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Reducing Grandparents' Holiday Stress

Eight Strategies For Making the Holidays Easier and More Fun


The holidays are no holiday for lots of grandparents. They may be expected to be the primary hosts for family get-togethers, do most of the cooking and provide lavish gifts, as well as being the keepers of various traditions. Is it any wonder that grandparents' holiday stress levels are through the roof? These suggestions will help make the holiday more manageable so that Grandma and Grandpa can enjoy the season and even avoid the post-holiday blues.

1. Embrace the Idea of Scaling Down.

Many grandparents need to consider scaling down their holiday celebrations.
Photo © Jeffrey Coolidge / Getty
Before you make adjustments in your holiday habits, you must first embrace the idea of scaling down. If you can't do this, you may be more rested and less financially stressed, but you will be miserable. Begin by listing your usual holiday activities and gift list. Then examine the list and see what you are willing to dispense with. Visualize what will happen if you take something off the list. Will your family or friends be upset, or are you stubbornly clinging to an activity long after it has ceased to be important? If you can't take something completely off the list, try substituting something easier. Host a holiday open house instead of a sit-down dinner. Use preprinted labels for Christmas cards, or gift bags instead of gift wrapping.

2. Match Your List With the Calendar.

mark your calendar
Photo © Igabriela / Dreamstime
Sit down with your pared-down list and a calendar and schedule the remaining activities. Don't forget to build in some time off. If you leave some days unscheduled, you will be able to adjust for those unexpected occurrences, like minor illnesses and emergency repairs to your home or car. If nothing unexpected occurs, you can either get ahead of your schedule or just take a day to rest. Be sure to allow sufficient time for shopping, and allow for travel time and rest breaks. If shopping online, complete your shopping early enough that you don't have to pay extra for express shipping. If you are going to wrap your own gifts, intersperse gift wrapping days with days of shopping and errands.

3. Delegate Responsibilities When Possible.

Holiday help for grandparents can come in the form of teen grandchildren.
© Robert Kneschke | Dreamstime.com
Grandparents tend to be take-charge people, but sometimes it's a good idea to relinquish some control. If you like to put up outdoor lights, pay someone to put them up if you can afford it, or ask a younger relative to lend a hand. When guests call before a party or dinner and offer to bring something, let them. It's best to have a specific suggestion about what they might bring. Be sure it's nothing too elaborate or costly, but choose something that will make the event easier for you. Take advantage of free gift wrap when it is offered, or pay a teenage grandchild to help you wrap packages. This will be a hard step if you are accustomed to doing everything yourself, with your own special touches, but it can pay off in a big way.

4. Reduce Your Gift List.

Grandpas enjoy both getting and giving Christmas gifts, although they probably prefer giving.
Photo © George Doyle / Getty Images
Grandparents' holiday stress often stems from anxiety about gift-giving. The easiest way to make the holidays less stressful is to buy fewer gifts, and this can be done without sacrificing the spirit of the season. Dispense with buying gifts for friends, or make gifts to charity in your friends' names. For family members, instead of buying a gift for every family member, draw names or host gift exchanges, where each person brings one gift and takes one home. Grandparents may still want to buy gifts for each grandchild, but such strategies can be used to reduce the number of gifts bought for adults. To reduce the stress of shopping for grandkids, buy only one or two gifts per child, or buy gifts that the whole family can enjoy.

5. Communicate With Your Family and Friends.

Reduce holiday stress by staying in touch.
Photo © Thinkstock / Getty
Clear and specific communication is important during the holidays. If you are making changes in your holiday traditions, let those involved know as far ahead of time as possible. Other family members or friends may want to host a celebration or take over some other tradition. If so, be aware that you may have feelings of grief and regret, but you will probably be surprised by how much you enjoy the event if you are not the one in charge. If you are reducing holiday spending, tell your family members promptly. They may want to scale down their own spending. Children and grandchildren need to be prepared if gift expenditures are going to be cut, so they won't be disappointed.

6. Take Care of Yourself.

Weight training is a good fitness exercise for grandparents.
Photo © Jeff Banke / Dreamstime
Too much food, too little exercise and too little sleep can make for a miserable holiday. It may seem silly to go to the gym if you are going to spend the day on your feet shopping, but you need to maintain your exercise habit in order to feel your best. Exercise of a moderate intensity is a great stress reliever, and if you are less stressed, you are less likely to overindulge in food or drink. Exercise also contributes to restful sleep. In addition, be sure to get some sunshine when the opportunity presents itself. You'll prevent Seasonal Affective Disorder and also boost your level of Vitamin D. Just be careful, as always, about exposure to the sun.

7. Resist Unscheduled Responsibilities.

Grandparents must learn what not to say and how to keep quiet.
Photo © Andrew Bassett | Dreamstime.com
Being asked for donations of time and money occurs frequently during the holiday season. Such solicitations come in many forms, from the bell-ringer at the department store to the friend who wants you to teach her how to make pie crust. Imbued with the holiday spirit, we sometimes say yes when we should say no. Before making any commitment, ask yourself whether it is something you really want to do, or whether you are taking the path of least resistance. Be especially careful of those projects that sound simple but end up taking hours, or the short shopping excursion that turns into an all-day jaunt. You may even want to limit your time with your grandchildren. If you babysit them, set some ground rules and communicate them to the parents.

8. Consider Donating a Day to Service.

Photo © Matthew Kaplan for CNCS
It may seem silly, after all this talk of scaling down, to talk of picking up an additional responsibility. Donating a day to service makes sense if you build it into your calendar and you choose it wisely. Whether it is preparing a holiday meal for the homeless or putting together gift bags for underprivileged kids, you'll receive a tremendous psychological lift from a day of service. If you take part with friends and family, it can be a bonding experience as well. Be sure to include your grandchildren in your volunteer work if they are old enough to be involved. You'll be creating a tradition that has real meaning.

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