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My kid won't be getting the gift he asked for. Should I tell him now? Add to ...

Question: I am not getting my child what he wants for Christmas. Do I tell him now (Santa doesn’t think it’s appropriate or on budget) or wait until Christmas?

Answer: Your child will eventually find out that the gift he may be expecting will not materialize. From his perspective, that may be the bad news. However, this whole story can potentially end up as a valuable lesson. Let me explain.

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My suggestion is to not tell him prior to Christmas. Since you refer to Santa, I assume he is still at the age where he believes the kindly Saint Nicholas is the source of his joy this time of the year.

Keep in mind that you do not want to blame Santa or leave the impression he is a bad person who failed in your son’s eyes. Young children should be allowed the joy and romance of believing in Santa, their hero, at this stage of their lives.

Over the next few days, your son may even get another chance to sit in Santa’s lap and tell him once again what he wants for Christmas.

Perhaps you may want to “meet” with Santa alone and explain that he should ask your son to list a number of wishes. Your son may number three or more kinds of gifts he would like to receive. That way you can delete the one that is his favourite – the one he expects – and focus on the other choices.

It may also be possible to set money aside over the next 365 days so that the ideal gift arrives from the North Pole next year. As you know, Santa is a nice man and sometimes he gets behind in making the gifts, but he never forgets.

I see this as an opportunity to teach your son that we cannot always get exactly what we want; that we must be grateful for each and every gift; that gifts are not things we are automatically entitled to, but that it is a present we receive, not because we deserve it, but because we are blessed.

Send pediatrician Peter Nieman your questions at pediatrician@globeandmail.com. He will answer select questions, which could appear in The Globe and Mail and/or on The Globe and Mail web site. Your name will not be published if your question is chosen.

Read more Q&As from Dr. Peter Nieman.

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The content provided in The Globe and Mail's Ask a Health Expert centre is for information purposes only and is neither intended to be relied upon nor to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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