By Alice Munson, MSW, Courier & Press, Nov. 28, 2017 –

It seems that before the new school supplies have been broken in and the Halloween costumes are put away for the next season, Thanksgiving and Christmas are upon us.  The demands of the holidays can sometimes override the inherent joy of the season, allowing stress to take over.

Here are some tips to help reduce stress and make the upcoming holidays more enjoyable:

  • Put first things first. says of Dr. Redford Williams, director of Behavioral Medicine Research Center at Duke University, “The holidays are supposed to be about kindness and generosity, and people most often neglect extending these courtesies to those who need them most – themselves.”
  • Remember the airlines’ admonition, “In the event of loss of cabin pressure, adults should put on their oxygen masks first, then put one on a child.”  As parents, this may sound counter-intuitive, but let’s face it, if you’re not breathing you can’t help anyone else.  Healthy self-care allows us to handle those bumps in the road that are inevitable for us all.
  • Set a realistic budget.  The cost of food and gifts seems to have grown faster than Jack’s proverbial beanstalk. Decide how much you can spend and stick to it.
  • Refrain from trying to buy the happiness of others, especially children.  Those same children may try to convince you otherwise, but is that the message you want to instill in them?
  • You may also want to consider a donation to the charity of your choice, your church, or a school.  Large families may opt for a gift exchange.  Just decide what works best for your family. Overspending during the holidays could result in a post-holiday financial crisis – not a stress-free way to start the New Year.
  • Accept help.  This is not a time to “out-Martha” Martha Stewart. Remember, Martha has lots of help!  The pursuit of perfection can put a damper on anyone’s holiday.  If Aunt Jane wants to contribute her famous horseradish-chocolate chip Jell-O mold to Thanksgiving dinner, accept graciously.  It may not be what you had planned, but it will make her feel appreciated and valued. Isn’t that what we would all like?  All family members can help with shopping and cleaning according to their age and abilities.
  • Just say no.  Avoid over-committing your time when you know you are over-scheduled.  Not speaking up can cause you to feel resentful, overwhelmed, and out of sorts.  You may think, “They should know how busy I am!”  No one can discern our wishes or read our minds.  And no one can participate in every project, no matter how worthy.  Just choose what you can reasonably accomplish.
  • Give yourself a time-out.  According to the Mayo Clinic, “Finding something that reduces stress by clearing your mind and slowing your breathing helps restore your inner calm.”  Fifteen minutes without the distractions of family, friends, and electronic devices may be enough to refresh and allow you to handle the next task at hand.
  • Remain open to the joy of the season.  The first snowfall, the innocence of a kindergarten Christmas pageant, the gathering of family and friends around the Thanksgiving table, or the sweet sounds of a church choir….all of these and more are available to enjoy if we allow it.  In the words of those accidental philosophers, the Rolling Stones, “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes you find you get what you need.”  Peace and joy are gifts of the season, freely given.

By Terra Clark, MSW, Courier & Press, November 7, 2017 –

Praise can have a powerful effect on children.  Parents, are we praising our children for what they’ve done well or just criticizing them when they don’t meet expectations?

We all want our children to do the right thing.  When they fail to do so, it’s easy to criticize, yell or express disappointment.

As a school social worker, I meet with parents all the time who say, “Why should I praise my child for doing something they are expected to do?”

If we constantly nag our children to do things differently, it puts everyone involved in a negative mindset.  Constant ridicule erodes self-esteem and confidence.

It is important to reinforce the good things children are doing.  Having an attitude of gratitude and praising children for the positives will ensure more positives come about.  What we focus on is what grows.

Expressing gratitude for your child’s good choices helps build their confidence and self-esteem for making positive decisions.

When we praise children, it’s easy to fall into a habit of saying the same things over and over.  Mix it up a bit to sound genuine.  Children will recognize your sincerity and respond positively.  Let the child know what they did right, what you appreciated about it, and how you would like to see it again.

Here are 101 Ways to Praise Kids.

That’s Incredible * How Extraordinary * Outstanding Performance * Far Out * Great * Marvelous * I Can’t Get Over It * Wonderful * You Should Be Proud * Amazing Effort * Unbelievable Work * Phenomenal * You’ve Got It * Superb * You’re Special * Cool * Excellent * Your Project is First Rate * Way to Go * You’ve Outdone Yourself * Thumbs Up * What a Great Listener * Your Help Counts * You Came Through * Terrific * You Tried Hard * Fabulous * The Time You Put In Really Shows * You Made It Happen * You’re A Real Trooper * It Couldn’t Be Better * Bravo * You’re Unique * Exceptional * You’re A Great Example For Others * Fantastic Work * Breathtaking * Keep Up The Good Work * Awesome * I Knew You Had It In You * You’ve Made Progress * Your Work Is Out Of Sight * What An Imagination * It’s Everything I Hoped For * Stupendous * You’re Sensational * Very Good * You Made The Difference * Good For You * A+ Work * Take A Bow * Super Job * How Thoughtful Of You * Nice Going * Class Act * Well Done * You’re Inspiring * How Artistic * You Go The Extra Mile * Hooray For You * You’re A Joy * You’re A Shining Star * You’re Amazing * What A Great Idea * Great Answer * Extra Special Work * You Deserve A Hug * You’re Getting Better * You’re Tops * You’re Catching On * You’re Neat * You’ve Got What It Takes * Spectacular Work * You’re A Winner * You’re #1 * Remarkable * Beautiful * Great Discovery * Clever * You’re So Kind * Wow * Magnificent * You’re Sharp * You’re Very Responsible *Brilliant * Thanks For Helping * Thanks For Caring * You’re A-OK * You’ve Earned My Respect * You’re A Pleasure To Know* You’re Very Talented * How Original * What A Genius * Very Brave * Congratulations * You’re A Champ * You Figured It Out * You’re Super * Right On * You’re The Greatest * You Make Me Smile

Children want attention; make sure you are pointing out the positives and giving praise daily. As caregivers it is our job to build children up and be positive role models. Children who are praised will, in turn, give praise to their peers and create a more positive, kind school environment.