Posts Tagged ‘Holidays’

Do I NEED This???

January 15, 2010

Let’s take it back. Way back…. to about 3 weeks ago. It was the beginning of my Christmas vacation and I could not WAIT to see my family. After my plane landed in Houston (TX), I reveled in the company of my sisters, brothers-in-law, aunt, uncle, cousins, nieces, and nephew. I mean, my mother was here and she lives on another continent! What’s not to love?!

Fast forward to two weeks later. To me stalking into my sister’s guest bedroom for some peace and to maintain my precarious grasp on my sanity. As a loner by birth, it doesn’t take much for me to take a break from human contact, but I found myself seriously wondering if I really needed to be here and if I really needed to have a relationship with these people. I was overreacting (I do that), but it got me thinking: How important is it to have relationships?

As you may have guessed from my last post, I like research findings that are useful to Joe/Jane Six-Pack. Turns out that close relationships are vital to our well-being. We can’t help it. It’s in our DNA. As children, we gravitate toward our caregivers (for most, it’s a parent or two). We look to them for love, support, and protection. While growing up, we start to form friendships… we even invent imaginary friends. Then the teen years arrive, our hormones start acting up, and we look to forming intimate relationships. Around this time, it’s basically up to us to seek out healthy, long-lasting relationships. Relationships, according to research, help us realize who we are, how to treat others and how we want to be treated, and lend to our overall happiness. Having healthy relationships can also help manage stress! I’m all about that.

Forming and maintaining healthy relationships has a lot of benefits and that’s one of the many reasons I enjoy being a part of Alabama Community Healthy Marriage Initiative or ACHMI (www.alabamamarriage.org). ACHMI strives to educate youth and adults on the ins and outs of healthy relationships. It’s the best type of education – the one where no cramming is involved, you can learn things, and you can use those things for the rest of your life. It’s great being a part of something that has changed the trajectory of so many people’s lives by teaching the importance of healthy relationships and helping make current relationships even better.

I guess all this means I’m stuck with my crazy, loud, nosy, caring, protective, loving family. Darn. 😉

Happy 2010!

Christiana Datubo-Brown

PS – Are we saying “two thousand ten” or “twenty ten”??

Money Management & The Holiday Season

December 26, 2009

The holiday season brings forth so many wonderful things: good food, family gatherings, presents, and the list just goes on and on. Personally, the holidays,especially Christmas, is just a magical time for me and I look forward to it every year. One of my family’s traditions is to draw names for Christmas at Thanksgiving dinner. The goal of this tradition is to ensure that every person receives a gift and that everyone is able to save some money. This was especially important this year considering the economic state our country is in. So this year like every other year everyone agreed that we would stick to buying a present for the person whose name we pulled. However, this year like every other year for as long as I can remember, the rule was thrown out the window, and my mother and I spent hours and hours in shopping centers and department stores and hundreds and hundreds of dollars buying Christmas gifts for everyone in our family. After the shopping was over and our retail therapy “high” began to fade, the realization of how much money we had spent began to sink in as it does year after year.

I am sure that my family is not the first and definitely not the last to go a little overboard with the Christmas shopping and for those people who are nodding their heads in agreement you know all too well the consequences of overspending during the holidays and the stress that it can bring, especially with your spouse or signficant other. Although it is too late at this point to give you any money-saving shopping tips or advice for the holidays use this time and opportunity to discuss money management with your spouse or significant other. The Alabama Marriage Handbook provides us with several tips to help you effectively manage your money with your partner.

  1. Set aside a regular time each month to discuss money issues (i.e. your budget, planned expenses, debt-reduction plan).
  2. Talk regularly about ways to better manage your money.
  3. Use a team approach (respect each other’s differences, and work toward decisions both of you agree with).
  4. Keep each other up to date on all personal assets and debts.
  5. Discuss and come to agreements about how to use any extra money.
  6. Write short and long-range financial goals together.
  7. As you get financial goals, remember to be realistic, specific, and flexible.
  8. Remember to use positive communication skills when discussing money.

I hope that these tips help you start or improve on you and your partner’s money management skills and who knows maybe when next years’ holiday season rolls around you will be able to apply some of those tips and advice to your holiday shopping.  Happy Holidays!

Jaleesa Albadani

Graduate Research Assistant

Alabama Community Healthy Marriage Initiative

Happy Holidays and Healthy Arguing!

December 16, 2009

Look familiar?

Have you ever found yourself in the midst of your family’s dispute – trying desperately to calm the storm on both sides of an argument?  Whether your answer is yes or no, you can take comfort in the fact that people across all generations, classes and races have some type of recurring conflict in their family; and they often flare up – especially during the holidays.  Failed relationships, troubled family members, death, tough financial times and a myriad of other issues all add to a family’s stress level and inability to maintain healthy relationships.  Unfortunately this leads to arguments, disagreements and sometimes not communicating at all.  When these types of things happen in my family, I’m often tempted to try to solve the issue or run to comfort people on one or both sides of the issue.  What I didn’t know for a long time is that this isn’t the best solution!  Instead of always trying to solve the issue for the dueling pair – I should step back and let them work it out.  By stepping into the argument, I have triangulated myself into the problem.  And, instead of forcing those two to come to an agreement or an agreement to disagree, I have enabled them to let me work it out – never forcing them to develop the skill of arguing effectively.  The Healthy Marriage Handbook offers several tips that are essential  for arguing effectively with spouses – but if you think about it these tips really apply to any relationship argument – especially your family.  Here are a few that I think are important:

1) Describe your feelings using “I” instead of starting with “you….”.

2)  Focus on the specific and current behavior , and don’t label the person in a bad way.

3)  Use kind words and a kind tone of voice.

4)  Don’t keep things inside until you feel filled up and then dump everything out at once.

5)  Don’t fight dirty, i.e. physically, emotionally, or verbally abusive.

6) Don’t give the silent treatment.

7) Chill out!  If your “stress response” has kicked in, it’s only going to get worse.  Take a break, disengage, and re-visit the issue when you can think clearly and act reasonably.

Perhaps next time instead of trying to solve the problem, I can teach the arguers (after the argument) how to argue more effectively and keep the health of the relationship in mind.

Happy Holidays and Healthy Arguing to all!!

Charlsey Mahle

GRA, Auburn University

Tradition!

December 2, 2009

In the classic musical Fiddler on the Roof, humble Jewish farmer Tevye describes his family’s recipe for unity and stability: “How do we keep our balance? That I can tell you in one word: tradition! Without our traditions, our lives would be as shaky as a fiddler on the roof!” While tradition brings the family together, one of the themes of Fiddler is also that over-rigid adherence to tradition can sometimes drive family members apart; flexibility is paramount.

This is especially true during the holiday season. Annual traditions can provide something for family members to look forward to, create memories that are cherished for a lifetime, and fortify familial bonds. However, if compromises can’t be made to adapt to maturing children, family members living apart, scheduling conflicts with in-laws, or the realignment of family boundaries due to divorce or marriage, then conflict and resentment may occur. As with most things in life, a healthy balance is key.

What holiday traditions do you share with your spouse, children, family, or other loved ones? If you don’t have many (or any), what would you like to do? Perhaps I could be so bold as to offer a few suggestions:

– Christmas, Hanukkah, and other winter holidays are often a lonely time for many who are estranged from their families or who live alone. Perhaps you are one of those people. One of the best ways to enjoy this time, I’ve found, is to reach out to those who may be struggling and invite them to any activities you may be participating in, even and especially if you feel isolated or alone yourself.

– Visit holiday light displays, such as the enormous one at Calloway Gardens.

– Read (or even better, recreate) the stories behind your holiday. Christians can re-enact The Nativity. Jews can act out the story of Hanukkah. Involving children as actors (even if a narrator provides the dialogue) is both fun (who doesn’t love to dress up?) and a great way to teach them about their heritage.

– If shopping is a pain, have each family member draw another member’s name out of a hat; everyone is only to buy a gift for the person they drew, with a budget cap set on how much can be spent (e.g. $50 max). This simplifies the gifting process, allowing for less stress and more family time.

– Have a family dinner (if your kids are grown up, a potluck can help simplify things).

– Have a family game night to enjoy one another’s company. Get-together games, like Scattegories and Balderdash, are excellent ways to lighten the mood, bring out a competitive spirit and teamwork, and make fun memories.

Happy Holidays, and enjoy!

Jono Decker

ACHMI GRA

FIVE VIRTUES FOR A HAPPIER HOLIDAYS

December 24, 2008

FIVE VIRTUES FOR A HAPPIER HOLIDAYS

For the second year in my life, I am sharing a combined Christmas with my biological family and my stepfamily. My father and my stepmother are both widowed, both have five children (four of whom, on either side, are married), and a growing brood of grandchildren. All told, there are 37 of us celebrating the holidays together, which theoretically is a recipe for headaches, chaos, divisive differences, and hard feelings. I am happy to say, however, that so far things have been relatively harmonious (with a family this size, chaos was inescapable, but otherwise we’re happy). Like many of you, I have also had miserable holidays that I’d just as soon forget. The difference, I think, comes from five virtues that, if applied, can make this time of year a delight instead of a chore.

  1. Acceptance– Peace at home requires genuinely welcoming all family members (and guests), regardless of political, theological, or lifestyle differences. In fact, if you can take it one step further and find a way to respect others’ choices and see the value in them, so much the better. I have a cousin who broke off from our family’s shared religion. He married someone of a different faith, and experience with others in similar situations led him to expect his family to ostracize them. To the contrary, his parents and siblings have been certain to make him, his wife, and his beliefs welcome in their home, and they’ve not had to compromise their beliefs in doing so. What could have been a divisive factor has instead turned into a real-life application of love and acceptance that has brought the family even closer together.
  2. Charity– The holidays, for many, are a time of great joy. For others, they are a time of despair. Taking time to connect with those who are lonely or otherwise suffering (even and especially within your own family) spreads holiday cheer not just to them, but to you as well.
  3. Pull Your Weight– Help with the decorations. Offer to do the dishes after a family meal or take out the trash. If something is needed at the store, offer to be the one who braves the winter cold to get it. Helpfulness not only lightens the overall stress at home, it also increases feelings of warm regard. Best of all, a helpful attitude is often contagious!
  4. Embrace the traditions– Even the things that made you roll your eyes when you were younger can become cherished parts of your holidays, if not for the events themselves, then for the sense of unity they can provide. Short on traditions? It’s never too late to start new ones. Go see the lights. Watch a holiday movie. Exchange gifts, Secret Santa style. Read the classic holiday stories. Make gingerbread houses. The possibilities are endless.
  5. Be flexible– Some traditions, however, are outgrown or replaced with new ones. Let it happen. Happy families successfully balance stability with change. This applies to factors other than traditions, as well. Perhaps your family has picked up new members through marriage or adoption, or lost some through divorce or death. You may have stepsiblings or stepparents who bring with them their own ways of doing things. That’s just fine. You may have to adapt; just keep in mind that families come in many types and forms. Perhaps some family members can’t make it back this year. Roll with the punches, and make the best out of your situation. Being able to “go with the flow” could spare you unnecessary hard feelings.

From all of us at ACHMI, Happy Holidays!

Jonathan Decker, Master’s student, Marriage and Family Therapy

From Bah Humbug to Happy Holidays

December 4, 2008

Most of my friends would not describe me as the person who eagerly awaits the holiday season. On the contrary, they know that in the past, I have really dreaded the holidays due to the many transitions that my family has endured over the past several years. My family, like so many others, has experienced multiple divorces, deaths, and other family transitions that dull the cheerful glow of the holiday season. I know I am not the only one who has wished to sleep through Thanksgiving and Christmas and then, when we wake up, it’s January.

However, we all know this is not possible.

Thanksgiving this past week was the official kick off of the holiday season. Much to my surprise, I found myself looking forward to Thanksgiving and seeing my family. Now that Thanksgiving has passed and time is on the super speedway towards Christmas, I have found that I am anticipating this holiday as well. Inquiring minds may want to know what has accounted for this change in perspective regarding my “bah humbug” attitude towards Christmas.

I used to spend my time mourning over times passed and wishing for things to go back to how they used to be. I can imagine that there are millions of people who are currently struggling with this same problem. However, I recently realized that I will never be satisfied if I continue to long for times that have passed because it is simply not possible to go back and relive the “good ole days.” I have learned to appreciate the people who are in my life who really love me. Don’t get me wrong, I have always loved and appreciated them but I have developed a new sense of gratefulness for my family in realizing that I must appreciate them now.

Therefore, I encourage you to be appreciative of the family that you have right now instead of focusing on the one that once was. We only get one family, so let’s enjoy them (with all of their craziness and flaws) to the fullest. Happy Holidays!

Ashley Anders, M.S., Graduate Research Assistant

Alabama Community Healthy Marriage Initiative