Empty nesters can put a lot of pressure on the holiday season. As former “helicopter parents,” we no longer have day-to-day involvement with (or control over) our adult children and many of us are joining the ranks of grandparents. Short of cutting out our tongues, there are many things we can do to ensure a fun, peaceful holiday visit to create memories for the entire family.
Communicate your thoughts and expectations early. Your adult child likely has more than one household to visit this year, particularly if there is a grandchild involved. Your traditions will change a bit. It can be hard to adapt, but accept that your child has a new role as a partner / spouse / parent and be proud of that growth.
If your adult child is bringing a friend or significant other home for the first time, take care in sharing too many personal, childhood stories. While these are sweet and enduring for you, the photos of your child as a chubby 8-year-old may be torture for them. Let them lead the conversation and respect the boundaries they have with the person they have brought home.
When others are traveling to your home for the holidays—however far—it can be stressful, particularly if young children are involved. Take care to abide by necessary meal and treat times for kids; particular food issues, allergies or menu needs; accommodate their sleeping times and arrangements; and respect the style of parenting your children are employing—in front of the children. If you have sincere concerns, share those with your child in a supportive way, outside of the presence of others and without judgment of their spouse or partner.
Refer to tip one: “Talk early and often!” Gift giving and receiving is such a positive experience, but the in-law layer can create a hazard. Newcomers to your family will not have the experience of your holidays of past. Help your adult child help them acclimate to your traditions. New parents are establishing boundaries and traditions of their own; ask for gift ideas or traditions they are establishing and any financial parameters they are observing for their child.
Many families only come together once or twice each year. This invites the potential for “big” conversations while everyone is gathered. These range from how to deal with troubled family members to where Grandma should reside now that she can’t live at home. When adult children bring new people into the picture, these conversations can be overwhelming. Limit the “big” conversations to immediate family members who can impact a positive decision.
The exception, in this economy, is when your adult child needs guidance and financial assistance from you. If they open the door, this is your opportunity to share your point of view on spending, saving, investing and insurance options.
As hard as it is to hear, we are no longer the center of the universe for our children. Yet, they likely are for us! The holidays are their opportunity to test us as parents and set adult boundaries for their future lives. By listening and preparing, we can pave our way to a happy holiday season.