You've probably spent hours over the last month or two planning out the perfect Christmas morning. The anticipation is so great you can't stand it.
And then, when the presents are finally unwrapped, there it is: the Christmas morning meltdown.
Try as you might to please everyone, sometimes there's still disappointment on Christmas morning. Perhaps someone received the wrong color iPod, or Santa left the wrong PlayStation PSP. Perhaps one child got more presents than another.
Whatever the reason, when the holiday cheer goes sour, it can ruin the morning for everyone. But it doesn't have to.
"Sometimes, those problems on Christmas morning are caused by the parents themselves," says Kelly Jones, a Summerville mom of three and former psychologist.
For instance, trying to fulfill every line item on your child's wish list almost certainly sets you up for problems.
Seattle-based clinical psychologist Les Parrott and his wife, family therapist Leslie Parrott, are authors of more than a dozen books, including October's "The Parent You Want to Be: Who You Are Matters More than What You Do." The Parrotts say parents, especially those who are divorced, often go overboard in gift-giving out of guilt.
Instead, they suggest having children create a wish list and then set priorities, knowing that just because a particular toy is on the list doesn't mean it will be under the tree.
That's what West Ashley mom of two Angela Peeples does.
"I have them make a list, but I make it clear to them that this is not a binding contract," she says. "It's a guideline for me and for Santa, but the kids know they will not get every single item just because they say they want it."
The Parrots also say it's important for parents to set a good example by teaching children the joy of giving. They suggest talking to them about giving a portion of their allowance to the needy or buying gifts for an underprivileged child.
"With my kids, we try to focus on giving all year long," says Janet Robinson of Mount Pleasant. "We try really hard to impress on them that they should be grateful for what they have. Does it work? Sometimes I wonder, but then other times, there are flashes of compassion from my kids and I think it is working."
No matter how much preparation you do, when the big day rolls around, there still may be discontent. Don't take it personally.
"I think it's pretty common for some kids to feel disappointed on Christmas morning," says Jones. "Like any big event, there is so much anticipation leading up to it, that when it's over, sometimes it's a letdown."
If a child complains that he didn't get something or doesn't like a particular gift, do your best to diffuse the situation quickly and quietly.
"The most important thing a parent can do is stay calm," says Jones. "If you were up late on Christmas Eve or got up very early Christmas morning, the disappointment can actually be exhaustion. Or if you have a houseful of guests, your child could be stressed. Sometimes, that tantrum isn't about the gifts after all."
Despite the temptation, don't get childish yourself.
"Ask yourself what you want your child to get out of the experience," Jones says. "The answer is probably not 'a horrible memory of this Christmas morning.' "
If your child regularly throws temper tantrums, handle them on Christmas morning just as you would at any other time. If that means time out on other days, it means time out on Christmas Day, too. But if his holiday behavior is an anomaly, try to be compassionate.
Materialism runs rampant this time of year, so sometimes that crying and carrying on is about the gifts. Validate his feelings — "I understand why you think that" — and focus on the positive. Redirect him to the toys he did get and remind him how much he wanted them.
"Take him to a private location, give him time to pull himself together and get under control," Jones says.
And if all else fails, remember that most-important mantra of parenting: This, too, shall pass.