October 13, 2011

Keeping Holidays Happy

Jean Rogalsky, 4-H Youth Development Agent

Holidays are a wonderful happy time, but they can also be very stressful for families, especially children, because of the changes; the increase of social events, less time with parents, changes in schedule, and the tons of sweets and holiday treats. As the holiday season approaches, here are some tips on holiday spending and stress to ensure that you and your family have a happy holiday season.

Holiday Spending
Overspending finds you in debt afterwards. During tough economic times it is more important than ever to stick to a budget. You don't have to spend lots of money to have holiday spirit. Many people overspend because they feel trapped by holiday traditions and expectations. So make it your goal this year to not get trapped. Just because you have always done something one way, does not mean you cannot make changes. Have an honest talk with family members that you need to reduce spending this year. Let your children know what the holidays are really about and that gifts are something extra. Consider the following to cut down on holiday costs:
  • Set a limit on an amount to spend on each other and make sure the amount is something all can afford.
  • Draw names so each person only needs to purchase one gift.
  • Exchange gifts of service. Give someone with kids 4 hours of babysitting. A handyman can offer to make a number of repairs. You may have a skill you could pass on to someone else with lessons.
  • Be creative and make something versus buying something. A gift with your personal touch has more meaning.
  • Let children know that they cannot get everything they want, and help them prioritize their wishes.
  • Have potluck holiday parties. Don’t take on all the time and the expense.
Holiday Stress
Prepare yourself and your children for the emotions and stress that come before, during, and after the holiday. We get so busy with all that needs to be done and sometimes forget that our stress causes children’s stress.
  • Limit the number of social gatherings and events. While we hate to disappoint anyone, remember that too much change in a child’s schedule can cause behavioral issues.
  • Have the whole family get involved in preparing for the holidays. Make a list together and delegate tasks. Kids feel a part of the holiday when involved, and it lessens the stress on the parents.
  • Make decorations as a family. A child’s handiwork on display is a great source of pride.
  • Volunteer as a family to help another family in need or visit. Helping others in need puts the holidays in perspective.
  • Traditions are important to kids because it emphasizes the family. Everyone looks forward to traditions because it gives them a sense of security. It is never too late to start a new tradition in your home.
Here is a bit of research to keep in mind as you plan for the holidays. When elementary and middle school students were surveyed about their best holiday memory, the vast majority of the responses had to do with family time rather than gifts.

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