There's nothing more exciting for a kid then waking up on Christmas morning before the sunrises and opening up all the gifts that Santa Claus and Mom and Dad and their siblings got for them right there under the tree.

Maybe your kids even go into your room and jump on your bed yelling "it's Christmas!" which means no matter what time it is, you know right then and there you have to go to the living room and let them open up their gifts.

Perhaps traditions are similar and slightly different in your house at Christmastime and on the big day itself, and if they are, that's okay, but if things need to change for one reason or another, it's important to help your kids understand why a change is needed.

"We can remember how things were in the past in a nice way like we can remember those traditions and be realistic at the same time about how things might be different now," Dr. Stacy Doumas, Chief of the Division of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry at Jersey Shore University Medical Center, tells Townsquare Media News. "Maybe we can't get together with as many family members because of Covid, maybe because of some of the supply chain issues -- maybe presents are going to be a little different this year -- and we can acknowledge the feelings in our children that might arise because of the that are going to be a little different this year and we can empathize with our kids."

When you're able to take the time to explain to your kids why things might be different this year whether it's presents or seeing family members or something else, Dr. Doumas explains that you should turn to help getting them excited about what is going to happen and what you do have.

"That might mean some of our old traditions and some ways of connecting with family and friends are the same and it might mean some new traditions that they can get excited about and maybe they could even help come up with them," Doumas said. "I think that's one of the things that we can really do is figure out how to get excited about now and some of that might be in ways that really celebrate the spirit of the season which is the spirit of giving and kindness for others."

Some of the ways of participating in those kids of traditions, Dr. Doumas adds, include volunteerism or another way where the kids can give of themselves and share in their time with others.

The age of your children will determine what verbiage to use in conversing the changes with them -- be it under 10 or perhaps in the pre-teen or teen dialogue.

"Obviously with a teenager you can have a more honest conversation with them, but when you're dealing with a younger child, they're not going to understand that Santa might be having some supply chain issues this year," Doumas said. "So, it's going to be a little bit different of a conversation that you're having so you really just want to focus them on kind of the spirit of giving, spending time with family and connecting and maybe get them rally excited about new traditions whether that's a smaller gathering because a smaller gathering might give way to things like being able to wear Christmas PJ's instead of getting dressed up or something like that."

As for managing expectations over winter break, especially as we are still in a pandemic, there are some ways to help keep your kids healthy and safe while allowing them to have fun during that week off.

"If they're eligible, they can get vaccinated, that's obviously going to decrease the spread. They can also wear their mask and wash their hands often when they're around other people and some people also choose to test so if anybody's having any symptoms prior to a gathering, they can test to make sure -- and there's plenty of home test and you can go and get a test for Covid -- you don't have it before gathering with others," Doumas said. "The other thing that's also helpful is to really spend time while you're connecting with people, because we want people to be connecting, to do that in ways that are safe. Maybe outdoors, the kids, as long as they're dressed up warm, there's plenty of activities that you can do outdoors and so avoiding some of those crowded indoor spaces. It's also great to do things with the same people...maybe spending time with kids who are just in their class."

A list of NJ malls where you can get photos with Santa this holiday season

More details and locations will be added as the holiday season progresses, so please check back often for updates. Malls are listed in alphabetical order.

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