by Naomi Simmons
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Christmas is usually the most exciting time of year for our kids, and possibly for us too. The build-up for our kids is overwhelming. Schools spend weeks doing Christmas activities, our homes and streets are decorated. For our kids, probably the most difficult part is enduring the wait for Santa Claus’ arrival and their much dreamt of presents. While Christmas is about a lot more than presents, for young children, the much awaited new toy is realistically likely to be what is most on their mind.
Kids and patience
Waiting for the big day is a huge test of patience for young children. For 3 – 6 year olds, the month or more of waiting for ‘the day’, while all the preparations and excitement is building around them, is quite a big chunk of their total lives to date so will feel longer for them than it will for you. It can feel totally overwhelming for them. The skill of learning patience to wait for good things to come can take many years to learn, so the first tip is ‘Don’t expect too much patience too soon’. You will need to help them to build up these skills.
Christmas provides a lot of learning opportunities for kids: learning to give and receive, learning good will to others, to give thanks, value family and friends, but also very importantly, to have patience and learn to wait.
This is why children who are still learning this skill are often become hard to manage and over excitable at this time.
Why learning to wait for good things is important
Research tells us that learning to wait for good things to come is one of the biggest indicators of success in later life. Children who have the patience to wait are more likely to work hard at school to get the reward of the good grade later. They are more likely to want to go to college in the knowledge that this will give them a better job later. They will learn to put up with short term inconveniences to secure long term advantages. In short, they learn to take a longer term view in planning their lives. This is called deferred gratification.
How to help them
- Advent calendars help. This provide children with a ‘count down’ to the big day, which helps them to manage the wait. Many advent calendars give them a little gift each day too, which gives them something to look forward to while they are waiting for the big day. If advent calendars are not available in your country, you can make one. Stick a large sheet of paper on the wall. Draw a box for each day that remains until Christmas and number each one, counting backwards to Christmas day. Stick a small sweet or chocolate on each box. Every day, your child draws an ‘x’ on the day’s box and receives the small gift. You can decorate the sheet with Christmas pictures.
- If your children get their presents from the three kings in January, the wait will obviously be longer than for those who get their presents from Santa on 24th or 25th December. You can help them manage the wait, by giving them a small gift on Christmas day too, as a preview of what is to come.
- Most importantly, reinforce the importance of gratitude. Encourage your child to be thankful for everything and everyone they already have in their lives, rather than focus too much and what they want to receive.
In our next newsletter, Teach Kids English have some free English Christmas worksheets for your children. Look out for it in your inbox.
Go to Teach Kids English.