sealPurdue Lifestyles Briefs

December 1997

Expert: Use holidays to teach children the joy of giving

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Although giving is a lesson best taught year-round, the holiday season can bring it to the forefront, particularly if one child doesn't understand why another got the newest, coolest toy from Grandma.

Teaching children to feel good about giving is a long process that should begin with talking, says Karen Diamond, associate professor in child development and family studies at Purdue University. She says parents need to explain that giving gifts can make children feel good; it's just a different good feeling from the one children get when they receive gifts.

Diamond says the lessons of giving can begin with everyday hugs and kisses. She suggests that adults explain to children how giving a hug is giving a gift. Let the children know that the receiver of the hug or kiss will feel special, she says.

When children are old enough to walk or draw, encourage them to give small gifts to special people throughout the year, Diamond says. On walks, for example, if your child finds a rock and gives it to you, don't toss it aside because you don't need a rock. Instead, thank the child and keep it in a special place so he or she can see that you value it.

Birthday parties -- for other children --also provide opportunities to learn to give. Parents should explain that everyone has a birthday and will receive gifts on their special day. Diamond says most preschoolers do not fully understand the calendar year, so it may take extra patience and understanding to help them feel good about giving a gift they may want to keep.

School-age children are beginning to understand about annual events, but Diamond says it is important to keep talking to them about the importance of giving. If a child is disappointed, acknowledge the child's feelings and sympathize with him or her. "You should say things like, 'I know Bobby got such and such toy -- I bet you would like to have one like it. Let's see if we can remember some of the things you got for your birthday,'" Diamond says.

Parents also can teach children the value of giving by helping them make gifts for others. They will be excited about the gift; in fact, Diamond cautions, a child may get so excited that he or she will tell the receiver about the gift before the occasion.

CONTACT: Diamond (765) 494-0942

Holiday blues not necessarily a sign of major depression

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Contrary to popular belief, people are no more likely to become clinically depressed during the holidays than at any other time of year, says a Purdue University psychologist.

"The holidays bring on stress -- and many people feel blue after they are over -- but research doesn't support the idea that the holidays actually cause clinical depression," says David Rollock, associate professor of psychological sciences who oversees the Purdue Depression Clinic.

However, he says holiday stress might push persons bordering on major depression into recognizing how sad and dysfunctional they are. "I distinguish between holiday blues and major depression in terms of depression's greater severity of symptoms and length of duration," he says.

"Depression causes people to feel sad, helpless and hopeless. They lack energy and don't sleep or eat well over unusually long stretches of time." Serious mood disorders, such as depression, tend to result from either personally devastating circumstances or even medical or biological processes.

The Purdue Depression Clinic offers those with major depression an alternative to traditional psychotherapy. "We are teaching people real-life, practical techniques to help them change their behaviors, feelings and thought patterns," he says.

Skills taught include relaxation techniques, constructive thinking, methods for self-change and effective use of social skills. For example, Rollock says people who are depressed have difficulty being assertive. "Thus their social interactions tend to be disappointing, which leads them to cut themselves off from others and begin a cycle of becoming even more depressed," he says.

Rollock says one key to success is teaching these skills in group settings. "Being in a group gives people a chance to work and share with others," he says. "They can be supportive of each other and relate experiences that a psychotherapist may never encounter. It also helps them overcome some of the social isolation."

CONTACT: Rollock, (765) 494-6996; e-mail,

Alcohol problems in the elderly may be mistaken for old age

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind.--Alcohol's effect on the elderly may be one reason why drinking problems in that age group are often ignored, says a Purdue University nursing expert.

"Elderly alcoholics are more common than people realize or want to believe," says Peg Krach (pronounced "crock"), associate professor of nursing, who studies problems associated with old age.

Many of the symptoms of alcoholism are problems typically attributed to old age, such as insomnia, poor concentration and depression, Krach says.

Even when the family correctly diagnoses alcoholism as the problem, the caregiver in a family, who is typically an older daughter, often believes it's hopeless to try to change the alcoholic behavior, Krach says. But pointing out the health problems caused by too much drinking can be a powerful motivator for an elderly alcoholic to change, she says.

"Older people especially are concerned about losing their mental faculties," says Krach, who tells of an 89-year-old woman who had a drinking problem for nearly 60 years. The woman finally quit drinking when she realized that she was unsafe to baby-sit for her great-grandchildren and decided she didn't want to be remembered as an old drunk.

Krach says elderly people start abusing alcohol as a way to cope with various losses such as a spouse, health, a job or financial security. Alcoholism in the elderly is particularly serious, she says, because many elderly are on several medications, which, when combined with alcohol, can be deadly.

How do you know if a person's drinking is really alcoholism? "Anytime drinking alcohol affects your health, then alcohol is a problem," Krach says.

The signals that an older person is a problem drinker may be more subtle than those of a younger drinker, but Krach offers these signs:

If you suspect that an older family member has a drinking problem, gently confront the person without judgment and choose your words carefully, Krach suggests. "Confrontations should be less aggressive with an older drinker," she says. "You need to show that you accept them as someone with needs. Also, this age group grew up in a time when alcohol was considered a sin or a social stigma. So it's best to refer to it as a drinking problem rather than alcoholism."

Krach also recommends encouraging the elderly drinker to attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings of people their own age. "And Al-Anon is a good source of information to help caregivers learn how to cope with a family member who has a drinking problem," she says.

CONTACT: Krach, (765) 494-4026; e-mail,

Purdue to hold days of winery noses

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- A unique regional winery school -- one of the few of its kind outside California -- will be offered by Purdue University Jan. 7-9 to teach commercial vintners how to sniff out problems and produce better wines.

The Heartland Wine School is for commercial winemakers and advanced amateur winemakers. It is designed to teach practical wine science and production techniques in a hands-on format to those who wish to improve wine products and winery operations.

The program topics, presented by 13 university and industry specialists, will cover all aspects of winery operations from harvest decisions to bottling. Lab sessions will cover crushers and other processing equipment, fermentation and fining techniques, analytical methods and bottling.

The Heartland Wine School was created in response to requests for a regional opportunity to train winery personnel in classic winemaking principles. "This will be a rare opportunity for people to participate in a program like this east of California," says Ellie Harkness, a wine researcher in the Purdue Department of Food Science.

Harkness also helps oversee the Indy International, the Indiana State Fair wine competition that became the third largest in the country this summer with 1,852 entries. She served as eastern section chairwoman of the American Society for Enology and Viticulture in 1995.

Classes will be held at the Purdue campus in West Lafayette, and registration costs $200. Preference will be given to commercial vintners; others will be admitted on a first-come, first-served basis, Harkness says. For information, contact Harkness, Department of Food Science, Smith Hall, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47907-1160; (765) 494-6704; fax (765) 494-7953; e-mail,

Compiled by Beth Forbes, (765) 494-9723; e-mail,
Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; e-mail,

* To the Purdue News and Photos Page