Helpful Tips: Holidays With Your Children's Grandparents Stressful?

PD_Seniors_SEN013For many people, the holidays can be a stressful time. You may be feeling the pressure to please everyone, but are facing the reality of not having enough money or time. Family obligations add to this busy time of year. If you have children and feel anxious about spending time with their grandparents, there are strategies that you can use to create a more positive experience.

Having Realistic Expectations

While the holidays are supposed to be synonymous with "joy," "love," and "togetherness," the reality is that you may be feeling grief, sadness, confusion, or frustration. Keep in mind that your children's grandparents may be going through the same range of emotions. As much as you want things to go smoothly between you and the in-laws (as well as other family members), the truth is you cannot control how people will react to you. You may say something that triggers a negative response or vice versa. Rather than expecting the perfect holiday, expect that there may be some fun times as well as some struggles. By thinking this way, you will be able to free yourself from the pressure of perfection.

Making Plans

Most grandparents want to spend the holidays with their grandchildren. This can get complicated and expensive, though, if you live far from them. Talk to your spouse, children, and grandparents to explore the options. While you will not be able to make everyone happy, you may be able to come up with a reasonable solution. For example, if you live close by, the day may be split so that your children spend the morning with your parents and the afternoon with your spouse's parents. If travel is involved, the grandparents may be willing to help you with the expenses. Were you thinking of spending several days with the family? Consider staying at a nearby inn or motel, rather than all being under the same roof. This may give you the space that you need to relax.

Putting Issues Aside

When several generations gather under the same roof, there are bound to be differing views when it comes to lifestyle choices, religion, politics, and finances. Personality clashes may also arise. If you have older children, they may become annoyed with a grandparent's "old-fashioned" values and habits. Before getting together for the holidays, it may be helpful for you to prepare yourself and your children for potential conflicts that may arise and talk about positive ways to diffuse problems. Remember that your children will look to see how you are handling a situation. If your goal is to remain civil with your in-laws and avoid making negative remarks, then this will set a good example for your kids.

Handling Conflicts

If an issue does come up, there are strategies that you can use to create a healthier resolution, such as:

  • Trying to stay in a positive frame of mind
  • Focusing on the problem and working toward a solution that is acceptable to you and others
  • Giving the other person a chance to save face—This means that you are giving your in-law the chance to keep his view of himself intact so that he does not feel like his self-image is being damaged. It also means not embarrassing him in front of others.

If you are feeling caught in a stressful moment, you can try deep breathing or repeating a mantra. A mantra is a sound, word, or phrase that you repeat to calm the mind. Your mantra can be anything that you find positive and comforting, like the sound "om" or the word "peace."

Taking Tips to Heart

Here are some additional strategies that can help you to manage the holiday season:

  • Remember that you can always break from the routine. Maybe now is the time to start a new family tradition. If you usually go to your in-laws for dinner, you may want to have dinner at a restaurant or gather at your house for dessert.
  • Ask your spouse for help with holiday activities, like shopping and decorating the house. Your children can also contribute during this busy time. You do not need to do everything on your own.
  • Keep the regular routines in place. Be sure that you and your family are eating healthy foods and getting plenty of sleep. You will need the energy to enjoy the season.
  • Try to look past the flaws. No one is perfect, and no situation is perfect. Work to try to accept your family and circumstances for who and what they are. This will help you to have a more realistic and understanding outlook.

By making changes in how you think about and react to your children's grandparents, you can take steps to have a less stressful and more positive holiday gathering. In the end, this will be better for you, your spouse, your children, and the grandparents.


American Psychological Association


Canadian Mental Health Association
Canadian Psychological Association


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