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UNC Tip Sheet

For immediate use:

Dec. 21, 2007

Last-minute tips to keep the holidays happy and avoid family meltdowns

Is your family more like The Sopranos than The Waltons? For many people, the holidays – and in particular family get-togethers – means tension and stress.

Today’s busy families have moved toward a pattern of individual activities (listening to an iPod, surfing the internet), rather than joint activities, according to Dennis Orthner, a professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Social Work. Interaction – such as a large family gathering – occurs only on special occasions, making them less familiar. Add the usual seasonal stressors like finances, crowded shopping malls and travel and the holidays are ripe for tension.

“When families are able to spend time interacting, keeping it positive, studies have shown that it is good for a person’s overall well-being,” Orthner said. “The holidays are an opportunity for families to re-engage with one another, to open up channels of communication that are rusty. But you have to keep it positive.”

Orthner’s seven tips for happy holidays:

Note: Orthner can be reached at (919) 247-4399

School of Social Work contact: Michelle Rogers, (919) 962-1532,