Traditional, Remarried and Blended Families: Navigating the Holidays to Help Parents and Elders Age Well

To Grandmother's HousePack the car and the kids–To Grandmother’s House We Go–perhaps. But what if there are 3 or 4 or more living grandmothers with husbands? What about siblings, step-siblings and siblings-in-law?

Change in the traditional family, mobility, work schedules. This (and much more) presents challenges for older and younger generations at Thanksgiving, Chanukah, Christmas and other major holidays where meals are important. Who hosts? Who goes where?

4 Questions to Help Us Address this Change

1. What’s the Goal? Asking ourselves this question provides the framework for making good decisions. Goals also change as family situations change. So we may need to revisit this question again and again.

Goal Possibilities:
To please aging parents and grandparents
To put our children first
To make it easy on ourselves
To provide family togetherness/inclusiveness
The more the merrier or
Less people, more comfort

2. Is it better for them or better for me?
Which is my priority?
What is its impact?

3. What are the givens that can’t change?
Size of home/apartment–can it accommodate everyone?
Where family members live
“Ify” relationships (families often cater to the most neurotic member)

4. What is the compromise?
Weigh the goal and the givens, then-
Think about #2.

Variables abound. Yet one thing is clear: divorced parents with children, who get along for the sake of the children, have emotionally healthier children. Children need security and stability in their lives, regardless of family situation. This may involve additional planning for those in blended and remarried families–and can be especially important when deciding who celebrates holidays with whom–and where, if it wasn’t legally decided.

When both parents remarry, the number of individual wants and needs can soar. Example, two sets of biological grandparents plus two additional sets of grandparents who want to share the holidays with grandchildren. Is this a logistical problem now–or later?

Family units change. Children grow up and marry (possibly divorce, remarry and/or move). Grandchildren enter the picture. The result: the numbers of grandparents and great-grandparents, who are typically part of family holiday dinners and festivities, multiply. A large, centrally-located home is ideal. Unfortunately that isn’t always possible.

Older, living-alone relatives excluded. Our new senior advisor, D, 88, soon to be introduced, reminds us that she has older living-alone friends without children–or with far-away-living children and there’s no place for them any more since the family has grown so. These elders were once part of the family holiday celebrations, but are no longer invited anywhere. Does it make sense, if we have room, to ask aging family members if they have a friend they’d like us to include for Thanksgiving or other holidays?

We try to do things to help parents and elders age well. Thanksgiving and other important holidays provide opportunities, but can also provide challenges. We hope the “4 Questions” helps resolve the challenges.

Changing weekly: “Newsworthy” (right sidebar). Links to timely information and research from top universities, plus some free and some fun stuff–to help parents age well.

3 thoughts on “Traditional, Remarried and Blended Families: Navigating the Holidays to Help Parents and Elders Age Well

  1. Pingback: Family & Creating New Traditions | Pushing Play IRL

  2. Loved this post. We are a Boston-area blended family with one set of grandparents on the west coast, and our solution is to have Thanksgiving early. It enables my inlaws to travel here before the holiday fare increase, my mom and sister and various cousins to drive without doing so on the worst driving day of the year, and it frees my husband’s kids to have dinner with their mom on the “official” TG. Much less stressful on the older generation, who can have TG with nearby relatives. We will be enjoying matsoh ball soup tomorrow and joining friends for a glorious dessert!

    • Thank you. Looks like you’ve worked this out happily and well. I know it doesn’t just happen. Others can take heart from the model you’ve worked out. Happy holidays!

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