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How to Manage Kids' Holiday Expectations

The recession is still affecting a lot of families, and it is certainly impacting the way we spend this holiday.

As parents tighten their budgets, they'll likely be saying "no" more often.

In fact, according to a study conducted this year by Parents magazine, 100 percent of moms have cut back on spending in the last six months, and 49 percent have cut back on gifts for family and friends. Additionally, 70 percent of moms surveyed said they will cut back on things for themselves in order to find a way to afford things for their kids.

Holiday Gift Guide
Holiday Gifts $100 or less
Holiday Gifts $50 or less
Great Gift Giving at $25 or Less
Great Holiday Gifts $10 or Less

Saying "no" to your kids can be hard if your kids are used to creating endless Christmas wish lists as they are bombarded with commercials.

So how do you address financial issues with your children this holiday season?

Dana Points, editor in chief of Parents magazine, shared ideas on "The Early Show" for how to help make the conversation with your kids a bit easier.

According to Points, teaching kids the value of money is important. She said there is perhaps no better time than now, when kids may sense that parents are feeling pinched and hearing increased requests for things their kids "need," that "everyone else has" or they "have to have."
Points shared ideas for how to address financial concerns this holiday season:

When It Comes To Gifts, It is OK to say NO
It doesn't have to be a battle. Kids will understand the ' no' better if you follow it up with an explanation of why, especially if it relates to your family's current financial situation. Think of it this way: You're not depriving your children; you're teaching them important lessons about finances and earning rewards. Part of growing up is learning to deal with disappointment and delay gratification.

In the long run, kids will be OK not getting what they want and their disappointment is only momentary. It's far more important that parents don't spend over-budget or purchase big gifts that may be inappropriate given their financial situation.

Be honest but not alarmist about household finances
Try something like "we can't afford to buy that right now. We need to save our money for things we really need." Or you could say, "Some families have more money than we do and can afford things we can't."

In fact, it's important to show kids that their parents will not compromise family values to avoid upsetting them. It's a good idea to speak to your child about the gifts they anticipate and explain how and why your family's celebration might be different this year. This will help your kids set realistic expectations -- not just for the holidays, but all year round.

Explain "want" versus "need"
Make it clear that you will do your best to meet their needs but explain that nobody gets everything they want. This will help them understand why they are getting new sweaters and shoes this year instead of the new gaming system or scooter.

Volunteering as a family at a local soup kitchen or assisting with a holiday toy drive for needy kids can help open your kids' eyes to the difference between "want" and "need."

Draw Your Family's Boundaries
Parents have to be prepared for these conversations beforehand. Prepare yourself. When kids point to other families, keep it personal. Give an example from your own life. Tell a story of a time when you didn't get what you want. Explain this is the way our family does it.

Set a Good Example
Kids learn their behavior and attitudes from their parents. Pay attention to the message you may be sending with your own purchases and requests. Don't shop to ease stress, for example, or for entertainment. Or if you are shopping with your child, point out something you see that you would like to have and let your child see you not buy it. You might say "I love that but I'm going to save my money until I can afford to buy it." Manage your money responsibly and make sure your kids see you doing it.

When Other Kids Get More Presents
We all have moments when things don't go as planned, but for children, who have fewer experiences to help them put things in perspective, might not fully understand feeling disappointed.

Be honest with your kids from the start, explain that other families may have more money and can afford more material things.

Highlight some of the unique family traditions that are incorporated into your holiday celebrations. Explain that the holidays are really about spending time together, not about getting gifts.

If Your Child Brags to Other Kids
Kids brag to be popular, noticed and respected and most kids show signs of being competitive or boastful at around age 3. This is also the age when kids start to notice differences in others, such as dress, language, appearance, food and toy preferences and family dynamics.

Kids need to be taught how to temper excessive and enthusiastic bragging or showing off. Your child might just be excited about his new toy and not realize that he's talking about it too much or making another child feel badly.

Make The Holidays More Meaningful
The holidays offer families so many opportunities to bond and share lessons in faith and kindness. It's important to embrace these opportunities to make the season more about creating memories and traditions instead of getting gifts. Downsizing your family's stack of presents may be one of the best steps toward enjoying a more meaningful Christmas,

Volunteer as a family to get kids in the habit of helping those in need.

Help prepare Christmas dinners for the needy at a local church or soup kitchen
Brighten up a nursing home by bringing homemade decorations for residents' room.

Unique and personalized annual traditions teach kids that they're part of something special-your family-and binds this holiday to future ones.

Watch a movie together or set aside a Saturday afternoon to bake cookies.

Teach Money Management
Many parents will be surprised to learn that their seemingly savvy kids don't really fully understand what things cost. It can be helpful to explain to older kids what your family's cost of living is -- take them on a "money tour" of your house and point out the bills you pay monthly. Parents can also go over the monthly water, electricity and cable bills with older kids to show them just how much everything they are used to having (and often take for granted) actually costs.

Once kids are old enough to save money, give them a weekly allowance or let them get a part-time job. Set ground rules for how their allowance should be spent and emphasize that a portion of the allowance should go into a savings account for purchases that might not fit into the family budget. This will teach kids good money management habits and help them prioritize their "I need" requests.

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