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Take time to enjoy family during the holidays

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Holidays can generate many enduring memories. They can also be stressful and tiring times when calendars fill with many activities and time for work, family, community and self must all be balanced.

Discussing the expectations and sharing responsibilities for a gathering or other event can lighten the load for hosts, as well as share the expense and the pride in a successful event when all goes well.

Charlotte Shoup Olsen, K-State Research and Extension family systems specialist, says that if family members also become holiday houseguests, discussing the expectations prior to arrival is recommended. Each family will have their own lifestyle and routine. Time together is precious and it becomes more so as children grow into their roles as young adults.

She says that parents, grandparents, friends and neighbors also are growing and aging as their lives evolve and can benefit from time together to appreciate these new stages of life as well.

Time together can offer many plusses, but Olsen also recommends building downtime into any schedule also. Downtime offers time to pause, reflect and re-energize.

Parents of teens and college students who relax their expectations may experience a more joyful holiday season as a family. Teens will want to spend time with friends. Doing so is normal at this stage in adolescent development. Parents need to be flexible and willing to compromise to allow time for friends and family alone -- and together. Encouraging a child to invite a friend to family game or movie night or to accompany the family on an outing is an example.

Expecting young adult children who are now living on their own to abide by house rules that applied during high school years can stress family relationships. Expecting young adult children to advise parents of where they're going, who they will be with, and when to expect them home is, however, common courtesy.

With so much of the holiday emphasis on family time focused on parents with young children and teens, older adults, including parents of adult children, grandparents and extended family such as aunts and uncles can feel left out. Deb Sellers, Extension specialist on adult development and aging says that bringing the generations together is important. Older adults can enrich family gatherings by bringing wisdom from life experiences to the table. Their first-hand accounts of family, previous holiday gatherings and other life events often are of interest to even young children.

Such story telling might reflect overcoming personal challenges that helped to shape a life, responding to a historic event, solving a problem, or injecting humor into a life event.

Providing intergenerational opportunities is important to older adults, yet also important to others, including children who may express their thanks in unexpected ways.

Sellers cited an example of a 60-ish grandmother who treated three grandsons to a college football game prior to the holiday. She received a thank you card in which the 10-year-old reported being impressed with the marching band; the 12-year-old expressed appreciation for the tickets and the experience; and, the 15-year-old wrote: "Loved talking with you."

Editor's Note: Ann Ludlum is a K-State Research and Extension family and consumer sciences and 4-H extension agent assigned to Bourbon County. She may be reached at (620) 223-3720 or aludlum@ksu.edu.

Ann Ludlum
FCS Agent, Southwind District
Editor's Note: Ann Ludlum is a K-State Research and Extension family and consumer sciences and 4-H extension agent assigned to Southwind District -- Fort Scott office. She may be reached at (620) 223-3720 or aludlum@ksu.edu.