discussion about things your child can do to help himself feel better. Can he get involved in a different and fun activity? Can he recognize that while he wanted a certain toy, he can be happy without it. Can he understand that he may get his wish fulfilled at a later time?

Recognize that he is still okay
Help your child understand that while he is disappointed and feeling sad or angry, he is still okay. Remind him of other times when he was disappointed and then later felt better. Share some of your experiences with disappointment and let him know how you did not stay sad for long. Understanding that disappointed feelings do not last forever and that he will feel happy again can help a child handle situations where he is disappointed.

Talk about feelings
At a later time, when your child is feeling calmer, talk about feelings. Name some feelings and brainstorm situations in which a child might feel a certain way. This will help your child understand that his feelings of disappointment are just part of a wide range of feelings that he will have.
Renee Abramovitz is a a former preschool and kindergarten teacher who retired in 2008 to become a “full-time grandma” to her four beautiful grandsons. She is passionate about the idea that all parents are their child’s first and most important teacher and strives to give parents the tools and confidence they need to successfully work with their children at home. 

Visit Renee at for information on helping your child develop important school-readiness skills. On her site you’ll find a free kindergarten readiness test plus hundreds of free kindergarten worksheets including Christmas math worksheets and Christmas worksheets!

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  • Cascia Talbert , December 19, 2011

    Great tips, Renee! I talk about feelings all the time with my kids. It is very healthy.

  • momto8 , December 20, 2011

    good post! Waiting for another time to calmy discuss their dissappointment is the best advice for me….I want to try and fix everything then..and most of the time, that is the wrong time! I am a new follower.

  • shari lynne @ faith filled food for moms and grandmothers , December 20, 2011

    I love this post! It is for real. Most of us do not have lot's of $$ to spend on endless presents and we have 7 children (3 still at home) and 3 grandchildren.

    It is so important to let kids know up front about not having unrealistic expectations and for parents to not give in to the pressure of having to provide that “movie” Christmas.

    There will definately be disappointments, but as you have said it is better to talk about this and pray about these unrealistic expectations.

    The first Christmas was a humble Christmas for a King..


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