Christmas crisis | 

How to talk to kids about cost of living crisis and presents this Christmas

The big man in red and his elves are working harder than ever for fewer toys, so veer your kids towards crafts and board games, forget flashy gadgets, and take time for self-care

Spending quality time playing, going outdoors and slowing down, is what makes children happiest

David Kavanagh, psychologist and family counsellor, recommends making art with children to engage fully with them and hear their likes and dislikes

Denise SmithSunday World

It is purportedly the most wonderful time of the year, but that is not the reality for thousands of Irish families who are facing into a cold, harsh winter as they struggle to keep the lights on and food on the table this Christmas.

While good tidings abound, festive cheer will not damp down the rising cost of living that sees families pushed to the brink of poverty, and that financial burden is set to be compounded by the imminent arrival of the big man in red.

Denying your children eye-wateringly expensive gadgets and the latest trendy toy may seem like a sure-fire way to extinguish the magic of Christmas, but psychologist and family counsellor David Kavanagh says now is the time to redefine the true meaning of Christmas.

“The reality is that some families are now at the point where they are no longer able to afford heating and electricity.

“Santa is not having a good time of it and can’t be as generous as he was before.”

Which leads David to the most important question: how can parents manage their children’s expectations this Christmas?

“Parents now have to communicate with their children and explain to them, in an age-appropriate manner, that Santa won’t be able to deliver as many presents this year and that this won’t only affect them, but also includes children across the entire world.

“This can also be the time where you remind your child that many of their gifts from last year have been unused or barely touched.

“It’s also an important time for parents to nudge their children in the direction of gifts that are affordable. Writing a letter to Santa is a really special time in the lead up to Christmas, so take this time to manage your child’s expectations and plant the seeds for the presents that are in your price bracket.”

David Kavanagh, psychologist and family counsellor, recommends making art with children to engage fully with them and hear their likes and dislikes

But more importantly, it’s time to strip back the consumerism and reveal the true meaning of the holidays.

“I would urge parents to explain the true meaning and concept behind the holidays, and that’s charity, kindness and giving back. Do some research and see how you can link in with local charities or give back to the community.

“We live in a consumerist society which tells us that if we spend more and more money on our children it will make them happy. That is not what makes children happy. Spending time with their parents when their parents are interacting positively with them makes children happy — we know this for a fact.

“One parenting goal to have is to spend more quality time with your children where you interact with them, and I don’t mean passively watching a movie or sitting on the computer, but engaging with them as individuals and learning more about them.

“Break out the board games, make some Christmas art, and this will also be a way to reduce behavioural problems that come with too much screen time.”

For parents who are feeling the pinch and the pressures of the festive season, David says self-care should be part of your daily ritual.

“Spend two minutes before you rush into your day, asking yourself the question, ‘what do I need today?’. Think about your emotional, physical and spiritual needs. Then commit to doing just one thing to meet each of those needs.

“As a proven way to combat stress, self-care is not just about your mental health. It’s also about caring for your physical self by eating healthily, getting adequate sleep, caring about your hygiene and staying active.

“Exercise can be a powerful form of self-care — it keeps you strong, burns energy and gives you a break from your everyday stressors.

“And that practice should extend to your kids too. Plenty of exercise, healthy food and connectedness will keep them calm during the winter break.”

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