While the festive season is quickly approaching, many British families may be growing concerned about how they might manage Christmas this year amidst the cost-of-living crisis.
It emerged last month that three in five people will cut back their Christmas spending this year due to cost concerns – with just 3 per cent of those polled said their Christmases will be bigger than last year.
And while many will be looking to cut back on Christmas dinners and parties with friends, it can be difficult to know how to explain to younger members of the family the changes this year might bring.
Matt Buttery, parenting expert and Chief Executive of Triple P UK & Ireland, told FEMAIL this year presents a ‘real challenge’ for ‘many parents’ who have been forced to cut back on their festivities.
Matt Buttery, parenting expert and Chief Executive of Triple P UK & Ireland, told FEMAIL this year presents a ‘real challenge’ for ‘many parents’ who have been forced to cut back on their festivities – and shared his ways families could prepare for the holiday
He revealed the simple ways in which parents can help to manage their children’s expectations about the period – from openly communicating, to setting a limit on how many presents they might receive.
He explained: ‘The festive season is a joyous time of year to spend with family and friends – but this year could be a real challenge for many parents who have to cut back on their Christmas spend.
‘We’d like to surround the tree with everything our children want – whether that’s the new phone or the latest England kit.
‘Not being able to afford everything can be stressful at the best of times, but this year we’ve got rising bills and food costs to contend with.
‘There are some really simple ways we can manage our children’s expectations without worrying them about the family finances.
‘As adults, when most of us think back to our favourite Christmases, it’s the fun, games, and family time we recall – not how much our parents spent on gifts.
‘It’s important to bear this in mind as you navigate your finances this Christmas, and remember that the effort you put into making memories with your child are the things that will last a lifetime.’
1. Look after yourself first
Matt explained: ‘It might sound odd, but the first thing to do is look after yourself!
‘Things are difficult right now, but when you take time to recharge your battery it’s so much easier to be the calm, positive, parent you aspire to be.
2. Communicate ‘proactively’ about changes
The parenting expert revealed: ‘Children are more aware than many think. They do pick up on feelings of stress, nerves or anxiety, so it’s best to be honest and manage expectations in a sensitive way.
‘Nobody wants to worry their child unnecessarily, but with a proactive and positive conversation you can help them understand why all families, not just yours, are looking after their finances this year.
‘Your children take their cues from you, so by tackling the issue head on and showing your child how you’re making the most of the situation and will find a way through, will make all the difference to their outlook.’
‘This in turn helps your kids cope with difficult times.
‘We know that asking for help can be a daunting prospect – but sometimes reaching out for a little assistance from friends, family, a partner or your health professional makes all the difference to help you manage present challenges.’
3. Use words like ‘excited’ and ‘fun’ instead of focusing on expenses
Matt continued: ‘The words we use and the way we frame these types of conversations can really support our child’s wellbeing.
‘Rather than lingering on their potential ‘disappointment’, the ‘expense’ of Christmas or having to tell them ‘no’ – remind them of the other positives waiting for them over the festive season.
‘How ‘excited’ you are for the holidays, the ‘fun’ games you have planned, and that the most important thing is quality family time.’
4. Put a limit on ‘must have’ wishes
The parenting expert suggested it could be a good idea to set a limit on the number of gifts children feel they can ask for.
He said: ‘It’s really true that less can be more – ask children to list one or two gifts that would be special or top of their ‘must have’ wishes – and within a price range you’ve set!
‘This helps manage expectations and makes it more likely the presents will be appreciated and used.
‘When you focus on what your child really wants there will be fewer toys which end up used once and then left in the toy box.
‘This reinforces a message about quality not quantity which can be a valuable life lesson.’
5. Make homemade presents together
Meanwhile Matt explained one way to manage the expenses of Christmas could be to handmake gifts for the family.
6. Speak to children about alternatives to gifts
And if it still feels as though presents are too expensive, Matt said there are often alternatives.
He said: ‘There are often alternative versions of big-ticket items which cost a little less and look out for savings tips and vouchers to take some pressure off.
‘Maybe it’s also a chance to talk to your child about how to spend wisely and save for bigger items – even young children can save pocket money to build towards a treat.’
He suggested this was one way in which to keep costs low, and create fun memories with the children.
The parenting expert said: ‘Handmade or upcycled gifts are not only a low-cost way to buy for the wider family, but you can get your children involved and turn it into a creative activity.
‘Focusing on the effort and thought they put into the gifts they give will be truly appreciated by the recipient – something they will notice and be proud of.’
7. Start a new tradition
The parenting expert revealed: ‘Instead of an expensive trip to a ticketed Christmas fair, plan a visit to the local market or lights switch-on, or take in a carol service.
‘Children can have just as much fun with your own family traditions, and making new ones!
‘Make a day of the tree decorating, have a festive baking morning and share the results with relatives – all of these can instil a sense of the festive spirit without the expense.
‘If children can see the value you place on something, they will share in it too.’
Matt shared his tips as it emerged inflation hit a 40-year high in September, with prices up 10.1 per cent in a year.
Food prices drove the latest rise in living costs, along with soaring energy bills and transport costs.
A Savanta Comres survey for the BBC revealed adults with a household income under £40,000 were more likely to say their plans will be much smaller this year.
Just 3 per cent of those polled said their Christmases will be bigger than last year.
Young adults aged between 25-34 are significantly more likely to say their spending plans will be smaller. Almost three quarters plan to scale back on the festivities.
People’s plans for Christmas have already been impacted for two years in a row due to the pandemic.
In December 2020, there were strict restrictions on household mixing due to a surge in coronavirus.
The following year, the emergence of the Omicron variant did not lead to restrictions being placed on hospitality, but businesses said customer confidence in eating and drinking out took a hit, with a flurry of cancellations and scaled-back celebrations in the run-up to December 25.
For many retail and hospitality firms, this is their main money-making period of the year, and they will have been hoping for a return to normality.