December 29, 2009

The Holiday Mindset

By Michael Terry
Program Manager
Safe From The Startr
Child Abuse Council

4… 3… 2… 1… HAPPY NEW YEAR! What an almost magical phrase. In fact, most of us without much thought do apply mystical powers to this one event; anointing it with the ability to wipe clean our slates and begin anew (“The Holiday Mindset”).

These simple words can mark a period of transition representing both renewal and closure, a separation from what has been to what might be. The excitement and promise inherent within our celebration of New Year’s is born of the past year’s frustration and challenge, and fueled through the crescendo of Halloween, Thanksgiving, and then Christmas. On January 1st most feel refreshed with a pocket full of resolutions and the promise of better days.

During this time of year when most find both endings and beginnings within the simple passage of time, I, too, find contradiction. I find both promise and peril within the arrival of Baby New Year. Promise exists for all who wish to use the holiday season as a period of respite; reflecting on the events of their past while harnessing those lessons in preparation for the future. Learning from our own history of triumph and tragedy can truly transform the simple passage of time into a vessel for significant change and achievement.

Peril exists for those who simply wish for change without committing to it. We all do it to some small degree when we chose to make our midnight resolutions. You know, “This year I am going to be taller” or “this year I am going to have more hair” (both recent resolutions of my own). We make these statements often without much thought or investment within their realization.

If January 1st is the day for making resolutions, January 2nd is the day for breaking them; and for the most part there is no peril in me not becoming taller. However, in particularly trying times, when life’s challenges begin to overwhelm us, we often frantically grasp at straws hoping for a lifeline. This desperation, when influenced by the holidays, can lead some to develop unrealistic expectations that their salvation will arrive with the New Year. This distortion may provide for limited, short-term comfort. However, any reprieve is quickly overshadowed by the experience of intensified frustration and betrayal when circumstances do not improve, and the holiday’s euphoria abates.

It is in these moments when individuals and families can be at their most vulnerable to violence. Violence within the home cripples all family members without discrimination. Perpetrators of violence can face legal involvement and separation from their family who have now become victims. Their victimization can be physical and/or psychological with far reaching, life-altering consequences. Children exposed to violence hold the most potential for the greatest suffering as violence exposure can alter the trajectory of cognitive formation, impair early childhood development, and create behavioral and/or emotional distress.

The thoughts I wish to share with you are ones of encouragement. The holiday season is, and should be, a time for joy, family, and renewal. I do encourage you to plan big and resolve to make positive changes within you and your family’s lives. Take the opportunity to rededicate your efforts and aspire toward greater things, but do so with an equal dedication to effort and clarity of thought. Try not to allow the Season to “cloud” your judgment. Offer your encouragement, support and resource suggestions to those within your lives who may themselves be so down and disillusioned by the past year’s struggles that they have become susceptible to the allure of “The Holiday Mindset”.

For information about the Child Abuse Council’s prevention and education programs, you can visit us at or call us at 309-786-1466.