sealPurdue News

November 4, 2002

Expert says look past holiday ideals to find joy of season

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Instead of focusing on the "ideal" holiday, set realistic expectations – both with time and money – to reduce the amount of stress during your holiday season, says a Purdue University family development specialist.

"When you're feeling stressed, don't shift to automatic," says Dee Love, an Extension specialist in the School of Consumer and Family Sciences. "Stop and think about why you are doing what you are doing. You may need to ask yourself, 'What am I really feeling right now?' 'What's most important to me and my family?'"

Whether the ideal holiday season is defined by the television, your childhood or imagination, think about what really affects your family, Love says.

"Create your own traditions, and select activities that reflect your holiday values," she says.

You shouldn't expect everything to come off as planned, because unexpected things – such as children getting sick or the stove not working – can, and do, happen, she says.

"Be adaptable and flexible and look for the humor in challenging situations," Love says. "Remember, you can create a wonderful family experience based on how you all handled a difficult situation together."

To reduce the amount of stress during the holiday season, Love says to be aware of "stressor pileup," which are holiday events that disrupt a family's routine. To prevent this pileup stop and think about things from the child's perspective.

"Ask yourself, How many social obligations have you planned each week that take you away from your children? What's in your children's best interests?" Love says. "Be more conscious about choosing time away from the family and try to keep times away from the home at a minimum, depending on the ages of your children."

Love also provides tips on how parents can help children cope with holiday stress:

•Slow down and reconnect. When things get hectic, give your child some time of uninterrupted play.

•Find ways they can participate or help prepare for holiday celebrations.

•Invite children to think of special gifts for others and to help make things to celebrate the holiday, such as handmade cards, drawings or simple crafts.

•Let children help with holiday cooking – keep relationships in mind, not just completing the work.

•Consider videotaping family members sharing their holiday memories.

Writer: Amy Patterson-Neubert, (765) 494-9723,

Source: Dee Love, (765) 494-2933,

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;

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