The last thing you want on Christmas morning is a disappointed kid, especially considering how difficult 2020 has already been. It’s been a year of postponements, cancellations—and, for many Americans—beaten-up bank accounts. 

So if you know that Christmas is going to be lighter this year, and that there won’t be as many gifts under the tree on Christmas morning, how do you explain that to your kids? 

Here are a few ideas:

Don’t let it be a surprise.

You know what your budget looks like already. You should have an idea of how that will translate into presents. Since that’s the case, go ahead and sit down with your kids and let them know ahead of time that this year will be lighter on the gift front. 

The older they are, the more they should understand. If you’ve been laid off or furloughed, they should understand that means less income, which means less money to buy stuff. It’s more important to keep the lights on and everyone fed than buying a new PlayStation. Sure, your kids may be disappointed, but emphasize that this is just temporary. Hopefully, 2021 will be a different situation. They should appreciate your honesty. 

Talk about gratefulness.

Let’s say you normally give your kids somewhere around five to seven gifts and this year it might only be two to three—if anything. Talk with them about being thankful for the two gifts they are getting. This is a year where, in terms of gifts, some families might not be giving gifts at all. 

Sometimes it’s hard, especially for younger kids, to understand why Tommy got a PlayStation and your child just got a book and some socks. Reinforce everything they already have (talk about last year’s Christmas), and you might even talk about some things they want next year—if you feel like you’ll be in a better place financially then. 

Make your few gifts fun.

Our kids have been through a lot this year. And while we might be tempted to freshen up their clothes or shoes with our smaller budget, is that going to put a smile on their face Christmas morning? Even if you only put your budget toward one item, maybe make it something really fun—like the race car track he’s mentioned or the doll house she’s been talking about. 

We’re not saying to send your kid to school in shoddy clothes. But if they can hold off a few more months, then there’s nothing wrong with getting them something bright and shiny and fun, as long as it fits within your budget. 

Teach them not to brag about what they got.

Some kids might not be getting anything this year. Some kids might be getting the usual mound of gifts under the tree. In either case, we should be just as thankful for what we have. 

This goes back to the real meaning of Christmas—the gift of Jesus. That’s what it’s really about, not about who gets what or how much. If you can emphasize one thing this Christmas, that small fact should be it.

Focus on giving.

There are so many stories in the Bible about someone who gave when they had little to nothing. What an opportunity we have to live that out in 2020! If your budget is limited, it doesn’t even have to be stuff. 

Have a family baking night and make delicious cookies to pass out to neighbors and friends (using sanitary CDC practices of course!). Volunteer with an organization that helps the less fortunate during the holiday season. There’s so much we can do to help others and take the focus off ourselves. Make sure you’re setting an example and getting your kids in on the giving action this year. 

Thankfully, 2020 is almost over. But there’s so much we can learn from this year, and pass on to our kids, as we move into 2021. Let’s be grateful for what we have and focus on how we can make a difference in the lives of others as we wrap up this wild and crazy year.