Can I put a stop to my son’s wish on Santa’s list?

xboxQ. My eight-year-old son wants an Xbox from Santa this Christmas. Now I am a little worried about him getting this as I think the games can be a little violent – certainly the ones he is talking about wanting to play – and I’d prefer him to ask for something else and not get an Xbox for a few years. He already has a Wii and a Nintendo DS, so he has plenty of gadgets. However, I don’t want to disappoint him either and he has already written to Santa about this. I am wondering how best to handle this and I have thought about asking Santa to write back to him explaining why he can’t have it. What do you think?

A. As a parent, it is your decision what toys and games are appropriate for your children. While, of course, you listen carefully to what they want, it is your decision which toys are safe for them and at what ages they are allowed use them.

This is the same at Christmas and you can explain to them that they can write to Santa for what they want, but they should always check with you first about whether it is okay for them to have it. You can explain to your children about Santa’s special rule that he delivers only presents that parents approve of.

In handling your son’s specific request for an Xbox, you could decide that it is okay for him to have this present and then set up special rules around its usage – that he can only use it for certain games and only for limited times within a routine of engaging in other healthy and social activities.

Alternatively, you could decide that it is best for him not to get the game in the first place and it is best to tell him of this in advance of the big day, so as to avoid disappointment.

In telling him, you could seek a creative message from Santa telling him the reasons, though it might be best if you tell him directly yourself and let Santa get on with his job of delivering all the gifts on time.

In talking to him, you could start by telling him Santa’s special rule referred to already in this article, then explore with him other gifts he might like. Of course, he is likely to be initially disappointed and even upset, but with a little bit of time he should come round.

It will help if you show him lots of other gift options and present these as attractive and interesting. Maybe suggest he rewrites his letter and asks for a special surprise as well as a nominated gift and think of including some creative treats that might really interest him.

Dr. John Sharry, Irish Times Newspaper, December 2012. John writes in The Irish Times Health Plus every Tuesday.