Grandparents Raising Grandchildren: Enjoying the Holidays

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The holiday season is meant to bring excitement, joy and “magic.” But for children living apart from their parents it can be a stressful time.

If you are a grandparent raising a precious grandchild, take some time to evaluate the coming holiday season and be proactive in making your plans.

There are reasons that you are the care-giver and no matter what the reasons are, your grandchildren need protection from emotional upheavals. Still, the parents have rights too. They want to see their children; they want to be part of their lives. They want to enjoy those special events such as trimming a tree, wrapping presents and opening gifts. What to do?

Here are some of Ask Granny’s tips on ways you can include parent visitations while at the same time protecting your grandchildren from sadness and disappointment. There is no way to entirely erase the fact that your grandchildren are not living in the happy family they deserve, but you can make strong, logical decisions that will insulate them from further hurt.

Make a holiday calendar including all the school, community and family events. Long before the parent requests come in be aware of your schedule. You’ll find that saying yes or no to requests is much easier with a clear timeline before you.

Don’t allow parents to try to over-compensate for their lack of involvement by buying presents that are too expensive or fail to be age-appropriate. Set clear expectations and limits with parents before they arrive.

Schedule visits in the holiday season that honor the role of the parents. Allow timely visits with others present and set reasonable time limits. There may be court orders to follow, or you may have to make the rules. Be sure to enforce the limits you set in place to avoid problems in the future.

Anticipate problems. Non-custodial parents may be prone to making promises they can’t keep. Protect your grandchildren from major disappointment by planning alternate activities in advance or having a back-up special event ready to go should the parent not come at the scheduled time.

Prepare children for parent visits. Talk with them about the feelings that may arise, the problems their parents are dealing with, and any other topic that may ready them for an emotional meeting.

Be prepared for strong feelings and frustrations to spill over in the children’s behavior at these volatile times. Children don’t ask for these situations and are not always able to cope with the intensity of the times.

Be extra vigilant in keeping a healthy schedule during the holidays. Get enough sleep, hold to homework and chore routines and make the days as normal as possible while enjoying holiday activities too. Take care of yourselves as well as the grandkids.

Holidays are heady times for all families. Expectations sometimes run ahead of reality. But you can do it. You can provide for these children and protect them from further hurt by giving them the safety net of firm schedules, supportive routines along with heaps and heaps of love.