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TWU Professor Offers Advice On Avoiding Holiday Conflicts

TWU Professor Offers Advice On Avoiding Holiday Conflicts

Holiday Feature

DENTON — The holidays traditionally are a time of togetherness, but many families find preparing for the events to be a time of great stress. A Texas Woman's University professor says communication is the key to easing the tension the holidays can bring.

Dr. Joyce Armstrong, associate professor of family sciences at TWU, said avoiding potential conflicts around the holidays requires including all family members in the decision-making process.

“Families need to carve out time in their schedules to talk about the holidays,” she said. “Take time to establish holiday goals and family goals. I encourage regular family meetings — they are a powerful way of communicating.”

Deciding in advance how much to spend on holiday purchases — and sticking to that amount — can help prevent a common source of conflict. “Many families overextend (financially) during this time,” Armstrong said. “Experts say most people don't pay off their credit card purchases until six months after the holiday.”

Current economic conditions may leave many families with less money to spend on gifts. Armstrong said parents should be open with their children about why there won't be as many presents under the tree as there were last year.

“I believe many children will understand,” she said. “It's often more difficult for parents to acknowledge (financial difficulties) than it is for children, because as parents, you want to give to your children.”

Armstrong said it's important to teach children that the holidays are about more than receiving.

“Things are temporal; toys wear out,” she said. “What most people remember about the holidays is the time spent with family and friends. That's what they value.”

Deciding with whom to share the holidays can be a source of conflict, however, and can be especially complicated in extended or blended families. These decisions should involve all family members, Armstrong said, and a compromise may need to be made.

“Some families rotate, spending the holidays with one family one year and another the following year,” she said. “Some choose to spend Thanksgiving with one family and Christmas with another. Some — especially families with young children — decide to stay home and have family come to them.”

Regardless of the decisions made, it's important for each family member to have a voice, Armstrong said.

“It doesn't take money to build strong and healthy families,” she said. “It requires an investment of time.”


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Karen Treat
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