Christmas Fear :: When Your Child Despises the Holiday


My child hates Christmas. I said it. And it is one hundred percent the truth.

I know what you are thinking because by this point I think I have heard it all. Here is where you tell me how magical and full of family memories the holidays should be. How we must not have shared the true meaning of the season with her yet.

You can say these things, but you would be wrong.

See, when my daughter was just three years old, she had a traumatic Christmas experience. Her daycare was getting festive and showing movies in different classrooms. One of those was the Jim Carrey version of The Grinch.

When I went to pick her up that day after work her teacher let me know that they had watched a part of the movie and my daughter did not react well to it all. My usually easy-going child became hysterical as soon as that green guy came on the screen.

Her teacher, whom I still keep in contact with all these years later, certainly meant no harm, but hysterical was putting her reaction mildly. She became fearful of anything Christmas related. She slept on the floor of our bedroom for months on end because she was so scared of the “green Christmas man”.

We thought for sure that once the season had passed, the fear would go away. And it did. Until the fall months arrived the next year and the holiday chatter started up around her. Disney channel promotions and decorations at school. Her exact words at the first sight of tree lights in the neighborhood, “ Oh no, it’s Christmas again.”

This is not a drill.

Little by little, the fun family traditions we were sharing with extended family members or trying to start for her were replaced with the fear that she would never sleep during the months of November and December. Santa talk was a no-go, at all, ever. I had to remind family and friends not to even mention the name around her.

Each year when we fill out school paperwork about fears or issues, we list the Grinch and Christmas. I check in at school movie nights to be sure The Grinch or a surprise Santa visit will not be involved. She will skip those extra holiday activities because she is so fearful of everything.

Everyone thinks we are joking, but I assure you, we are not.

While I am sharing this story in a light-hearted way, it’s our reality. We are overly cautious, have tried to troubleshoot, and ultimately protect her because that’s what parents do. There are other parents dealing with holiday triggers in much more serious ways. You might wonder who could dislike the holidays? I am positive there are others near you and you may not even know it.

Regardless of the holiday you choose to celebrate this time of year, I am asking you to be sensitive to the kids around you. Not every kid loves the magic or shares the same traditions. For some, the holidays are too bright and loud. Or filled with too much travel. Or involve taking a picture with a total stranger in red who is then going to come to your house at night. Yikes, right?

Jingle another way.

There are so many wonderful things to do during the holidays. From movies to shows to parades and extravagant outdoor displays. Just take it from a parent who knows, not all of these things are viewed with the same positive feelings by all ages.

I know that teachers, neighbors, friends, and extended family members mean well when they ask if my daughter is excited for Christmas. They don’t expect her to say “no way” and be so serious about it. But it’s been true for the last seven years.

We can talk about giving gifts. We can decorate a tree and make the house look pretty with winter-themed decor. We can watch Christmas Vacation on repeat. But there are just a few things that are still off-limits: a stranger bringing gifts into the house at night (she asks a million times before bed to confirm Grandpa will meet Santa outside to get gifts) and “the green man”.

You don’t have to try and change any child’s mind about the holidays. Don’t dismiss their triggers. Just be respectful of this reality for some parents. Some mothers I know joke about surviving their in-laws during the holidays. My husband and I are just trying to get through without an accidental Grinch mention at school.

“The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear.” – Buddy the Elf


This post was originally published on December 1, 2019.
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Erin K
Erin is a transplant, relocating to Birmingham from the midwest in 2016. Born and raised in Wisconsin, she met her husband Karl while attending Purdue University. They had no idea when they received the opportunity to move south that the city had so much to offer. Together the couple has two girls: Hadley (10) and Allyson (14). Being a mom to two school-aged girls fills her with equal measures of love and anxiety. She believes that there is much to be learned from sharing motherhood stories and experiences because no one truly has it all figured out. Erin is the owner of Forté Dance Essentials, a new dancewear boutique located in Hoover. She also supports the brand building and marketing efforts of other small business owners as a marketing consultant.