WMU News

Effective parenting can relieve holiday stress

Dec. 6, 2002

KALAMAZOO -- Consistency, compassion and a healthy dose of self-confidence can ease some of the holiday headaches that confront many parents this time of year, according to parenting experts Lori Farrer and Bryce Dickey. Farrer and Dickey are both instructors of family and consumer sciences at Western Michigan University.

"One of the things that is most important is keeping a schedule for the kids," says Farrer. "That means giving them regularly-scheduled meals, allowing for their regular naps and so on. The whole consistency of routine is important."

Farrer, who teaches child development and examines trends in toddler development, says "the other thing that comes up for young children is having all these relatives in their faces, and they don't necessarily know them. Give children time to adjust."

The same goes for the sit-on-Santa's-lap routine, she adds. "How many times have you walked by a Santa in the mall with a child screaming on his lap and the parent standing there snapping photos? What's wrong with this picture?

"The whole Santa thing doesn't have to be a big deal, even if it is a fun thing for the parents. For some children, they may want to go there and just stand and look at Santa, but not get really close. That's fine," says Farrer. "Being terrified just adds more stress to the season."

Dickey, whose expertise is in effective parenting and later-life relationships, says well-meaning relatives also can be a source of holiday stress for parents.

"They don't mean any harm, but often the well-meaning relative wants to offer parenting advice that can undermine a parent's confidence," Dickey says. "For example, if I'm visiting my husband's family for Christmas dinner and my son doesn't eat a food they put on the table, then I may feel like I should have done something differently, or maybe I'm not as a good a parent as I should be," she explains.

"The most important thing parents need to recognize is that if given advice, simply say, 'Thank you, I'll think about it,' and move on. The holidays are not a time to rethink your parenting. You need to remind yourself that you're parenting in the way that you are for a reason."

Media contact: Gail Towns, 269 387-8400, gail.towns@wmich.edu

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