Holiday shopping, charitable giving, seasonal stress and New Year’s Resolutions – How best to navigate them now that the festivities are near


By Debra Caruso Marrone


The holidays are here. As Americans flock to the stores and plan activities for Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, there are many questions about dealing the hustle and bustle.

The Holiday Shopping Dilemma

Dr. Anna McAlister of the Endicott College (Beverly, MA) Gerrish School of Business has researched how brand marketing influences children. She reports that “pester power” has a major impact on adult holiday spending. Parents respond to their children’s requests, not just for toys and food items, but also on holiday destinations and hotels.

As many children have probably informed their parents, some of this year’s hottest toys, per Amazon, are Pictionary Air, the Harry Potter Dobble, L.O.L Surprise O.M.G. Dolls and Fisher Price’s new Linkimals. reports that many children will be wishing for the ever-present gaming consoles and gaming tie-ins, mystery toys (kids don’t know which toy they’ve received until it comes out of its box) and items attached to beloved characters – PAW Patrol, Barbie (the Malibu House and Dream Plane) and PJ Masks.

With the departure of Toys ‘R’ Us in 2018, outlets that remain the most influential are Walmart, Target and Amazon, each of which has expanded its toy selections. Target and Walmart are offering toys not available elsewhere, including Walmart’s Harry Potter Invisibility Cloak and Target’s “Frozen 2” and “Star Wars” lines.

Stress During the Holidays

Regarding holiday stress – especially from family relationships – Dr. Yan Wang of Endicott says families expecting new members should be aware that excitement and occasional nervousness may exist on both sides. It helps to relax, be open-minded, and patient.

Dr. Wang reminds us that new people can offer opportunities for knowledge and growth. It’s a good idea to welcome them by learning about their food and gift preferences beforehand. If someone expected is from a different culture, you can make them feel more comfortable by asking them to bring a dish from their native cuisine or inviting them to share a custom. Genuine curiosity about how and why things may be done differently, and an appreciation of the value of diversity, can lead to more joy and less frustration.

Dr. Wang says, “family situations during holiday gatherings can be difficult if we have fixed expectations and are determined to do things a certain way, but there are many methods to decrease the stress. Many of our ideas and opinions are a work in progress. It really is okay to agree to disagree with our family members at times. Our primary goal is to spend some fun time together and get to know more each other’s lives.

“For example,” Dr. Wang says, “if you’d like to give your children advice, create strategies to make your points so they will be well-received. Human interactions tend to be so reciprocal; when we use our listening ears better, we get to know our children’s thinking better, and we model for them how to be open to our thoughts, too.

“We do have the right to try to preserve important family values and rituals. Explain to children why we do that. Stick to priorities. And when possible, listen to everyone’s input so they also have a sense of ownership of the family traditions”

Charitable Giving During the Holidays

Allan Glass, Assistant Professor of Business at Endicott, encourages those wishing to be generous to non-profit organizations for the holidays and before the end of the calendar year (for tax purposes), to investigate charities before giving. A simple search on Charity Navigator will inform you about the organization’s overall score & rating, mission, financial performance, accountability and transparency metrics. In addition, you should verify the organization’s Employer Identification Number (EIN) or Tax ID Number to validate its status as a charitable organization, as well as review the charity’s IRS (Form 990) and classification & subsection rulings. Other resources include the Better Business Bureau website to for organization’s rating. Or, Google to see if the charity has been in the news in any kind of negative way.

“Just because an organization is soliciting funds, doesn’t mean you should automatically donate your hard-earned dollars,” said Glass. “Be sure to ascertain that charities are completely transparent and that they’re doing the work they claim to do.”

Finally, when it comes to New Year’s resolutions, Dr. Wang says it is a wonderful time to be reflective of our lives and futures. Everyone has their own ideas about what to resolve and how long their resolutions will last. The important thing, she says, is to set realistic objectives that are attainable over a certain timeframe, and to come up with a basic execution plan.

“Be a great boss of yourself. Set reasonable goals, monitor the process, and deliver. That way you’ll be able to look back at 2020 with a feeling of accomplishment,” said Dr. Wang.