Celebrating the Holidays With Adult Children

Nostalgia can be tricky, especially around the holidays. The sights, sounds and smells of the season can transport you to another — perhaps much simpler — time. And for many, these recollections can stir up a range of emotions. As you get older, the holidays may feel bittersweet, especially when your kids become adults.

But some holiday traditions are worth keeping up — whether or not your children are able to visit. Here are some tried-and-true tips for navigating this special time of year as your children learn to establish their own traditions, with — and without — you.

Practice Empathy

Think back to when you were a young adult. You probably had a lot on your mind, and were learning to juggle the pressures and responsibilities of adulthood.

Keeping this in mind, it’s easy to see how the holidays might add another layer of stress. When they were young, your children might’ve enjoyed being coddled and celebrated, but now it’s their job to buy thoughtful gifts, manage decorations and attend corporate holiday parties. Take time to remember the feelings you had at their age. A little perspective can go a long way for your own health and happiness.

Learn Their Expectations

Too often, tensions arise when family members expect different things from the same celebration. For example, if your adult children expect to alternate visiting in-laws each year, it would be good for you to know the plan long before Christmas Eve — when you’re setting the table. Simply asking can prevent any confusion. As you talk, be sure to vocalize your own hopes for the season. Include practical pieces of information, like dates and times of potential visits and whether gifts will be involved.

Make Your Home a Place of Comfort

Instead of forcing traditions and dictating festivities, take a more relaxed approach. Let go of your expectations and make your house (or just your presence) a warm, welcoming place of relief for your adult children — not another arena where they’re expected to perform. Play games, laugh, put on fun Christmas music, and keep traditional treats on hand.

This tip is also surprisingly versatile. Even if you’re visiting your adult children for the holidays, you can still help create a comforting, relaxed environment by pitching in to help the host, and openly expressing your love and gratitude for the precious time you’re spending together.

Start New Traditions

Gather feedback from your adult kids. Which family rituals do they look forward to each year? Which ones do they dread? Be willing to retire the traditions that no one (but you) enjoys in favor of those your kids have always loved. Then, beef up the established traditions that everyone in the family enjoys.

If there’s still room in your holiday schedule for more fun, start a new tradition based on whatever your grownup kids are into these days. Philanthropists might love a day of volunteering together. Health nuts may relish the opportunity to be active as a family. Your pop culture enthusiasts may enjoy an annual trip to the movies. Is it difficult to get out of your sentimental comfort zone? Sure. Is it worth it? Absolutely.

Be Patient

Your adult children may not appreciate the importance of holiday traditions as much as you’d like them to … yet. But believe it or not, your kids are still growing — and so are you. Someday, they’ll be in your shoes, wondering why the younger generation doesn’t appreciate its tribe, especially during the holidays.

In the meantime, be sure to keep the lines of communication open, and remember how you felt at their age. By creating a fun and relaxed environment filled with traditions that everyone appreciates, you’ll be sure to have a wonderful holiday season that the whole family will remember fondly.

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