Holidays are a great time for family fun. But they also pose many challenges for families, from coping with in-laws and former spouses, to fending off awkward questions about partners and children (or the lack of same), to avoiding over-indulgence in food, drinking, and gift-giving. And the lasting effects of the Great Recession pose more stress than usual, as many families face lay-offs, housing problems, or other economic pressures that make it difficult for them to celebrate in the usual ways.
CCF is already getting lots of calls from journalists reporting on how families and individuals are coping. CCF researchers and clinicians have identified topics ranging from negotiating rituals in blended or divorced families, to managing time, dealing with the stress of gift-giving and over-eating, and coping with mismatch of school holiday schedules and parental work requirements. They can offer background for stories on how families handle the absence of loved ones over the holidays, the special issues faced by immigrants and multicultural families with differing holiday traditions, and on handling tensions over holiday plans when adult children have moved back home.
The Importance of Holiday Rituals
How families building unique mini-cultures in which they share their own language, behaviors, traditions, nicknames, artifacts, meanings; why rituals are important for couples and families; the role of women as kinkeepers, the participation of multiple generations in holiday rituals. Carol Bruess, Professor, Communication and Journalism and Director, Family Studies, University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, MN: firstname.lastname@example.org, cell: 612-840-3501
On how the celebration of holidays differs from the past, including the recent invention of many so-called hallowed traditions, contact Stephanie Coontz, Professor of History and Family Studies, The Evergreen State College, and Co-Chair, Council on Contemporary Families: email@example.com; 360-352-8117.
It Isn’t Just about the Kids: Keeping up with Couple Relationships over the Holidays
Parents get so preoccupied with the kids and presents over the holidays that they forget to keep in touch with each other. Keeping the couple relationship on track may be the best gift parents can give because that relationship can set the tone for the family celebration. Contact Carolyn and Phil Cowan, University of California, Berkeley at Ccowan@berkeley.edu and firstname.lastname@example.org; 510-526-2586.
Yours, Mine, and Ours: Divorced, Blended, and Stepfamily Relations during the Holidays
The holidays are stressful for everyone, but post-divorce families, especially when parents have remarried or repartnered, can be extremely difficult for family members. For things parents (and grandparents) can do to make the holidays less stressful and more peaceful, contact Lawrence Ganong, University of Missouri (email@example.com; 573-882-6852) or Marilyn Coleman, University of Missouri Curators’ Professor (firstname.lastname@example.org; 573-882-4360)
On resolving scheduling conflicts during the holidays or coordinating holiday activities and values when children move between houses, contact Anne C. Bernstein, Licensed Psychologist and Professor, The Wright Institute: email@example.com; 510-549-0598
For tips to divorced parents on dealing with children during the holidays, contact Robert E. Emery, Professor of Psychology, Director of the Center for Children, Families, and the Law,
University of Virginia, Charlottesville: 434-924-0671; firstname.lastname@example.org
Should we wait to tell the kids we’re divorcing until after the holidays? The pros and cons: Joshua Coleman, Psychologist and Co-Chair, Council on Contemporary Families: email@example.com; 510-547-6500
Loss or Absence of Loved Ones During the Holidays
Pauline Boss, family therapist and author of Loss, Trauma and Resilience, can address how individuals and families can handle the absence of loved ones over the holidays, whether due to death, displacement, or deployment in places like Iraq or Afghanistan. She can also discuss issues connected to the psychological loss of loved ones due to illnesses such as Alzheimers or brain injuries. Work: 651-644-3024; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Resisting Consumerism over the Holidays
Giving the kids less without giving yourself grief during the holidays: 3 steps to a sane holiday season. Joshua Coleman, Psychologist and Co-Chair, Council on Contemporary Families
Celebrating the Holidays during Tough Times
How to talk to kids about money and how to negotiate tight finances in times of recession and unemployment: Stephanie Newman, NYC based Psychologist/Psychoanalyst, Co-editor of Money Talks: (212) 717-7693; email@example.com
How to handle gift-giving to children in times of financial constraint; how to deal with envy when children compare their holidays to neighbors/friends/classmates; how to have holidays that are about making memories rather than getting presents. Allison Pugh, Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Virginia, University of Virginia. firstname.lastname@example.org; 434-228-6771
When Christmas Has to Change due to Divorce, Displacement, Illness, Death or Economic Woes. Tips to help families cope. Ellen Pulleyblank Coffey; 510-849-1608; Ellen@Berkeleyfamilytherapy.com
Same-Sex Family Issues during the Holidays
Holiday gatherings can be stressful, especially when cohabiting or same-sex partners are introduced to family members. Brian Powell, James H. Rudy Professor of Sociology at Indiana University, discusses the changing definition of family and how this affects interpersonal dynamics at holiday events. Phone: 812-855-7624 (office); 812-360-0474 (cell); email@example.com
For information about other gay-lesbian issues and family relations around the holidays, contact Robert-Jay Green, Distinguished Professor of Psychology and Executive Director, Rockway Institute for LGBT Psychology, Alliant International University, San Francisco: 415-955-2121; firstname.lastname@example.org
The Holiday Season and Non-Christian Families
What do we make of it all-at home and out in the world-when everything says Christmas, but that isn’t what we do in our family? Contact Barbara J. Risman, Professor and Head,
Department of Sociology, University of Illinois at Chicago: 312-996-3074; email@example.com
How to Keep Your Sex Life Alive during Hard Economic Times and Stressful Holiday Planning
How do you keep your intimate life going when pressure is all around you? Pepper Schwartz, Professor of Sociology, University of Washington; Love, Sex and Relationship Ambassador for AARP; Board Member, Council on Contemporary Families; and Chief Relationship Expert, Perfectmatch.com. firstname.lastname@example.org; 206-910-7586
Working Moms and Dual Earner Families during the Holidays
Already Overloaded, How Do Families Manage Work/Family Conflict over the Holidays?
Kathleen Gerson, Professor of Sociology at NYU can speak about the ways that the holidays intensify work-family conflicts and add additional pressures to the already crowded schedules of employed parents, and especially mothers. She can also discuss the strategies families use to cope with these pressures as well as how these strategies have changed with the rise of dual-earning couples and single-parent families. email@example.com; 718-490-1960.
For information on how working moms can overcome holiday guilt, contact Sarah Damaske, Assistant Professor of Labor Studies & Employment Relations and Sociology, The Pennsylvania State University, 814-865-9090, firstname.lastname@example.org
Keeping Healthy During the Holidays
For tips on how to keep healthy – from eating strategies to exercise – contact Deborah Carr, Professor of Sociology, Rutgers University (email@example.com; 732-309-1807) or Kristen W. Springer, Assistant Professor of Sociology, Rutgers University (848-932-7516;firstname.lastname@example.org.
Coping with Addiction and Abuse of Alcohol or Other Drug during the Holidays
Jenn Matheson, LMFT, Assistant Professor of Human Development and Family Studies and the Director of the Center for Family & Couple Therapy, Colorado State University. email@example.com; 703-851-5141.
Not Home for the Holidays
Susan Matt, Presidential Distinguished Professor of History and Chair of the History Dept. at Weber State University, can discuss the emotional difficulties of being away from home on the holidays, how earlier generations coped with homesickness, and how modern Americans are forging new ways to bridge distance: 801-626-7325; firstname.lastname@example.org
For parents who are estranged from their adult children, the holidays are an especially painful reminder that they won’t be sharing them with the people they care about the most. For information on handling these issues, contact Joshua Coleman, psychologist and author, CCF co-chair: email@example.com; 510-547-6500
The Families We Choose – and How We Make Them Work
Not every can be or wants to be with their family around the holidays, so many people are forming their own voluntary or chosen families. These voluntary family relationships have their strengths and challenges. For research on how they communicate and navigate these challenges, contact Dawn O. Braithwaite, Willa Cather Professor of Communication Studies, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, firstname.lastname@example.org, 402-472-2239.
Challenges and Opportunities for Adoptive Families during the Holidays
For research and advice on issues facing foster care families, adoptive families and families that have both adopted and biological children, contact Adam Pertman, Executive Director of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute: email@example.com and 617-763-0134.
Whether newly dating or nearly-committed, how do romantic partners choose appropriate holiday gifts for each other? From too-much-too-soon to misinterpreted good intentions, what’s going on behind common missteps, and how can gifting gaffes be avoided? Linda R. Young, Counseling Psychologist and CCF Board member: Lry5@columbia.edu; 425-698-9008
For Divorced Parents: Making your Children Feel Safe and Cherished without Engaging in a Consumerist Arms Race
For research on the differences in how mothers and fathers use gifts to get closer to children and on what children need from divorced parents, contact Michelle Janning, Associcate Professor of Sociology and Assistant Dean of the Faculty, Whitman College, Walla Walla, WA:
Intergenerational tensions around the holidays, including gift-giving, time management, in-laws, food, territorial arguments, managing sibling rivalry, and intermarriage.
Ruth Nemzoff, Resident Scholar, Brandeis Women’s Studies Research Center
Rnemzoff@brandeis.edu; until Dec 12, 339-927-1000; after Dec 12, 617-947-2222
With Smaller Families and More Singles, What Are the Holidays Like for Singles?
Bella DePaulo can discuss how the rise of singlehood is changing holiday celebrations, and how people who are single experience holidays. She stresses the importance in Americans’ lives, and the joys of solitude as well as sociability. Bella DePaulo, Visiting Professor of Psychology, UCSB: BellaDePaulo@gmail.com; 805-565-9582
Aging and the Holidays
On challenges and coping mechanisms for elderly Americans facing the holidays without a partner or other families, contact Pepper Schwartz, Professor of Sociology, University of Washington; Love and Sex and Relationship Ambassador for AARP: firstname.lastname@example.org; 206-910-7586
Improving Father-Daughter Relationships during the Holidays
How to deal with strained or troubled father-daughter relationships during the holidays – especially divorced fathers and their daughters. Linda Nielsen, Professor of Adolescent and Educational Psychology, Wake Forest University: email@example.com; 336-758-5345
Negotiating Family Rituals in Interracial and Multiethnic Families
When debates over how to celebrate holidays are supercharged with racial and ethnic differences in families, how do families negotiate them? Contact Susan Dargan, Professor and Chair of Sociology, Framingham State University. firstname.lastname@example.org, 508-626-4867
For research on how interracial, interethnic, and interfaith families negotiate differences in holiday traditions, contact Helen Kim, Associate Professor of Sociology, and Noah Leavitt, Assistant Dean of Students, Whitman College, Walla Walla, WA: email@example.com; 509-522-4409; firstname.lastname@example.org; 509-527-5935.
Negotiating Holiday Rituals in Public Spaces
Sometimes holiday rituals enjoyed in families are sentimentally brought to public spaces and institutions, and conflict over when, what, and whether to celebrate, and whose traditions to include can arise. What are good sources of logic and action for dealing with public/private issues around family, family diversity, and holiday observances? Contact Virginia Rutter, Associate Professor of Sociology, Framingham State University. email@example.com, 206-375-4139
Sleeping Arrangements during the Holiday Season
When your son or daughter comes home from college with his or her significant other, do you put them in one room or two? Contact Amy Schalet, Assistant Professor of Sociology, University of Massachusetts at Amherst: firstname.lastname@example.org; Cell 413-824-1552; office 413-545-5008
The Council on Contemporary Families, based at the University of Miami, is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization of family researchers and practitioners that seeks to further a national understanding of how America’s families are changing and what is known about the strengths and weaknesses of different family forms and various family interventions. The Council helps keep journalists informed of notable work on family-related issues via the CCF Network. To join the CCF Network, or for further media assistance, please contact Stephanie Coontz, Director of Research and Public Education, at email@example.com, cell 360-556-9223.