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Epi #38. Holiday Gift Disappointments

cyclebreakers epi38 gentle parenting marcela collier parenting-with-understanding podcast rachael rogers shownotes spotlight Dec 13, 2022
HIC Parenting Education
Epi #38. Holiday Gift Disappointments

Holiday Gift Disappointments

Hello, Cycle Breakers! Today’s episode will be helpful for Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, etc. What happens if Little Suzie is less than impressed by the wool socks grandma gives her for Christmas…again?! 😳 Don’t worry, we’re helping you navigate your kids’ disappointment about some of their holiday gifts & what to do about it before — and after — the cringe sets in. 😬

What Is Disappointment?

The Oxford dictionary describes disappointment as “sadness or displeasure caused by the non-fulfillment of one’s hopes or expectations”.

When your child receives a gift that they are disappointed by, like socks & underwear from grandma for the 3rd year in a row, the letdown can be likened to grief. This explains why they react with tears, sulking, & irritability. 😯

Things to Consider

Yet, it’s often misunderstood as being “ungrateful” or “disrespectful”, especially by parents/caregivers who were raised in poverty or low-income households, or if they were also labeled as such when they expressed their displeasure towards a disappointing gift. In fact, shaming a child about their feelings doesn’t teach them gratitude, at all. 🤯

Please keep in mind that their feelings & experiences are different from yours as a kid. They can only see the world through their own eyes & lived experiences; they’re not being ungrateful. We encourage you to see things from your child’s perspective, not an adult’s, & ask yourself the following question: “At my child’s developmental level, are they able to emotionally & psychologically understand this the way I do as an adult?” 🤔

As Lisa Smith mentioned last week, “get curious, not furious.” Their disappointed reaction can feel triggering & bring up feelings of anger, frustration, & fury. But, think about a few things:

  • 💭 Why is a certain gift important for your child?
  • 💭 What is their emotional response trying to tell you?
  • 💭 What underlying need could be going unmet?
  • 💭 How can you teach your child to work through their disappointment, since it won’t be the last time they’ll feel it?

Disappointment Expressed in Front of Extended Family

If your child shows their displeasure in front of your family, it can feel extra triggering because all eyes are on you. Your parents are closely watching to see how you’ll handle it & that could bring your inner child to the surface. It could mimic how you felt as a child whenever your parents watched over your choices & behaviors, inwardly influencing your desire to please them. It definitely adds lots of pressure on you to react. 😳

What You Can Do

Talk with your kids in advance about the possibility of receiving gifts they don’t prefer. Maybe they can thank the person for the gift, then privately share their true feelings with you to problem-solve together. 🕵️‍♀️

Other ways to teach your kids how to approach this issue is through either story-telling or role playing. For example, while playing with their toys with them, you can create a storyline where your character receives a present they don’t like & model how to handle it appropriately. Modeling & playing are two of the best & easiest ways kids learn about the world around them! 🧸

If all else fails, & they burst into tears or have a meltdown caused by their disappointment, accompany them to a private, safe space where you can co-regulate & help them calm down. 🫂

If your family members get offended, assess their energy before continuing. If they’re dysregulated, you should wait until the dust has settled & they’ve calmed down before explaining your child’s reaction. 🌬️

However, if they seem genuinely receptive to understanding your child, ask them if they remember ever opening a gift they were less than thrilled to receive. Then, ask them if they remembered how it felt in the moment & follow-up with an explanation about how your child chose to express their grief about the situation. 👩🏼‍🏫


Remember, your child's (and even teen’s) developmental age isn’t the same as an adults’, so they shouldn’t be expected to act like one, especially when they’re unhappy. There’s nothing wrong with feeling disappointed, upset, or sad about a gift they did or didn’t receive. All feelings are welcome. It’s a teachable moment that should be approached with gentle understanding, empathy, & care.* ❤️‍🩹

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