University of Illinois Extension

Holidays with Extended Family

Amy Griswold, Family Life Educator

The holiday season is often stressful for families trying to please all the relatives, making sure everyone is included. For non-traditional families, like yours with grandchildren, the holidays can be even more complicated. How do you celebrate a special occasion when family members might not be on speaking terms, or when they're in constant conflict?

According to author Sally Houtman, the one simple rule that might help is to, "Do that which you will not regret." This means doing what you think is right and not necessarily what seems to be most comfortable. Put the needs of the children first, putting aside your own resentments and personal differences. Consider what is right and best for the children involved.

You will never be able to please everyone, but it is not your responsibility to make sure all the relatives are happy. Focus your decisions on what is right and not on keeping peace or pleasing all family members. Don't allow your own anger or resentments to influence your decisions.

If you don't invite the children's parent or another family member to holiday gatherings because of your own feelings, you may be punishing the children for something that is between two adults. On the other hand, don't go overboard to include those who may behave in a way that will cause you to regret the invitation. It is possible to extend kindness to someone with whom you disagree, especially if the situation is for the good of the children. When making your decisions, take into consideration any negative aspects, and base your choice on whether the children will benefit from the visit, social gathering, or other activity. Weigh the positives and negatives and do what is best for them.