Harmonious Holidays

How many of us actually live that pastoral picture of a horse-drawn sleigh bringing rosy-cheeked grandchildren to our home for the holidays? Not many. But a holiday is what we make of it.

Grandparents have a lot to do with how it all flows. One of grandparents’ roles can be as the link to family history, the keeper of traditions -- and yet sometimes a holiday with a new baby is more about transition than tradition. As a new grandparent, you know the baby won’t really remember what you do this year, but other family members will. So how we celebrate does make a difference.

While holidays often involve food, the real family “stew” is in the customs and expectations people bring to an occasion where families are blended – with the new grandbaby at the center. The benefit of figuring out some of this now – when your grandbaby is little – is that you might make the years to come happen more predictably and smoothly.

One of the most challenging situations arises where the parents of the new grandbaby practice different religions. A “Religious Landscape Study” conducted by Pew Research found that almost four-in-ten Americans (39%) who have married since 2010 have a spouse who is in a different religious group.  This has been a more recent trend, because in marriages before 1960, only 19% of marriages were interfaith.

Even in families where religious preferences are the same, past experiences aren’t. The food that’s served, the specific time during the holiday when the family gets together, the rituals around giving gifts, and the customs and habits we want our children and grandchildren to carry forward – all of these can take different forms according to family traditions. We’re sentimentally attached to the activities that mean “holiday” to us – so how do we navigate through it all?

Here are some suggestions to help families have harmonious holidays:

·         Respect differences. Learning about others’ beliefs and traditions. A little research will give you a basic understanding. If the differences are based on specific family customs, discuss them before the holidays.

·         Find common themes everyone can agree on – thankfulness, sharing, etc.

·         Talk about gifts. Make sure you abide by your grandbaby’s parents’ wishes as to the nature and volume of gifts.

·         Embrace a little chaos and a lot of imperfection. Some of the unexpected happenings can become your family’s favorite memories. With babies and young children, the days of perfect holidays may be suspended for now.

·         Keep the big picture in mind. If this is your grandbaby’s first holiday, there’s time ahead to mold and shape the holidays to everyone’s satisfaction.

·         Special advice for grandparents: Cooperate, don’t compete, with the other grandparents