Now that we are into December, the holiday season has begun in earnest, prompting grandmothers into action as they search for ways to prepare for holiday celebrations with the grandkids. Chanukah begins tonight and Christmas and Kwanzaa are just over three weeks away. So we’ve got more tips today about how to enjoy the holidays with your grandchildren, whether they live close to you or far away.
When your grandkids live nearby, you benefit by being an integral part of their lives. You likely have the chance to spend time with them weekly, participate in significant events and learn first-hand about their latest interests and achievements. The main concern then becomes boundaries – on all sides. It’s vital for you not to undermine your adult children’s authority, even if you pitch in to help with child-care. And it’s just as imperative for you to retain your own personal identity and not become submerged in the role of grandmother only. You’ll enjoy the relationship more when you also have some separation from it. When you are part of the special kind of grandmothering that is becoming more common today, flexibility is the key. If you son or daughter has divorced, you might lose some contact with your grandchild, especially if the situation between the parents is strained. You may need to maintain a relationship with your child’s ex in order to spend time with your grandkids – it helps to discuss this with your own child, as this can be a touchy subject. Your time with the grandkids is likely determined by which parent has them that day, not when you want to see them. So you’ll need to be flexible in your planning. Divorce is difficult for everyone and your grandkids may blame themselves and act out behaviorally, making it difficult for you to manage them. Or they may withdraw from you, afraid that you will leave too. Help them adapt by accepting their feelings. Avoid criticizing either parent to your grandkids so they don’t feel their loyalty is being tested when they are with you. You can get some ideas about celebrating holidays with your grandchildren post-divorce in an article we wrote for the website Divorce360.com.
Patience is called for if you become a step-grandmother. You will need to give your new grandchildren time to accept you, so begin slowly. They probably have relationships – and holiday rituals – with their birth grandparents so don’t try to rush them into considering you in the same way. Let them know that you are not trying to take the place of their other grandparents, but only adding to their circle of caring adults. Learn about them – their early years, their interests and talents, their personalities. Keep your expectations realistic as you build a relationship that leads to love between you. And talk to your children about possibly adding new traditions your family holiday meal that include everyone.
The unifying concept for good grandmothering is respect – for your children, their partners, your grandkids – and for yourself. Show that you appreciate and value each individual’s needs and rights – especially at holiday time. When you do that, you set the stage for building strong bonds between everyone in the family all through the year.