Holiday traditions with grandchildren might look different.
What family traditions do you have during the holidays? Do you all go to choose a tree together, coming home to hot chocolate and cookies? Do you love that first night of Hanukkah, when you get out the menorah and gather around to light that first candle? Do you eagerly anticipate your yearly marathon baking session and taking goodies to the neighbors? Do you look forward to going to church late on Christmas Eve, with all the children in matching pajamas?
Are these holiday traditions important to you? They are to most families. Our holiday traditions are part of the culture we create as our family shapes its values and customs. Every single family has its own unique culture, something we must recognize as grandparents. When our adult children start their own families, they start establishing their own family cultures. Sometimes that culture looks a lot like the one they came from, but sometimes it doesn’t.
As grandparents, it can be hurtful or confusing when our adult children don’t continue a tradition we value. When our grandchildren don’t get to go pick out a tree because their parents opted for an artificial tree, we might feel they are missing out on something important. When their parents choose to raise them in a different faith (or none at all), it can feel like a rejection of our values. When they decline the trip to see Santa, it can seem like a criticism of our own customs.
This is where it’s important to control our perspective. Instead of concentrating on what breaking family traditions says about us, we should focus on what it says about our adult children. Instead of feeling sadness or rejection, we can celebrate their independence as they create traditions that matter to them. We can delight in watching their family culture unfold as they decide what holiday traditions to start with baby, and keep learning about them as they form their own family traditions. We can rejoice in the things they value.
None of this means you can’t start your own holiday traditions with your grandchildren. Your annual baking session will be more fun if you can include your grands. Perhaps you can bring them along on your own trip to the tree farm, buy them matching pajamas, or take them to visit Santa. But whatever you do, make sure you talk to their parents first—for two reasons.
First, you want to make sure they don’t have objections you hadn’t considered. By running your ideas by them, they can remind you to skip the almond cookies this year because of the recently diagnosed tree nut allergy. Perhaps they don’t want matching pajamas because they are worried about the environmental impact of the fashion industry. Maybe they know their child is terrified by people in costume, and don’t want to create a negative association with Santa. Whether or not you think their objections have merit, it's crucial to find out what they are and agree to honor them.
Second, you want to make sure you aren’t hijacking a holiday tradition they wanted to enjoy themselves. I’ll never forget my neighbor practically crying when she discovered her mother had taken the kids to the mall for pictures with Santa, something she had looked forward to doing herself. Parents get first dibs on all the fun stuff!
If you are lucky, you might get to tag along.
What family traditions do you look forward to at the holidays? Share in the comments!