This question naturally arises before many family holidays, but those grandparents who celebrate Christmas ask it most plaintively at that time, especially if they are long-distance grandparents. While traditions have an undeniable appeal, sometimes a traditional approach has to be dropped in favor of an innovation that will accommodate the maximum number of family members with a minimum of hurt feelings. Both grandparents and parents can benefit from a frank discussion of the issues involved, the better to look at solutions. Here are some common dilemmas:
The young parents don't want to slight the other side of the family. Sometimes distance, timing and other issues make it impossible for young parents to visit both sides of the family. To avoid hurting anyone's feelings, they opt to spend the holidays at home. When there have been divorces and remarriages in the family, the problem may be compounded. One possible solution is to include the "other side" in holiday plans. This will work well in some families and not at all in others.
Certain family members don't get along. The problem may not be the grandparents themselves--although that's a possibility. If the problem is someone else who commonly attends the celebration, grandparents may have to make a choice between having their children in attendance and having other guests.
Young families may prefer a slower-paced holiday. Two-career families may not be able to handle the idea of spending their hard-won days off packing and traveling, especially if it means packing up all of the children's gifts. In such cases, grandparents could offer to travel to them, staying in a hotel at least part of the time to reduce the stress on the young family.
Young parents may want to develop their own traditions. They may feel that celebrating with parents keeps them from developing their own unique traditions. Grandparents may be able to forestall this problem by allowing their children to make suggestions about holiday celebrations. There's no reason to stick to a particular tradition just because it's always been done that way.
They may want to go away for Christmas. Christmas at a resort or other vacation destination can be appealing. Sometimes grandparents may be invited along, but that can be a problem if other family members can't afford the trip or prefer to spend the holiday at home.
In many of these situations, celebrating early or late instead of on the actual date can make it easier for everyone to be in attendance. Some family members, however, may be resistant to that idea. To resolve all disputes as amicably as possible, let each family group express what options are acceptable, and choose an option that is acceptable to all, even though it may not be a preferred solution. Avoid letting family members argue for their choices, as that is when tempers may get high. When grandparents are unable to get everyone home for the holidays, seeing all of their family members at some point during the holiday is the next best thing. Having realistic expectations for the holidays is important in avoiding the post-holiday blues..