Thursday, December 04, 2014
Doctor's Perspective
Children need help when they make their wish lists

By Dr. Anthony Policastro
Christmas shopping ads are everywhere. They are on television, in mailers and in magazines. Children are making their Christmas lists and parents have a tendency to want to make their children's Christmas wishes come true. My daughter was recently teasing my five-year-old grandson about his Christmas list. She told him that he had too many toys already. She also told him that he would have to put clothes on his list. She told him that since he played with his one-year-old brother's toys, he would have to put one-year-old toys on his list. His response was that he was going to put "a new mother" on his list. Not every wish is a reasonable one. They might want a video game. Some video games are cute while others require thinking. Unfortunately, too many games have violence as a theme. Call of Duty is too violent for children, yet, it is one of the top selling games. Other games promote themselves as being more violent than Call of Duty. They think that is a selling point. In actuality, they are all games that teach children that senseless violence is acceptable. You wonder when one of those adolescents later goes on a shooting spree. He/she might be imitating their violent video game. Other video games encourage law breaking activity. Grand Theft Auto comes to mind. There is no logical reason for a parent to buy into such a ridiculous concept. Some children might want a DVD for Christmas. This is certainly reasonable, however, not all videos are made for children. They give movies ratings for a reason. There is no reason for a child to get an R-rated movie. PG-13 means that parents should not even consider those movies for children under 13. Even PG movies should encourage parents to read about whether it is right for their child. There are websites that rate movies for children. Parents should be aware of them and use them. Toys also need to be monitored. They might not be appropriate for younger children. This might be due to safety reasons. Parents should read the boxes to make sure the age is right for their child. Some parents might decide that their child is old enough for a hunting rifle, however, with such a gift comes a lot of responsibility. Safety must be taught. The weapon should be locked up when not in use and the bullets should be kept separate from the weapon. Supervision is a must. The bottom line is that Christmas lists need to be created with supervision. They need to have some semblance of logic. We would not get our child a new pony or other high ticket items for Christmas. There should also be guidelines for the less expensive items. In addition to cost, there are other reasons that need to go into the lists of things that children want for Christmas. Getting through the holidays can be challenging for some

By Patricia Villani, MPA, PhD Spending time alone or with family at the holidays can be very difficult for some of us. Whether we are planning to be all alone or headed into an uncomfortable group situation, there is nothing like being prepared. Numerous articles have been written by psychologists who have suggested several "tried and true" constructive recommendations. For those of us who are planning to be alone, we can make an effort to start new holiday traditions. Here are some recommendations:
  • Invite friends or family members who have nowhere to go to a pot luck dinner party.
  • Participate in a special event that may be church-related or connected to volunteering - e.g., delivering food and presents to needy families; serving dinner to the homeless; delivering meals on wheels to the homebound; and/or visiting those who are alone in a hospital, children's hospital or nursing home.
  • Take a local trip to a charming town and tour the Christmas lights and decorations.
  • Go to a movie, get a favorite meal to go, listen to favorite CDs, catch up on a favorite hobby. We should treat ourselves in a variety of special ways that we've put off all year - getting a manicure, facial or massage around holiday times is always a treat.
  • Call friends who live out of town and wish them well for the holidays and then write a follow-up note.
  • Read a great book.
If we have children in the area, we need to plan ahead about spending time with them, avoiding the stress of last minute decision-making.

Being pro-active will give us a sense of comfort and control. If our children have made other plans, we could phone them and wish them a happy holiday, keeping it short and without a "guilt trip." Instead, send them the message that the holidays are special and we want them to enjoy themselves. In case we feel overwhelmed or vulnerable, we should speak with a trusted friend or therapist. Sometimes getting an unbiased opinion or having someone we trust to confide in is reaffirming and comforting. If we are headed into a stressful group situation, we need to actively work on avoiding conflict. Here is some advice to help us avoid unpleasant situations:
  • Steer an argumentative conversation toward more agreeable topics and away from issues we know result in fights and discord. Just say, "This is supposed to be a fun time; please let's talk about something else."
  • If our best effort to keep the conversation light isn't working, we should step away from that person (take a break and go to the bathroom, get ourselves something to drink, help with setting the table or cleaning up, or step outside for some fresh air) and join another person or group when we return.
  • If we feel our level of agitation is rising significantly, we need to take a longer break. We could go for a walk; run an errand to pick up something needed later; make a phone call privately; lie down for a short break. The point is to break the momentum and step away.
  • If we are visiting from out of town, it is best to stay in a hotel, visit each day for activities, and then leave at the end of the day. Staying at the home of the family we are visiting, especially when there is already a history of friction, can leave us feeling trapped and agitated.
  • Remember that we chose to be in the circumstance, so we must try to make it through in the most constructive ways possible.
  • Acknowledging to ourselves that someone is annoying before we encounter them and deciding we will not let them ruin our time are helpful actions. We can decide not to react negatively when we encounter him/her. Rather we can choose to "rise above it" and follow some of the avoidance/ walk away methods mentioned above.
  • Remember that being alone instead of with unpleasant individuals is also an option, and if we plan ahead to do some fun activities, we may be surprised at the result.

'Hello from Heaven' workshop Delaware Hospice's Family Support Center will hold a workshop, "Hello from Heaven: Near Death Experiences and After Death Communication," from 2 to 5 p.m., on Friday, Dec. 12, at the Delaware Hospice Center, Milford. Dr. Judy Pierson, clinical psychologist, will lead the workshop where participants will hear stories of those who believe they have had contact or messages from deceased loved ones, as well as reports from those who have had near death experiences. The workshop is free and open to the public as a community service of Delaware Hospice. Space is limited, so reservations are requested. Reserve your place by contacting Michelle August at 478-5707, ext. 1103 or

Dr. Nwokolo joins La Red La Red Health Center welcomes dentist, Dr. Nwaneka Nwokolo. "Sussex County is federally designated as being a low-income dental health professional shortage area, and the demand for oral health services is unrelenting, so I am delighted to announce that Dr. Nwaneka Nwokolo has joined us as a new member of the clinical staff at La Red Health Center," said Brian Olson, chief executive officer. Dr. Nwokolo earned a bachelor of science in psychology/allied health from Howard University and a doctor of dental surgery from Howard University College of Dentistry. Dr. Nwokolo originates from Nigeria and grew up in Maryland and Washington, D.C., where her family resides. She often organizes and volunteers in international dental mission trips, providing free dental care and education to undeserved and marginalized populations.