The hype of Christmas begins earlier each year, which means the build-up to the big day becomes even greater with each passing season. When the morning of December 25th arrives, it’s seemingly gone in an instant, often leaving children with a post-holiday letdown.
With well over a month of shopping and decorating and baking and binge-watch Hallmark movies, the excitement on Christmas morning can often feel like a rushed, chaotic scene of unstuffing stockings and unwrapping presents. Then poof, it’s done.
When I was young, I recall being sad by early afternoon but wouldn’t quite know why. It wasn’t because of the gifts I received; I was always really appreciative of what I had opened. I couldn’t quite pinpoint my blues until my Mom once said “It’s the Christmas letdown.” But even for the years to follow, I remember still telling my parents, “I don’t want it to be over. I want to continue to listen to Christmas music and make crafts and decorate sugar cookies.”
It was like I was mourning the loss of the holiday season. How could I possibly wait 11 more months to do this again? As a kid, that amount of time seemed like an eternity.
So how can parents help their kiddos navigate what may be confusing feelings for some?
Keep it joyful
“First, always keep it positive. Help them to see all of the good that has come out of Christmas,” said pediatric Nurse Practitioner Stephanie Bosche of Tri Country Pediatrics in Pennsylvania. “One thing I love to do is have the kids choose one of their old toys to donate to another child after the holiday season so that they can learn how good it can feel to give.”
For my own daughter, I try to help her keep the excitement going by talking about all of the other special times of year. Although the magic of Christmas can’t exactly be recreated, there are many aspects of the holiday season that we can incorporate at anytime.
Create special events
One thing that works well for us is writing activities and fun made-up days on the calendar. This gives my daughter something to look forward to. For example, pick a date in January when you know schedules are clear and declare that day “The Great Snow Fort Challenge” or “Science Experiments with Friends.” Whatever best suits your child’s interest and the family’s budget.
“Help guide children by encouraging them to feel excited but also feel prepared for other activities throughout the week. In a year like 2017 when Christmas falls on a Monday, followed by seven vacation days for most families I encourage spreading out the holiday events across the week so that there are endless options for fun and creativity,” said Julia Colangelo, LCSW in New York City.
Talk it out
Colangelo also said that keeping an open line of communication and being prepared for these conversations will help for smooth transitions. In fact, she said, the earlier families can have these discussions, the better.
Anytime you hear your child exclaim something like “I can’t wait,” encourage the excitement but link in another activity that follows Christmas to help remind them that there are other great events ahead. For example, you could say to your child: “I love that you are so excited about Christmas. You know what else is just around the corner? New Year’s Eve! I have some fun things in mind for that day.”
Ultimately, it’s important that children feel comfortable expressing their emotions across the board. Sometimes, they just need help making sense of what they’re feeling.
Something that always stuck with me as a kid was when grandmother shared this piece of wisdom with me: A part of what makes Christmas so special IS that it only happens once a year.