Your child can’t help it – at holiday time he/she is literally bombarded with commercials for every toy imaginable each time the television is turned on. Many parents are becoming concerned about how this is negatively affecting their children, and even child development professionals are now agreeing with this.

Child development professionals are concerned that even very young children’s holiday expectations are raised to an unhealthy level due to a steady diet of buying appeals and commercials by toy manufacturers.

'We live in a culture that encourages children to get all they can,' said Lynne Namka, Ed.D., a psychologist in private practice in Tucson, Ariz. 'It happens year-round, but is especially noticeable during the holidays. Children are constantly bombarded with the message that they can have everything they want.'

Some children are encouraged to demand gifts their families can’t afford, while others want items of which their parents do not approve, Namka says.

'In many cases, children’s expectations are so extensive or so unrealistic their parents can’t avoid disappointing them, no matter how much they spend or how many toys they buy,' she added.

Parents need to discuss holiday expectations with their children well in advance, Namka says.

'As soon as the seasonal hype starts, talk to them about what they can expect to receive,' Namka said. 'Be specific about what gifts you feel are appropriate for them and approximately how much you can afford to spend. And above all, remind them that it’s fine to ask for what you want, but that no one gets everything they ask for.'

Shirley Ogletree, Ph.D., professor of developmental psychology at Southwest Texas State University in San Marcos concurs, pointing out that some holiday traditions may even make the situation worse.

'In homes where Santa Claus is the focus, it can be hard for parents to explain why the children can’t have everything they want,' Ogletree said. 'The magic and mystery of the season becomes associated with receiving toys and gifts, and detached from giving to and sharing with others.'

When children begin to ask practical questions about Santa — such as how he can fit through a chimney or how his reindeer can fly — they are mentally mature enough to start developing more realistic holiday expectations, Ogletree says.

'And it’s also a good time to increase the emphasis on giving, sharing and personal relationships as the most enjoyable aspects of the season,' she added.