Caroline Moss is an author and host of the podcast "Gee Thanks, Just Bought It," which helps people find the products they need to make life easier, better and more productive. Now with this column, "Asking for a Friend," she's helping people with the advice they need to make life easier, better and more productive. To submit a question, click here.
I have three kids between ages 13 and 17. All are in high school. I'll be frank: I don't want to do a big Christmas this year. Every year it's lists and demands and comparing the gifts that they get with their brother's and sisters' gifts. It turns my often well-behaved, normal(ish) kids into absolute brats. They're too old for it. I have no idea what brings out this behavior other than the fact that it’s become somewhat of a holiday tradition.
Do I have to tell my kids ahead of time that the days of Christmas lists and endless gifts from Santa are over? Or can I just put the plan into action?
I am truly at a loss.
Over It Mom
This is totally reasonable. The holiday season makes people crazy — kids and parents alike. It sounds like your kids had many years of generous Christmas mornings. That, of course, was never guaranteed as a forever thing. Most kids age out of the magical parts of Christmas around the age your youngest is now, and it sounds like it's time to build some new traditions and memories. It can still be magical, but it is time for your kids to grow up a bit. Is that true for all high schoolers? No. But if you’re telling me your kids throw little tantrums on Christmas morning, obviously something has to change big time.
That being said, I absolutely do not recommend surprising your kids with a completely different approach to Christmas morning on, uh, Christmas morning. Unless you’d like to totally ruin the holiday for yourself, which I assume you don’t. Tell them now! The earlier the better, giving them more time to deal with their emotions surrounding this change.
If you want to set expectations, I'd borrow a Christmas tradition from one of my friends who has four kids between ages 5 and 20. Every year, they each get four things: something they want, something they need, something to wear and something to read. She said she heard about it via a parenting Facebook group. The idea is pretty simple: everyone expects four gifts, each gift has a purpose and no surprises or need for competition between siblings. The “want” can be discussed prior and you are in charge of the budget.
Your kids are kids, yes, and they should enjoy the holiday. But so should you! They’re not babies. It’s time for them to grow up, and I say that with love and kindness.
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