As I was driving home last night, I noticed several houses that had already been decorated for the holidays with the festive twinkling lights outside and the beautiful Christmas trees showing through the windows. Given that I am a sucker for the holiday season, these sights filled me with a sense of happiness and warmth. Soon after these positive feelings, a sense of urgency set in. Was I late in getting started with holiday prep? Should I have spent the weekend getting decorations down and moving furniture around to accommodate the Christmas tree? As I started going through my mental calendar of things that need to get done, I realized that it’s not even Thanksgiving yet! My family’s usual tradition is to set up Christmas decorations on the Friday of Thanksgiving weekend. This has always been the case for us, but until just recently, I have never felt the pressure to start decorating before that point. This got me thinking about why our society is in such a hurry to start celebrating the holidays.
Of course, there is the business related argument that it’s all retail based and that companies have started cultivating the holiday spirit earlier to increase sales. I have no doubt that this is true because, after all, who doesn’t want to drink a Chestnut Praline Latte in the red Starbucks cup as soon as possible??? But I can’t accept the fact that this is the only reason the holidays keep getting pushed earlier and earlier every single year. Yes, companies are pushing the holiday season upon us as early as possible, but the interesting part of it, in my perspective, is that we, as a society, are eager and ready to receive it! About 5 years ago, I remember that several department stores began decorating before Thanksgiving and many people thought this was ridiculous. Today, many retailers set up their holiday decorations after Halloween! The premature celebration of the holidays has become pushed upon us in such an inadvertent manner that not only are retailers setting up early for the purpose of increasing sales, but we have gotten into the habit of decorating our homes and businesses for the holidays before Thanksgiving has even arrived! Back to my real question though… WHY? Why are we so eager to celebrate the holidays that we have decided to start doing so a month or two earlier than they are meant to be celebrated?
Here is where it gets interesting for me! The psychology behind our readiness to welcome the holiday season… First off, I began thinking about what it is that the holidays represent. A few terms automatically entered my mind… love, acceptance, unity, tolerance, family, support, and warmth. Even in terms of gift giving, the holidays are one of the few times of the year when we actively think about who we appreciate and what we can give to those individuals to make them feel special. We are encouraged to think about the well-being and happiness of others as opposed to the rest of the year when we are primarily focused on thinking about our own needs. The holidays give us the opportunity to let go of the individualistic nature of our daily lives and to embrace the collectivist nature that many of us seek deep down inside. The holidays make it okay for us to look one another in the eyes at the store and to smile, they make it okay for us to let the person with one item ahead of us in line, they make it appropriate for us to give money to the homeless man by the exit on the freeway off-ramp without questioning what he will do with that money… The holidays make it okay for us to connect with one another without second guessing ourselves and feeling taken advantage of. They make it okay for us to be good human beings, the kind of human being that we were before we were jaded by the negative experiences that have rewired our internal programming to be cautious, not trust others, and put our own needs before those of others. I believe that this is the main reason we are so ready to welcome the holidays into our lives, even if it is in early November!
As we enter the new year and make our resolutions, it may be beneficial to make a few resolutions that will help us carry the warmth of the holidays into the rest of the upcoming year. Consider spending more time with family, or holding the door for a stranger, or giving some grace to those around us with the realization that they might be going through struggles of their own. After all, we are in this together… We share this point in time with one another and what we do/how we treat each other today effects the norms of our society for generations to come.
Did you know that when adolescents enter puberty, their circadian rhythm naturally shifts by 2-3 hours? This means that their bodies don’t feel the need to fall asleep until later in the night and are not ready to wake up until later in the morning. How do you think this effects them when we expect them to be awake, alert, and focused in class at 8 am? Some middle schools and high schools have shifted their school hours to start and end later due to this fact and results show that attendance has increased, tardiness has decreased, and the students and generally performing better in their classes. Food for thought…
Instead of being hard on your teenager about their morning routine, try educating them about this fact and work on coming up with a game-plan together about what they can do to make the best of their night and morning. For example, trying to get to bed a few minutes earlier every day, trying to relax before bedtime, etc. If you are having trouble parenting your adolescent or are unable to communicate in a healthy manner with him/her, consider seeking the help of a psychologist.
I often see/hear discussions in the community regarding how children/adolescents are posting too much personal information on social media sites such as Facebook and I feel that this is legitimately a source of concern for parents. Therefore, I found a new study from the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science which addresses the issue to be very relevant. The study found that the amount of personal information that teens share on FB is actually similar to the amount of personal information that their parents share. The only difference is that teens spend more time on these kinds of sites. This, in turn, gives them more time to post content that is personal. On average, it was determined that teens spend 55 minutes per day on Facebook, whereas adults spend 38 minutes/day. However, the personal nature of the posts (i.e. pictures, locations, etc) between parents and children is similar in content.
One thing that this study brought to mind for me is that although the personal nature of the posts between the parents and children may be similar, that does not account for the content of the posts. In other words, although a parent may feel it appropriate to post a picture of him/herself with their spouse, the content of that picture may be more conservative than a picture that their teen may post of him/herself with their boy/girlfriend. I would appreciate a study that would further look into this issue regarding if the personal posts uploaded by teens place them in a more compromising position than the personal posts uploaded by their parents.
That said, I believe that social media is a territory that parents need to address and discuss with their teens. It is not something that is going away anytime soon and generally speaking, can actually be a great way for teens to express themselves. However, like any other aspect of raising teenagers, limits and boundaries need to be set around its use and occasional monitoring is needed. Most importantly, it is critical to talk to your teens about the consequences of the information they choose to post on social media sites and the permanent nature of the content they place on the internet. Open communication and trust are vital aspects in a parent and teen relationship. This does not mean that you should treat your teenager like they are your friend but that you are there to be a sounding board for them if/when they are having issues. If your teen then chooses to follow a path that you disapprove of as a parent, that it when it is necessary to give them a consequence. If you are struggling in communicating effectively with your teen, it is important to address the issue by seeing a psychologist before it gets out of control. However, just try to keep in mind that they are going through a difficult time in their lives in which they are trying to determine how their personal values/beliefs align with the social environment in which they exist and how to go about being accepted in light of who they are. For some, this struggle does not end in adolescence, but is a lifelong journey…
-Dr. Sheyda Melkonian