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

tuff," said Fabrikant. Before sitting down with your kids, think about how you'll explain the situation, advised Alvord. "Parents need to discuss the probable consequences of loss of job and income in a realistic but not alarming way," she said. "Kids often misinterpret what job loss means and might think in extremes, such as they might not have enough to eat or may not get any gifts at all."

Have a plan. "This helps us feel that we have some control over our lives, and that we're empowered," said Alvord. She recommended scheduling a family meeting and asking everyone to come up with inventive ideas for saving money during the holidays, such as having a game night or planning a hike through a local trail. "They don't all have to be realistic at first. Encourage brainstorming, and then narrow it down to what's doable," said Alvord.

Tone it down. "You can still get a tree, but you don't have to buy the biggest one on the lot," said Fabrikant. Similarly, it's better to pare down the gift lists to just a few meaningful ones, rather than risk going into debt. "Whether you have 4,000 lights on your house or 50, it really doesn't matter," he added.

Come up with "outside the box" gift ideas. "Whether money is tight or not, it's a good idea to have non-monetary gifts that demonstrate your love by offering your time and energy," said Alvord. For example, family members can create gift certificates where one person offers to do someone else's chores for a week, or a parent gives a coupon for a future activity a teenager would like, such as a special movie. You can also make homemade gifts, which are often the most cherished anyway.

See the silver lining. "It sounds corny, but it's so important to frame the situation in ways of what we have, rather than what we don't have," Alvord said. One idea is for everyone to write down compliments for individual family members on small strips of paper and then put them in a basket or box
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