Grandparents can turn Christmas into tug-of-war for families

It’s important for parents to treasure the time their children can spend with their grandparents at Christmas, but it’s also important to set aside time for their young families to celebrate Christmas on their own.  |  Getty Images

Q: I noticed when I looked at our calendar the other day that Christmas is but a few short weeks away. As much as I would like to look forward to Christmas and get excited with all of those extracurricular activities that go along with it, I am afraid that I am not much of a keener any more.

Ever since our children were born, Christmas has ended up being a tug of war between my parents and my husband’s parents.

It seems as though we are torn between the two houses, and if either his mom and dad or my parents gets a few extra moments when we try to balance off our time with them on Christmas day, we pay for it later. They either won’t talk to us for the first few weeks of the New Year or when they do talk it is all about how demanding and self-centred the other grandparents are.

I am tired of this and I want out. What do you suggest?

A: I don’t think that you are describing a problem that is new and unique to you. It haunts just about every young family on our radar.

The good news is that you are really not talking about a problem at all.

You can have a special time at Christmas with your folks and you can count on special times with your husband’s mom and dad. To top it off, you can have special times with your own family, relishing those few moments of joy of parenthood.

However, you cannot do it all on the same day.

The 25th of December is your family day. You are not going anywhere, you are not talking on your cellphone to either sets of grandparents and you are going to have a special Christmas tree just for you and your children. You can laugh and play, enjoy yourselves, do some scrub hockey with the neighbour’s family and feast on a marvelously home cooked turkey.

After you have finished with the 25th of December, turn your attention to your grandparent run. Pick a day to have Christmas that works for both you and your parents and another day that works for your husband’s parents.

Talk to them — all of them. What would they like to do that might make their day a very special day both for them and for you and your children? In the same vein, what is going to make life special in your husband’s home? Don’t forget to honor their requests as much as you can. That too can be fun.

Although you might run into a bit of a problem trying to sell this proposal to one or both sets of grandparents, you have a pretty powerful ace hidden in your sleeve. Your special delight is that when you go to either of the grandparents’ houses, you are going to invest all of your attention for those few hours on the relationships between your kids and their grandmas and grandpas. And what grandparent wouldn’t want an exclusive few moments with each of his or her grandchildren? That’s special.

Jacklin Andrews is a family counsellor from Saskatchewan. Contact:

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