Christmas isn’t always what its cranked up to be. Often despite the excitement of the presents and a sense of magic in the air, there is often a looming dark cloud.
Am I going to be judged?
How am I going to manage under the scrutiny of the family? Mother, father, mother-in-law, father-in-law, other family members?
What if my children act out, get demanding, be overly clingy, rude or, God forbid, have a tantrum? How will I react?
What if my parenting is judged, challenged or even shamed?
Even the thought of it makes me on edge. I’m not myself when I take my kids to my parent’s house.
“I go into pathetic mode or act crazy controlling, saying and doing things I never normally do in our own home,” says one mother.
It’s true, your kid’s sense it when you’re nervous.
They can hear it in your tone of voice.
They get more clingy & edgy than usual…
…. And yes, the meltdown happens at these worst of times… often right in front of the people you are most triggered by.
It’s hard enough managing modern-day parenting. Not only do you have a whole new world with its own set of issues, you’re also experimenting with newer parenting approaches.
If you’re learning with me you’ll be using things like clear boundary setting, connecting before directing, giving the ‘yes’, using play and empathy, getting low and slow, using the breath to get a calmer voice, holding the boundary in a bigger, stronger, wiser, kinder way, and so on.
And this will mean that your children WILL be allowed to have a voice, they WILL be seen and heard. It won’t be just “I’m the boss. You be quiet, do as I say and what you’re told”.
From the older generation’s perspective, it can look like you’re permissive in your parenting. They might say something like, “You’re going to let them get away with THAT!?”
So what can you do about it?
First up, take a moment to consider we’re all doing our best, and that the older generation may not understand what these newer approaches to parenting are.
Out of love for you, they may be worried that you’re creating unnecessary work for yourself and that your child will not develop the qualities they need in life to do well. Some may even be challenged on a personal level, feeling like they ‘could have done it better themselves’ when they see you connecting with your child in such honoring ways.
It’s also possible that we are part of the problem by being too reactive and judgmental of them as well.Whatever it is, we don’t need to create unnecessary tension or rifts. We can see it as an opportunity for something positive to come out of it, either within ourselves or in the relationship. Who knows, the way we handle it may even bridge some of the generation gap. Potentially bring some healing!
So how can you positively approach this?
Firstly, acknowledge what the Grandparents do bring. How are they being positive? Make an effort to connect with them prior to the get-together with the intention of thanking them. Tell them what you appreciate about them, the positive qualities they’ve instilled, the efforts that they make. We warm and open-hearted.
It may be true for you to honestly state, “even though we don’t always see eye to eye, I love and respect you”. Show in your tone of voice how much you really do appreciate and care about them.
Give this time to sink in, then contact them again.
This time you can share more. Tell them you’re learning newer ways of parenting based on current research, and that you wanted to give them the heads up so they can understand why you’re doing things differently. Let them know that you’ve benefited from the goodness they’ve already given, and what you’re doing now combines their wisdom with these new learnings. Be open to a further discussion to give more details. Talk to them about how they can best support you. Download ‘The Old Paradigm/ New Paradigm Parenting.pdf’ to guide you.
If your kids are old enough have a chat with them. Explain about their Grandparents likes and dislikes, and what things show them respect.
Give your child pre-reminders so they know how to act and what to do. Give them ideas of how to manage if they’re struggling, and how best to let you know if they really need you. Eg. a prompt could be to squeeze your hand if they need 1:1 support.
Have a chat with your partner. Make sure you’re on the same page, and understand what each other needs. Is there anything you could do for each other to make it easier?
Have a clear intention. Visualize it in your mind. Say it out loud to your kids. “We’re off to Gran and Granddads, and we’re going to have a relaxed, fun and lovely day”. Say it out loud to yourself, “I’m going to stay calm and true to myself, and leave the day feeling strong”. Even say it to your partner. Make it a challenge that you’re focused on achieving. Remember, our brains orient towards what we have in mind, our self-talk. Keep bringing it back to the positive.
Have connection breaks during the day. Consciously direct your attention towards each child. Get down at eye level, join in what they are doing, really connect. You might even take them outside to run around if this ‘fills them up ‘. Whatever works, you know your child best.
IF sh**t does hit the fan, and your parents/ parents-in-law begins to lose it with you or your kids, do this:
Take a breath. Stay calm. Bring empathy, “Oh my gosh, I get it, it’s so difficult! ARGH!”
Slow things down. Hold the bigger presence. Say something like, “It’s ok, I’ve got this. I’ll take over from here”. You can remind them you’re using a newer approach, and ask them to please support you or give you some space to be the parent.
There’s no perfect solution. Navigating this tricky terrain can be a process over time. The thing is to start now. The longer you leave addressing these generational rifts the bigger they get.
And in some cases, it may be about acting protectively and having shorter contact time. Keep the topic of conversations lighter, keep them moving, and don’t stay too long!
Go gentle. Go informed. Go with love.
PS. Was this helpful? Let me know in the comments below the ONE take-away you got from reading this. By writing it out you’ll be more likely to DO it. Yay!
Thank you so much, I read each and every comment and would love for you to SHARE with other mothers you think this might help.