Devereux
Leading National Behavioral Healthcare Provider

Call 1-800-345-1292


Tweet Share on LinkedIn Send email Print

Looking beyond gifts: Helping your child manage expectations during the holidays

By Susan Damico – Assistant Director of the Devereux Center for Resilient Children  

For many, the holidays are the most wonderful time of the year, but all the excitement, stimulation and expectation can take a toll on children and their parents.  

Taking a few moments each day to teach our children about generosity, gratitude and resilience may help prevent any disruption or letdown that can wreak havoc during what should be a fun and joyous time for families. 

A primary source of happiness and stress during the holidays is exchanging gifts with loved ones, especially children. All parents want to see their child’s face light up when opening presents but, often, it can feel like gifts become the star of the show, instead of playing a supporting role. One way to make sure presents don’t steal the spotlight is to help your child focus on generosity and gratitude. A few tips include: 

  • Making time to be thankful: Teaching children to cherish what they already have will help them gain strength and happiness from their everyday surroundings. In addition to writing a letter to Santa, ask your child to write down what they are thankful for this year (and every year). 
  • Setting limits and managing expectations: Remind your children that they may not always get everything that they want – and that’s okay. If your child becomes upset, be patient. Learning to cope with disappointment takes time.  
  • Being a role model: Children learn through our example, so it is important to be a model of gratitude and generosity when it comes to gifts and acts of kindness. When your children demonstrate healthy social and emotional behaviors, encourage and reward them through positive reinforcement. Thank a child for cleaning up after dinner, for patiently listening to a family member’s story without interrupting or for completing a chore without being asked. 
  • Giving back: It is never too late to start thinking about your family’s involvement in charity. Encourage your children to give back by: 1) donating toys and books they no longer use, or clothes they have grown out of, and 2) purchasing a new gift for a family in need. When it comes to toys and books, ask your child to pick out items they are comfortable giving away; explain how sharing will make another child happy. And remember that younger children may have a hard time giving up toys, so be patient and remember that no act of kindness is too small! 
  • Talking about good intentions: Sometimes, a child may not love a gift he or she receives from a family member (hey, it happens, right?). This is an excellent, teachable moment to talk about the intention behind gifts. For example, “Grandma gave you that teddy bear because she loves you and thought it was something you would like to play with when she’s not with you.”  

Building resilience to reduce stress

During the holiday season, it’s also important to be mindful of other stress factors that could affect your child. If you notice unusual or out-of-character behaviors, this could simply be the result of overstimulation from events, activities and school obligations.  

When planning parties, family gatherings and school recitals, schedule down time to be together and reflect. Use this time to help your child relax and decompress: practice self-calming techniques like listening to soothing music, reading a book or practicing deep breathing – and remember to laugh.  

Children who are relaxed and emotionally centered have more control over their behaviors. Taking time this hectic holiday season to help your children develop social and emotional skills will enable them to feel good about themselves, feel connected to others, believe their actions can make a positive difference and, ultimately, are more likely to be happy.    

Latest News

  Former Devereux student shares her high school experience

“Devereux taught me that I am appreciated and that I do matter,” said Shante Chapman, a former Devereux Day School student. When Shante was younger, she was labeled a “brawler” who was prone to bouts of anger and fighting. After her freshman year in high school, she and her family made the decision to continue her high school education at the Devereux Day School in Pennsylvania.

  2017 Golf & Tennis Classic generates nearly $120,000 for Devereux PA programs

Devereux Pennsylvania’s 30th Annual Golf and Tennis Classic - held at the Philadelphia Cricket Club and the Whitemarsh Valley Country Club - included a golf and tennis tournament, along with live and silent auctions and a cocktail/dinner reception for attendees.

  Devereux article on Positive Behavior Support featured in Fostering Families Today

An article written by Devereux employees - Rachel Eisenberg, Ph.D.; Laura Rutherford, Ph.D.; and Barry McCurdy, Ph.D. - was recently featured in Fostering Families Today magazine. The focus: Positive Behavior Support in treatment foster care.

  Devereux Senior Vice President and COO Carl E. Clark II Elected to RCPA Board

Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health, one of the nation’s oldest and largest nonprofit providers of behavioral healthcare, announced that Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Carl E. Clark II was elected to the Rehabilitation and Community Providers Association’s (RCPA) Board of Directors.

  Tips for Navigating the Special Needs World with Your Child’s Doctor

In a two-part series about fostering strong relationships between physicians and children with special needs, Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health Director of Family and Community Services Amy Kelly shares her experiences - Tips for Navigating the Special Needs World with Your Child’s Doctor - with Philly.com’s Healthy Kids Blog.

  Devereux celebrates teachers and nurses during recognition weeks

At Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health, we celebrate our nurses and teachers all year long. But during National Nurses Week and National Teacher Appreciation Week, we really want to give our nurses and teachers a special shout out!

  Adoption brings the gift of family to four siblings in foster care

Donna and Sharicka McHenry were satisfied with their lives in Phoenix, Ariz., but something was missing. “We always wanted children,” said Donna. “We wanted one of our own, but we also knew we would go through the foster care process because there are nearly 18,000 children living in the child welfare system in Arizona.” The couple are now parents to four siblings who previously were in foster care.

  Devereux Announces 2018 Retirement of President and CEO,
Robert Q. Kreider


Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health, one of the nation’s oldest and largest nonprofit providers of behavioral healthcare, recently announced that Robert Q. Kreider, President and CEO, will retire in January 2018, following more than 20 years of extraordinary service.

  Nearly 300 attend N.Y. screening of Oscar-nominated movie Life, Animated

Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health’s special screening of the movie Life, Animated was presented to a near sell-out crowd on February 13 in Pelham, N.Y. The event, held in partnership with The Picture House, was followed by a Q&A session with Ron and Cornelia Suskind, the parents featured in the film.

  How Art and a Zoo Help Students with Differences Learn Positive and Healing Behaviors

When working to improve educational outcomes for students with learning differences, it is essential to focus on cultivating behaviors that will equip each student to reach his or her true potential. At Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health’s Leo Kanner Learning Center, creative forms of learning are taking center stage when it comes to building confidence, generating positive behaviors and putting children with differences on a level playing field.

  New Social Enterprise Aperture Education Focuses on Students’ Social and Emotional Competence

Assessment company Apperson, Inc., and the Devereux Center for Resilient Children a prevention-focused service of the nonprofit organization Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health today announced the launch of a new company, Aperture Education, that provides strength-based assessments and resilience-building resources to help schools and out-of-school-time organizations address the whole child.

  Devereux leaders featured in FFTA newsletter; share insight into launching a rebrand

Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health leaders Senior Vice President of External Affairs Leah Yaw and Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Carl Clark were featured in a recent issue of the Family Focused Treatment Association’s newsletter - FOCUS. The topic: launching an organizational rebrand.

  Dr. Barry McCurdy elected to APBS Board of Directors

Devereux Center for Effective Schools Director Dr. Barry McCurdy was recently appointed to the Association for Positive Behavior Support (APBS) Board of Directors. Dr. McCurdy was elected by his peers to serve a three-year term (2017-2020).