Explore these 7 ways to approach the Christmas season so you can enjoy and focus on grandparenting during the holidays.
Have you ever said, “Why don’t our kids and grandkids come to our house for Christmas? They stayed with their other grandparents last Christmas!” or “Why do we have to go there? Why can’t they travel here once in a while?” Grandparenting during the holidays can be tough.
But as a grandparent, you know that it may not be easy to get the opportunity to see your grandchildren during the holidays. Though it’s rarely possible for everyone to get what they want, you can take on the attitude of the apostle Paul, who encouraged us to look not only to our own interests, but also to the interests of others (Philippians 2:4).
Here are some ways to put that verse into practice and enjoy Christmas and your grandkids:
Remember Your Role During the Holidays
While you have an important role in the lives of your adult children and grandkids, it is a supportive role. This is one of the harder parts of growing older — adjusting to your changing role in the family. As a grandparent, you get to provide love, wisdom and encouragement to your grandchildren. And as a parent, your job now is to support and bless your adult children — which includes offering understanding when holiday get-togethers may not be possible every year. Your children will value your graciousness when it comes to how and when they celebrate the holidays. Whether in person or long distance, you can find a way to stay connected with your grandkids and influence them as only a grandparent can.
Tips for No-Stress Grandparenting During the Holidays
Family schedules will not always fall in line with your ideal plans. This is increasingly true as more in-laws and additional sets of grandparents are involved. By asking yourself, How can I be a blessing to my grandchildren? instead of, How can I see them as much as I want? you’ll be following Paul’s admonition to put others’ interests before your own.
You are modeling a loving and gracious lifestyle. And in return, you will have grateful adult children, appreciative co-grandparents and grandkids who can’t wait to see you when the next opportunity arrives.
Keep your expectations in check, especially during the Christmas season. Use the empathy you’ve learned over the years to model grace and joy to your grandkids. Don’t expect holiday schedules to always go your way. In fact, expect that they won’t. Think about how you can support your adult children in developing a healthy nuclear family by honoring their schedules. If you’re not with your grandkids for the holidays, find the right way to be involved — such as phone calls, texts, video chats, cards or visits before or after the actual occasion — so they feel your love and support without any scheduling pressure. However, keep in mind that if they are with the other grandparents, you should honor their special time together and check with your adult children about a good time for connecting with the grandkids.
Think Outside the Grandparenting Box During the Holidays
My sons and their wives currently live in Indiana and Colorado. Knowing there was no way for us all to be together at Christmas last year, we decided to get together at Thanksgiving and have an early Christmas — two holidays in one! Perhaps you will get creative and have an occasional “second Christmas” in January with the grandkids. When the grandkids are with you during the holidays, a nice touch is to have them send a picture of themselves to the other grandparents to show them that you’re all one big, happy family, even when you’re not all celebrating together.
Focus on the Time you Get
As much as you want your grandchildren near during the holidays, the reality is that they have a number of different obligations — and their parents are trying to do what’s best with the limited amount of time they have. That means that some years you’ll get less time. This is where you’ll need to be flexible and understanding. You may want the kids and grandkids for more than just a quick visit. Sometimes that might happen. Sometimes it won’t.
Instead of becoming frustrated over the time you don’t get with them, make the most of the time you do get to spend with the grandkids to embrace no-stress grandparenting. Every year, Mike and Susanne looked forward to spending Christmas Day with their grandkids. When the other set of grandparents moved out of state, however, their daughter-in-law wanted to spend Christmas Day with her family, which meant Mike and Susanne wouldn’t see the grandkids on the actual day. They talked with their son and daughter-in-law about what would work best for everyone and decided to move their Christmas celebration to the week between Christmas and New Year’s. “We reminded ourselves that it isn’t about the date but about the time with our grandkids,” Susanne said. “When we saw them, we acted as if it were Dec. 25. And everyone was happy.”
Remember your Kids are Building Their Own Traditions
Your adult children want the same thing you did when you were in their shoes. Just as you wanted to build family traditions with your children, they desire the same respect to create and carry out their own family traditions in their own unique way. Your adult children likely have many fond memories of certain holiday traditions when they were kids; now it’s their chance to draft their own traditions as the heads of their family. They are melding the traditions and ideas of two sets of families together, and they may even come up with some brand-new ideas of their own.
They may want to celebrate Christmas morning with their nuclear family. Give them that freedom — and know it doesn’t mean you’re less important to them. It’s one way you can grandparent well during the holidays — by giving them the time they need. This possible change also offers you opportunities to get creative in establishing your own new traditions with the grandkids. For instance, if they live close by, you could take them ice-skating during their winter break or have a Christmas movie marathon. If they live far away, perhaps you could send them a box of movies and set a time for you to watch them “together” and then Skype to talk about your favorite scenes.
Consider What Your Grandkids Want
Grandkids may be the most straightforward ingredient in this family concoction. They want a safe and loving family, which primarily refers to their immediate nuclear family. However, your grandkids also want a close relationship with you and to know they are special in your eyes. Grandparents are an extra set of adults they can feel safe with, have fun with, talk to about anything, look to as an extra source of wisdom and guidance, and count on as a comfortable home away from home. You are their extra layer of security. During the holidays, they want to engage and have fun with you, not feel the tension between their parents and grandparents.
Grandparents have a place like no other in their grandkids’ lives. Sometimes, though, it takes time for you to figure out your place during the holidays. When you do, your influence and involvement during those times will be a source of joy and godly wisdom that can guide the direction of their lives.
© 2019 Todd Cartmell. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Used by permission. This article first appeared in the December 2019 / January 2020 issue of Focus on the Family magazine.
Republished in 2021