The Most Wonderful Time…Maybe Not For All

Monday, November 23, 2009

The holidays are upon us. Unemployment continues to rise. More and more companies are laying off or considering closing, troops are still overseas and away from their families, and although the song, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year,” will be echoing from ear to ear, many people are struggling.

Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, there is a spike in depression, crime and domestic violence. The pressure of the holidays, additional financial strains, holiday travel, cooking, cleaning, wrapping, holiday parties, loss of loved ones and rest, and many other contributors can unfortunately take a toll on a person’s physical and mental health. These factors cause mounting worry and extreme exhaustion for even the youngest children in the family, and may contribute to the rise in child abuse or neglect.

This should be a time that families look forward to, this time before the New Year, when gatherings are being planned, Santa Claus and the first Christmas story seems so near, but the pressure to get through all the hustle and bustle is also known to lead to many dangerous and life-threatening situations. Children are also very observant and at the very least, they feel stress and anxiety if their parents are stressed out over the abundant responsibilities this season brings.

To help ease the pressures of your holiday list of “things to do,” here are some tips to make this holiday season, a more relaxed and enjoyable one.

1. Check your own attitude. If you want respect and cooperation with your own family, the store clerk, a ticketing agent at the airport, your children and others in your network, you should set a good example, yourself. Prioritize, delegate, reduce, or scratch off upcoming duties and activities that affect you and the family.

2. Start preparing for the holidays early. Make lists, keep a calendar, and assign extra chores to family members, if necessary.

3. Stick to a budget during this time. Cut costs where you can. Get creative with gifting, shop sales, use coupons, decide to draw names, etc. In our home, we’re making cheesecakes as gifts. I think this is a unique present and it brings our family together to create the gift. Think about crafts, photos, a coffee get together, a favorite magazine, something creative but maybe not so expensive this year if gifts are to be exchanged.

4. Stick as close to the family routine as you can. Combine parties or stop in for only a short time so that you and the children can get your required rest.

5. Let children wind down with whatever makes them feel better. Maybe it’s soft music, reading or cuddling with you at the end of a long day.

6. Eat nutritious foods, drink lots of water and indulge in some physical exercise.

7. Talk to your children about traditions and spirituality and incorporate values into your own holidays.

8. Bring along a child’s favorite blanket or toy if you’re staying with family over the holidays.

9. Volunteer at a food bank, hospital or community center. Consider being a foster care parent. Many of these children have never or rarely experienced the traditions of Christmas, and have lived their young lives being beat, burned, starved, sexually abused, even murdered. At the present time, there are over 500,000 children in foster care, just awaiting a family to care for them. This holiday season would be a great time to consider being the gift one of these children really needs. Contact your local Department of Child Services.

10. Plan to watch a Christmas or funny movie at home, play a board game, go sled riding, attend a religious ceremony together, have a snowball fight…put the family’s physical, mental and spiritual health first.

11. Let go of the little stuff that’s weighing you down. It’s really a waste of wonderful time you could be having with those who adore you. I once read, “Stress is really knowing what’s the right thing to do, but not doing it.”

12. Be responsible. You really don’t need to drink and party to have a good time. And drinking often leads to disaster. (Take it from a child of a one-parent family, and whose father committed suicide). Many people won’t see 2010 because others chucked responsibility. Over 4,000 people die in traffic accidents each year between Thanksgiving and New Years in the United States. Almost 40% related to alcohol. 30% due to speeding and winter road conditions. Slow down and pay attention. Do the right thing. Someone is depending on you. No, everyone is depending on you.

13. Make kindness the most popular gift this holiday season. It’s always the right size and price. It fits just right. You’re sure to feel skinnier when it’s exchanged. Reach out to other families, individuals and children in your neighborhood who may facing some slight to major let downs during the holidays or who may not be near or with their own family. Offer to run errands, babysit, or invite them over to your table. At our house, we always host a Thanksgiving brunch for friends who don’t have plans until the late afternoon. It’s just a little way for me to say, “I’m thankful for all of you.”

Consider making an extra batch of cookies and deliver to shut-ins, the nursing home, a single-parent family, someone who has just lost their job, the sick, the elderly, someone you haven’t talked to in awhile and need to rekindle with or who you’ve been wanting to meet or to show you’re appreciation to. Help shovel someone’s driveway, walk their newspaper to the door, pick up a loaf of bread, decorate their tree, and stop what you’re doing to enjoy time with your own spouse, kids, grandparents and friends. Give of your time and talents. Kindness and generosity….there’s just not better gift.

Here’s to less stress, yet a richer holiday season, one that you will never forget for the steps taken to provide the level of care that all family and friends deserve. Cheers to all of you great parents, grandparents, caretakers, teachers and others who through all of the busyness, still set a good example and work to keep our children and families safe and happy.

Guest Blogger: Suzzi Romines is the Event Coordinator for Prevent Child Abuse of Dearborn and Ohio Counties. If you suspect child abuse or neglect, you can report it anonymously by calling 1-800-800-5556.

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