When a lot of people love our children and want more time with them, how do we manage the challenges without creating friction and jealousy? With the current rates of separation and divorce, young families may have four-plus households of grandparents. With our improved health, they may also have great-grands who want to share in the life of the children. Here are some tips for coping:
Divvy up communication: When there is going to be a new pattern for your young family, if it's your parents who will be impacted, you tell them. If it's your spouse's or partner's parents, he or she tells them.
Don't overschedule: Prior to children there may have been family traditions, expectations of travel, or meals or drop-ins at more than one home. When children arrive sometimes those traditions can create additional pressure rather than joy. Decide what it is you and family need to experience a positive holiday.
Reschedule Christmas: Children really don't care what day it is. Even if a child is old enough to know the date of a holiday, they are often able to enjoy family events that are held on other days. From a child's perspective having three Christmases has to be better than just one.
Be ready for push back. Change is hard and disappointment is no fun whether we are 4 or 64. You may need to practice responses to verbal push back from your relatives. Statements like "I'm sorry you're disappointed we won't be there for Christmas Eve. Do you have another day you'd like to see us?" acknowledge the emotion while encouraging the other adult to share some responsibility for supporting change.
Offer alternatives. "I know Christmas dinner is always at 2 pm. It won't be too long before we are out of the need for afternoon naps. We'll be able to join you for dessert later if you'd like." Remind grandparents that they will not be able to create happy memories with children who are too tired to enjoy the time they spend together.
Finally, remember that it's not possible, nor is it your job, to keep everyone happy. That doesn't translate as permission to disregard the impact of your choices on others, It does mean you don't allow others to use emotional blackmail to keep themselves "happy" at your expense or the expense of your children.
It may be helpful for a jealous grandparent to be reminded that time may be limited, but love is not!
Keep in touch with Dr Y at Your Parenting Matters