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Coping When Tough Economic Times Taint Holiday Cheer
Date:12/17/2010

By Madonna Behen
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, Dec. 17 (HealthDay News) -- Store aisles are jammed, menorahs have been lit, and houses and Christmas trees are adorned with lights, which can only mean the holidays are officially in full swing.

But with more than 15 million Americans currently unemployed, many people are finding it hard to make the season bright for themselves as well as their children.

Eighty percent of parents said that money is a significant source of stress in their lives, according to the latest Stress in America survey results released by the American Psychological Association (APA). When worries about tough economic times bump up against children's expectations of lavish gifts and extravagant vacations, that stress is only magnified.

"During the holidays, it's important for families to think outside the expectation of everyone getting everything on their lists," said Mary K. Alvord, a clinical psychologist in private practice in Rockville and Silver Spring, Md. "Otherwise, it just sets adults and children up for disappointment."

"If you're having financial difficulties, it can be helpful to look at the situation as an opportunity to get back to focusing on the things that are the most important, like family togetherness," noted Craig S. Fabrikant, a psychologist on staff at Hackensack University Medical Center in Hackensack, N.J.

Alvord and Fabrikant offered the following advice for how families can make the best of the holidays, in good times and bad:

Be honest. Don't try to hide your financial problems from your kids and pretend to carry on as usual. According to the APA survey, more than 90 percent of children report that they know if a parent is stressed, but less than one-third of parents believe this is the case. "Children know when things are wrong, and they're actually better than adults at picking up the vibes because they can cut through all the defensive s
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