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Reality Check: Lowering Gift Expectations

Q. Our kids are used to getting everything they want from Santa, but times are tight. How do we explain that he's going to be short this year without ruining Christmas?

A. When it comes to St. Nick, little kids will believe most anything you tell them: Santa's put a cap on requests this year because he has an elf shortage. As long as there's loot to unwrap, it'll be all good. You can supplement Santa's big toy with lots of inexpensive ones from the bargain bin. (If your kids are anything like mine, they'll probably play with the cheap toys more than the ones you spent the mortgage on anyway!) What's more important, though, is that your kids understand that Christmas is also about the joy and love on such a special day. After my kids inspect their gifts, we make breakfast together and, holiday music blasting, eat as a family, reminding ourselves how blessed we are to have each other in our lives. That's a gift that's much too precious for Santa to carry around in his bag. Tell your children this, remind yourself, too, and let the magic be.