I have had unique opportunities to spend significant time with men and women who are similar in age to my own adult children. I’ve learned a lot from them in the process.
In my next few posts, I will be sharing some of what I’ve learned and tried to implement in my own relationships. I want you to know from the outset that I haven’t done this perfectly, as my daughters will attest! But, I do have a heart for these younger adults who genuinely long to have a healthy relationship with their parents, but find it difficult in light of their parents’ expectations.
One of the first areas that these young adults talked with me about was what they should do about the holidays. Many couples expressed considerable stress and anxiety over not wanting to disappoint their respective families, but were conflicted about what was best for them as a family and what their families expected from them. I distinctly remember one couple with three children expressing their dread for the upcoming holidays. The husband’s parents were divorced and both had remarried and lived two hours away and the wife’s parents lived locally. They were sharing with me their angst over spending their entire Christmas between the three houses.
“If you could do what you wanted to do Christmas day” I asked. “What would you do?"
Without hesitation they said in unison, “We’d stay home with our kids.”
“So, why don’t you do that?” I asked. They looked at me dumb-founded.
“Our parents would never go for that idea” the husband declared.
“Have you ever told your parents that you’d like to stay home with your kids and start your own tradition?” I queried.
“No,” the wife said, “but they’ve all made it clear that their holidays would be ‘meaningless’ without getting to see the grandchildren."
We continued talking and I asked them both to think about having a conversation with their respective parents to express their wishes. At first, they couldn’t imagine it, but after awhile, we talked about some alternatives. Could they arrange to visit the husband’s parents who lived out of town on a weekend prior to Christmas or ask them to come down the day after Christmas? Could the wife’s parents who lived locally come over on Christmas eve to share in their grand children’s excitement and open one gift from them that evening? We talked about several possibilities and the more we talked the more relaxed and hopeful they became.
So, if you’re a parent of adult children here’s a gift you can give them:
Respect their decisions regarding where they spend the holidays and enjoy whatever time you spend with them.
It’s the best gift you can give them!