John Ernst, Ph.D.

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Although the ideal ‘story book’ image of Christmas and New Year’s is one of happiness and celebration, some individuals trudge through this time of year burdened by feelings of stress and frustration. Fortunately, by recognizing and guarding against a few of the major holiday pitfalls, you can make this year’s holiday season much A more pleasant and enjoyable experience, here are a few tips to avoid some holiday ‘Grinches’ that can steal some of the joy from the holidays (but only if you let them).


Watch out for stress


Daily life has its moments of stress but the demands of the holidays (shopping in crowded malls, wrapping presents at the last minute, balancing on a ladder in 30-degree weather to decorate the house, and rushing to visit people at several different homes) can place extra stress on everyone. The question here is “How much stress am I placing on myself by my own doing”? It’s possible to avoid experiencing a holiday ‘crunch time’ by scheduling activities and duties so they don’t fall all at the last minute. Also, delegate some activities to other family members rather than attempting to be superhuman during the holidays. In short, set realistic expectations for what this time of year can and cannot provide for you.


Time and money - set some limits


Setting realistic spending limits can help you to avoid the post-holiday blues that come when your credit card bill arrives in January, so think ahead to what the mailman will bring you a month later while you’re doing your holiday shopping. Merchants would love to have you succumb to impulse buying. Instead, crate a budget containing specific, worthwhile gifts and stick to it while pushing your shopping cart through the mall.

Remember that how you spend your time can be a very precious gift that you can give to yourself. Maybe this is the year to say ‘no’ to some less important holiday activities. If an event feels more like an obligation than a celebration you might want to spend your time doing something more pleasant and meaningful. Perhaps it would be more fun just to bake a few dozen cookies with the kids rather than cranking out forty dozen at 2:00am.


Decide what the holidays mean to you:


Finally, take charge of this year’s holidays by reviewing the previous years’ experience; holidays are a process, and they’ll be whatever you choose to make them. Consider replacing ineffective holiday ‘habits’ with fresh traditions by doing something creative and different. Remember that gifts to others don’t always have to be material or worth a lot in A monetary sense. Long after the toys have lost their luster, the memories of laughter, enjoyable activities, and human interaction will live on as memories for years.




If parenting was going to be easy, it wouldn't start with something called labor!  Children do not come with instruction manuals. Remembering that children are a joy and a blessing can make the parenting process a joy and a blessing. Certianly, it is a challenge!


The goal of parenting is to raise children to become happy and productive adults. Parents need to see the day to day trials as merely steps that will eventually meet that goal. In doing so, not only will they end up with wonderful, grown-up adult children, they can also be proof of themselves as productive and successful parents, Their success will be passed on to their children, giving them the opportunity to be successful parents also.


Rewards from children can be found daily in their love, hugs and smiles, Those are joys to be had, enjoyed and embraced. Parents should look for those rays of happiness every day and remind themselves how precious their children are.


Each child is different and each child requires different parenting approaches. One size does not fit all. One parenting style is not necessarily appropriate for another child. There are, however, some constants that parents need to realize as being critical in the parenting process. The first constant is the most important. Always let children know they are loved. If children know that they are loved, they will develop a positive self-concept that will be critically important for them throughout their lives.


The second is consistency. Parents need to be as consistent as is humanly possible. While perfection is unreasonable, the more consistent a parent is the easier the task of parenting will be. Parents need to constantly remind themselves of the overall principles and values they are trying to teach in order to remind themselves of the parenting plan.


Realize that each parenting decision is not crucial. Parents are trying to instill values and beliefs for their children to use in their adult years. This is an important concept for parents to keep in mind while involved in the parenting process. It is the accumulation of parenting decisions that will make the difference in how children develop and mature. The more parents can keep their emotions out of the process the easier it will be. Getting angry at children for their attitude or behavior will not be helpful or productive.


Remember that parenting is a job and a joy. Someday these will be the 'good old days' when the parents and children talk about those early years. The conversations of those trials and tribulations are something to look forward to later in life, especially when children begin to parent their own children.


Dr. Bruett is currently accepting new clients at the Waukesha location, (262) 544-6486

Terry Bruett, EdD

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