How to talk to kids about Santa with difficult economy

December 19, 2011 2:08:25 PM PST
Whether they've put a letter in the mailbox or paid a visit at the mall, some little ones have big expectations when it comes to Santa Claus.

But with a sluggish economy and millions of Americans out of work, not all wishes can be fulfilled.

Licensed Clinical Psychologist Lynn Bufka says that's when parents should talk about the tough economy and how it might impact Santa too.

"Parents have a lot of influence on helping children not be excessive consumers, and that's starting from a very young age, so setting reasonable expectations is very important," she says.

Bufka suggests not to treat Santa just as a guy who put presents under the tree, but instead, as a symbol of the season of giving, and of generosity.

"The whole idea of Santa is about generosity and parents can use that to talk about generosity within the family or within the larger community, and they can use that to talk about Santa giving things that are gifts, and what gifts truly are, instead of fulfilling every single desire, whether you really want it or not," adds Dr. Bufka.

She also says it's an opportunity to instill compassion in kids, to be grateful for what they do receive, instead of focusing on what they don't.