Holiday Drama: Keeping the Parenting Peace

The holidays are upon us again and if you’re like many American families, it’s off to Grandma’s house we go. Visiting family is part of what the season is all about, but it can also be part of what makes it so stressful. You love the together time, of course, but sometimes your well-meaning parents and in-laws can create a tension by second-guessing, criticizing or even overriding your parenting choices, especially during this jolly time of year. The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) has some tips for dealing with parenting power-struggles, and says the balance is in keeping the upper hand while also keeping the peace.

First off, remember to be specific.

You can’t expect grandparents to pick up on your subtle, polite hints. While you may think it’s completely obvious that you never spank your kids or that a third candy cane is overkill, you can’t assume that grandparents will realize this without saying it. Instead, try to be very specific about your wishes, requests and rules.

Don’t be a drama mamma…or daddy.

It’s really hard when you’re dealing with your parents or in-laws and talking about your kids, but try to remove the emotions from the equation. The more upset you get, the more upset they’ll get. Don’t take it as a personal insult if grandparents don’t agree with you. Just be very even-toned about the issue you’re raising or the problem you’re confronting. And try to remember that, chances are, you’re both coming from a loving place.

Pick your five non-negotiables.

When it comes to your children, there are certain things you shouldn’t budge on, such as safety. And there are things you shouldn’t have to budge on, such as raising your kids in a certain religion. AARP suggests that parents determine their top five non-negotiable items and stress those to grandparents so there’s no confusion.

Personally, one of my parenting non-negotiables dealing directly with holidays and special occasions involved gift giving. Our daughter was not the first grandchild, and my husband and I had seen the massive amount of gifts our nieces and nephews received for birthdays and holidays. I love that grandparents spoil their grandchildren, but buying them everything they’ve ever wanted and more was a little much for us. Starting on our daughter’s first birthday, we asked that in lieu of toys, everyone bring one book. Then at Christmas, we enforced a one-to two-gift rule.

But make sure to explain yourself.

As parents, you’re certainly allowed to take the “because I said so” stance (they’re your kids after all), but AARP family experts believe grandparents deserve an explanation as to why you choose to do something a certain way. They don’t have to agree with it or even like it, but sharing the reasoning behind your decisions can help grandparents understand.

The gift rule didn’t go over well with our families. We still had grandparents bring a book and a toy to the party. We also caught them buying gifts throughout the year to make up for the lack of a toy mountain at Christmas. But, when I explained that I didn’t want our daughter associating love with things you buy, they understood where we were coming from.

Try to let a few things slide.

If grandparents are respectful of your non-negotiables, then try to let a few minor things slide. Allow grandparents to have some rules that are just for their house. You want your parents and in-laws to feel like they can love and spoil your children, and it’s fun for kids to have special, only-at-grandma’s-house rituals or treats. So if your kids get sugary candy at Grandma’s or Grandpa lets them stay up an hour later than you’d like, try not to turn it into a big deal.

The holidays are a special time for family and full of moments your children will remember and cherish. No matter how stressful things get, remember that grandparents are the same loving moms and dads that raised you and your spouse, so they must have gotten something right.

Categories: Holidays, Little Ones