Less Wrapping Paper Needed - Making Holidays Happy In An Unhappy Economy
Bethesda, MD — Families are entering a third holiday season since the economy tanked in the fall of 2008. The American Occupational Therapy Association and its Pediatric Coordinator Sandy Schefkind, MS, OTR/L, offer these suggestions for keeping the holidays bright.
(Occupational therapists and occupational therapy assistants work with people to gain and restore skills and abilities across six practice areas—children and youth; aging; mental health, healthy living; work-related; and disability and rehabilitation.)
Turn “Plan B” into “Plan A”—If funds are short, you’re probably thinking this holiday season will lack a ”wow” factor. “Not true,” says Sandy. “What’s valuable about the holidays is being in the moment and available to the relatives and friends in your life. Memories are made when families are doing activities together, and there are lots of options that don’t involve opening your wallet like baking, caroling and playing.” Other ideas include organizing a winter picnic, stringing popcorn, or attending free community events. Social and leisure activities are associated with better mental and physical functioning.* Your “Plan A” could permanently have a new definition.
It’s How You Play the Game—Toys are merely mechanisms for play opportunities, so they don’t have to be costly. “It’s not what you give, it’s what you do with it,” advises Sandy. “And playfulness is not just for children. Adults need play opportunities, too.”
Play encourages bonding, sharing and fun. This interaction “is most valuable to a child’s growth and building family strength.” Play scavenger games using objects found in nature or, if weather is inclement, play cards or twister while listening to holiday music.
Great Expectations—Adult expectations are often very different from children’s expectations. “Adults can put so much pressure on themselves,” says to Sandy, “to create the quintessential happy holidays. Instead, ease up on perfection and think about infusing good times throughout the year.” Remember—children aren’t looking for gourmet meals, color-coordinated decorations or the impeccable centerpiece. Balance holiday “to-dos” with time spent with family and friends.
Chinese on Christmas Eve?—Family traditions are unique to your family. Traditions can be anything you enjoy, and can be relatively cheap—bowling, skating, creating fortunes for each other for the new year, etc.
*Maintenance of social, leisure, and instrumental activities was associated with better functioning in terms of both physical and mental health, although low-demand leisure activities may differentially affect health. Journal of Gerontology: Social Science, 55B (4), S208-S212; and Disability and Health Journal, 1, 7-13.
Founded in 1917, the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) represents the professional interests and concerns of more than 140,000 occupational therapists, assistants, and students nationwide. The Association educates the public and advances the profession of occupational therapy by providing resources, setting standards including accreditations, and serving as an advocate to improve health care. Based in Bethesda, Md., AOTA’s major programs and activities are directed toward promoting the professional development of its members and assuring consumer access to quality services so patients can maximize their individual potential. For more information, go to www.aota.org.