Carnegie Mellon Press Release: December 1, 2003
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Jonathan Potts

For immediate release:
December 1, 2003

Carnegie Mellon Children's School Director Offers Parents Tips For Joyful, Not Tearful, Holidays

PITTSBURGH—The holidays can be the most wonderful time of the year—especially for children—but they can also be quite stressful, for parents and children alike. Sharon Carver, director of the Children's School at Carnegie Mellon University, said parents can follow these tips to keep the holidays fun for children and relaxing and memorable for parents:

1. Take your time. Children enjoy helping in family preparations (such as decorating, wrapping and table setting) when parents allow the time to follow children's pace. Gift-giving time also should be leisurely; allow children time to play with special gifts before rushing them to the next item.

2. Keep it simple. Be realistic about your child's tolerance for excitement and novelty. Dress children in comfortable clothes that they can easily manipulate for toileting. Bring your own "child-appropriate" foods if you anticipate hosts will serve unusual or sugar-filled foods. Expect more shyness than usual in crowded situations with people who haven't been seen recently.

3. Pace yourself. Space exciting events widely so the family can rest and prepare carefully; relax and discuss each event afterward. Plan only a few activities that require alterations in sleep patterns.

4. Give extra hugs and kisses. Holidays can be stressful times for all family members. Extra attention and affection from parents can help children relax. Bringing a special toy from home can also provide the comfort a child needs in a new situation.

"The key point is to keep the holidays in developmental perspective. What will matter most 10 years from now is the relationships you have built along the way, so focus each day on positive interactions that celebrate family connections," Carver said.

About 100 children in preschool and kindergarten attend the Children's School, which also serves as a research lab for psychology students studying early childhood cognitive development. The school uses a developmental approach with specific learning goals for children in six categories: self-esteem and independence, interaction and cooperation, communication, discovery and exploration, physical capabilities, and artistic expression and appreciation. The Children's School is part of the Department of Psychology in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at Carnegie Mellon.

For editors: If you would like to interview Dr. Carver about this or other children's issues, contact Jonathan Potts at 412-268-6094 or


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