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Holiday Stress-Busters: Advice for Parents

The holidays are right around the corner — are you having fun yet? If you are, Ann Vernon would be surprised. As a counseling professor at the University of Northern Iowa with her own private practice, Vernon hears from a lot of exhausted parents this time of year. She says, "Most are striving for the Currier and Ives Christmas of their childhood, but in reality they're dreading the holidays."

How can you beat back the dread and have the family holiday of your dreams? "Start by lowering your expectations," advises Vernon. "Be more realistic about what you can do. This usually involves changing the tradition — it can be equally as good, but it has to be unique to your family." The following tips can help:

    1. Reassess and Prioritize
    Holiday stress sets in when you try to do it all. "Stress is an emotional reaction to circumstances that you feel are out of control," says Vernon. "To cope, take some time out, rethink what's stressing you out, and look for alternatives." Vernon also advises changing your demands to preferences: Tell yourself, "If I have time, I'll do this and that. If not, I'll only do that."

    2. Delegate!
    Does the house need cleaning or decorating? Let each family member be responsible for a room. Or Vernon suggests, create a "job jar." Everybody takes a turn choosing what his or her job will be. Jobs can be color-coded according to age. "When you delegate, you have to make your expectations clear to your kids, and you may have to lower your standards a little bit," says Vernon.



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