Concern over Toy Safety and Disappointed Kids Impacts Holidays for Parents

National survey finds parents worried about an unhappy child on Christmas morning, want advice on keeping family harmony

Friday, December 07, 2007

CINCINNATI – As they're searching the web for information about recalled toys and scanning store shelves for toys they think are safe, now parents have a new worry: what to do on Christmas morning when their kids are disappointed because the unsafe toy they wanted isn't under the tree.

According to a new national survey sponsored by Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, a quarter of parents are already anticipating Christmas disappointment because their children have their hearts set on a toy that the parents will not buy due to safety concerns. And it's not just an issue for parents -- more than three-quarters of all adults agree that holiday purchases will be influenced by toy safety, and at least 25 percent say they plan on omitting something on a child's Christmas list because they worry about safety.

But while they're making decisions based on safety, parents and non-parents alike are also concerned about unhappy faces on Christmas morning and would like some help. More than half of all adults say they'd appreciate advice on how to help kids enjoy the holidays even if they don't get some of the toys they really want.

Fortunately, while the safety issues won't go away, there are ways to manage disappointed children according to Daniel Nelson, MD, a nationally recognized authority in counseling children and adolescents. Dr. Nelson, medical director of the Child Psychiatry Unit at Cincinnati Children's, says the worry is understandable, but the situation can be managed if parents are prepared.

"There's no surprise that children can feel angry, sad, sulky or depressed when they don't receive what they want, but kids can resolve it pretty quickly depending on the type of support they get," says Dr. Nelson. "The key is addressing this behavior quickly. If the behavior lasts for more than a day, there may be more bothering the child than just the gift, or they may be using sadness to get what they want."

Dr. Nelson suggests to parents to use this time to learn from their child. He recommends saying something such as, "I'm kind of surprised. You're really sad and I can see how upset you are about not receiving this toy, is there something else going on that I may not be aware of?" By being reflective and exploratory while remaining empathetic, parents can show that they are interested in what the child is feeling and may get a clearer answer about what may be going on.

Dr. Nelson also advises using direct communication and treating these situations as opportunities to teach children. "If someone else, such as a grandparent or aunt, didn't get them what they wanted, use that moment as a teaching moment to show them how to react appropriately," says Dr. Nelson.

He also suggests parents can use these opportunities to explain to their children why they didn't get the toy, including a concern for their safety.

"Once children's concerns are met, it's best for parents to shift the focus away from the toys to other ways their children can enjoy the holidays, like playing out in the snow or going to a loved one's house," says Dr. Nelson.

The online survey consisted of a national representation of 1000 U.S. adults aged 18 and older, including 301 parents of children aged 14 or under. It was conducted November 21st -27th, 2007, on behalf of Cincinnati Children's by eNation, the online omnibus survey service of Synovate, an independent, nationally recognized market research company.

Dr. Daniel Nelson

Daniel Nelson, MD, is a child and adolescent psychiatrist at Cincinnati Children's and a recognized authority in counseling children and families who have experienced trauma – from natural and man-made disasters to abuse. After the September 11 attacks in New York City, Nelson, along with other psychiatrists and psychologists, provided assistance to many victims' families. In addition, he supervised the Family Notification Center after the Oklahoma City bombing, which he designed to provide comprehensive psychological support to minimize the effects of trauma in that city. At Cincinnati Children's, Dr. Nelson directs the inpatient child psychiatric unit and works with the National School Crisis and Bereavement Center while conducting research and education on numerous pediatric mental health issues. He is a member of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, American Medical Association and American Psychiatric Association.

Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center

Cincinnati Children's, one of the top five children's hospitals in the nation according to Child magazine, is a 475-bed institution devoted to bringing the world the joy of healthier kids. Cincinnati Children's is dedicated to providing care that is timely, efficient, effective, family-centered, equitable and safe. For its efforts to transform the way health care is provided, Cincinnati Children's received the 2006 American Hospital Association-McKesson Quest for Quality Prize". Cincinnati Children's ranks second nationally among all pediatric centers in research grants from the National Institutes of Health and is a teaching affiliate of the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. The Cincinnati Children's vision is to be the leader in improving child health.

Contact Information

Amy Caruso
Amy.caruso@cchmc.org
513-636-5637