As a senior with adult children and grandchildren, it can be difficult to balance your beloved traditions along with “sharing” your family with other people! If your children are newly married or have just become parents themselves, you may find that spending a happy holiday together means making some concessions you might not have previously envisioned.
“As matriarchs and patriarchs of the family, most seniors have fond, happy memories of holidays with their children over the years,” says Doris Lea, Executive Director of Hidden Springs of McKinney, an active senior living community opening in McKinney, TX. “As children age, get married and have families of their own, suddenly those long-standing holiday traditions need to be changed. This can be difficult, especially for seniors who really want to celebrate the holidays but their loved ones aren’t able to or don’t want to do it this year.”
It’s natural for grandparents, especially, to want to have a huge holiday gathering with their entire family. If your children all live in different cities, or if you’re having to juggle schedules, here are some ways to plan a happy holiday with all your adult children and grandchildren while still keeping some of the traditions you hold dear.
Celebrate around the date instead of on it
Perhaps your adult children don’t want to travel and would like to stay home for Christmas this year. Or maybe they need to visit their husband’s or wife’s family over the break and aren’t able to make it to your place on a particular day. It can be disappointing to hear that your loved ones won’t be able to celebrate with you on that particular day, but instead of feeling rejected, look at it as an opportunity to expand the celebrations.
“There’s no reason why you can’t have a happy holiday before or after the actual date,” says Lea. “In fact, if you have several groups of grandchildren coming at different times throughout the season, you can potentially have weeks of celebrations.” By being flexible with expectations (and travel schedules), you and your adult children can plan a holiday celebration that’s enjoyable and relaxed instead of stressful.
Travel to them instead.
We often think of holiday celebrations happening in the family home.
Once grandchildren come into the picture, though, adult children will want to start traditions of their own, which often include spending the holiday in their new home. Instead of having them pack the grandkids into a car and head your way for the celebration, consider holding the festivities at their home instead. Obviously, you want to discuss with your adult children before inviting yourself over, but helping your children create new traditions for their family can be a beautiful gift in and of itself.
Think outside the box and meet everyone where they are.
Families with little children can feel the financial squeeze when it comes to holiday travel. Other adult children may be having difficulty due to a job loss or other hardship, or you may find yourself pinching pennies due to different expenses that have come up. If getting together for the holidays is more of a money issue, consider different ways of celebration. One extreme way of celebrating is through a “virtual family dinner,” where mealtimes are coordinated and everyone Skypes in to enjoy time together (even though miles are separating them). A simpler way of making things more affordable is by suggesting no gifts (except for younger grandchildren), which will help ease the financial burden and focus more on spending time together.
Plan what’s best for you.
What if the person who’s hesitating to get together this holiday season is you? Sometimes adult children (and by extension, grandchildren) are the ones pushing for a big celebration and you’re hesitant to host. It’s not that you don’t love your kids and grandkids, but the thought of having them all stay at your home for an extended period of time can be overwhelming, especially if you’ve moved into a smaller home or are physically not up for the challenge.
“It’s perfectly okay to say ‘no’ to things you aren’t comfortable or able to do,” says Lea. “Although we always want to say ‘yes’ to our kids and would love to have all the grandkids sleeping over at your house, you’ve got to take care of yourself first.” She suggests that, if you don’t have room to host, choose hotels or alternate places to gather so everyone has space and privacy (and enough bathrooms!). If you don’t feel up to cooking a huge holiday meal, look into catering or even going to a restaurant. Sure, it won’t be the same celebration that you had in the past, but “different” doesn’t have to mean “bad.” In fact, you may start a new beloved tradition!
Understand that change doesn’t mean forever.
The only thing constant in life is change, and your grandchildren and adult children may be navigating some things right now that affect celebrations this year – but that could change next year. Your daughter had a new baby and can’t make it to the holiday celebration this year? Plan a trip to go see her in the spring and look forward to the time when things are a little less hectic and your new grandbaby will enjoy visiting your home for Thanksgiving. Your son and his family just moved away and are unpacking over the holidays? Let him know you’re available to help however needed and you look forward to celebrating in their new space … if and when they’re ready to host.
If this is the first holiday season where a big change has happened, it can be jarring and everyone can experience some growing pains. However, by understanding what’s really important at the holidays – spending time with the people we care about – you, your adult children and your grandchildren will be able to navigate change and enjoy the now instead of dwelling on the past.
No one likes to be on the receiving end of a guilt trip. Although you may want to stomp your feet when your adult children have to cut a visit short or can’t make it one particular day because they have to visit the “other” grandparents, remember to be gracious. Love isn’t a competition, and by making your home a welcoming place for your grandkids and children to visit, they’ll want to come more often and be happier spending time with you.
The holidays are a special time for all, which is why Hidden Springs of McKinney enjoys helping seniors, adult children and their grandchildren merge their traditions with ours. We invite you to visit Hidden Springs of McKinney and discover the secret to a life well-lived. For more information about our innovative, active senior life community or our beautiful location in McKinney, TX, please contact 972.445.9844.
Active Retirement Living for a Healthy Tomorrow
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