Expectations can run high during the holidays…and so can disappointment. 

When the presents are opened, do you ever here your kid say:

😢 I never get what I ask for.

😠 Why did my sister get that and I didn’t?!  

😞 This is the wrong color.

Disappointments can pile up and come spilling out when holiday gifting time rolls around.

Even when you know your child’s reaction is not about you, it can be hard to not take it personally. 

And a child’s ungrateful attitude can push our buttons for sure!

We don’t have to give in to their disappointment by exchanging the gift for the “right” one.  What we can do, instead, is respond with empathy and acknowledgment. Simply acknowledging their disappointment can help:

 “That’s not exactly what you wanted. That’s hard.”

 “I know sweetie, this is different.”

 “They got the gift you wanted. I see.”

Acknowledgement doesn’t ensure a tantrum won’t come to the surface. In fact, sometimes it’s the acknowledgement that creates a safe space for the tears to come spilling out. And if that happens, just listen. You don’t have to say much or fix the problem. 

If everyone had someone that held a loving space for us when we didn’t get what we wanted and acknowledged our sadness, it would make a difference. 

When we don’t get what we want as adults, it can trigger a number of things, including feelings of unworthiness or shame. Many of these feelings are rooted in early experiences.  Most people have memories of being blamed or shamed for our desires and disappointments when we were little.

Like the time I went grocery shopping with my mom when I was 8 or 9 and asked her if she would buy me a few things. She bought them all. But when we got home, she lined them up on the counter and shamed me for the money she spent on me. I’m not sure why she didn’t just say, no….

It’s good to want things. We all have desires as humans, and it’s good to ask for the things we want and make plans to see them come to fruition. And it’s also good to be able to navigate disappointment with love and care, whether it’s ours or our child’s.

So as the holiday season continues, remember that this time of year can evoke some of our deepest desires and biggest disappointments. Expressing your frustration to your kiddo or reprimanding them for being ungrateful or wanting something else, doesn’t help. Listening and acknowledging can heal the hurt of disappointment, making room for a happier holiday season.