Have a more meaningful, less stressful holiday

LOS ANGELES Instead of running around before /*Thanksgiving*/, Duncan Burns, a father of two, is preparing for the holiday in a different way. He stopped in at The UCLA Family Commons in Santa Monica to get some expert help.

"We have a lot of activities and they're all designed around having fun and at the same time reducing stress," said Kelle Taylor, manager of client relations and community outreach at /*The UCLA Family Commons*/.

Experts here offer counseling and workshops to help parents deal with the high expectations their families might have about the holidays, especially now during the recession. Many parents feel they can't provide what their kids might want.

"Sometimes your expectations or your ideas are grander or bigger than they need to be," said Burns.

"The Family Commons' message here is really to take time and think about what really matters most to you, what matters to each family," said Eileen Escarce, Ph.D., a clinical development psychologist and family coach at The UCLA Family Commons.

She says many people's celebrations and travel plans will be a lot less elaborate this year, and that's OK.

"We know from research that people find happiness more in experiences than in things," said Dr. Escarce. "We try to encourage families to have conversations with each other. Have the children talk about, and really write it on the wall, what do you care about? What would you rather have?"

She advises families to create new Thanksgiving rituals that involve shared and meaningful experiences.

"Whether it be going on a walk with their parents to the beach on Thanksgiving Day or cooking the turkey together, making the stuffing together, chopping vegetables," said Dr. Escarce.

Burns says he's talked to his kids about what they'd like to do most and now with this new purpose in mind, he's sure this year's Thanksgiving will be one to remember.

"Try to enjoy it when you're there at that moment and try to appreciate what you have," said Burns.

Dr. Escarce says another Thanksgiving ritual you can create with your kids is to volunteer your time to a charity, which doesn't cost a thing.

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