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Grandparents' Holiday Survival Guide

5 tips on how to avoid hurt feelings if your children and grandchildren will be elsewhere.

En español │ Rita, my hairdresser and the mother of three, was distraught. "I dread the holidays," she said when I asked her what was wrong. "Both sets of grandparents insist on having us for Thanksgiving and Christmas. That means two gigantic meals on both days. We end up feeling stuffed and sick, and at least one of the kids has a meltdown.

See also: Conversation starters for the Thanksgiving table.

"I wish our parents would alternate holidays, but neither side will budge," she sighed.

Grandparents Holiday Survival Guide

Keep grandchildren front and center by setting up a holiday rotation for hosting or visiting family. — Image Source/Corbis

I sighed, too. I wish I had Rita's family problems. My two granddaughters and their parents — my son and daughter-in-law — live in France, and this year my husband and I won't be spending any of the holidays with them.

No question, for many of us this festive season brings up feelings that lie dormant for 11 months of the year. It doesn't matter if we live in the same town as the grandkids or 10,000 miles away: We long to celebrate the holidays with our adult children and their kids — and so do the other grandparents. My family has three sets of grandparents, which make the mathematical (and emotional) logarithms more complicated than back in the days when fewer people got divorced — and I know plenty of families where the grandparents come in sets of four.

So, what to do when your daughter announces that this year she and her husband plan to take the kids skiing with his parents from Dec. 24 through New Year's Day? Or your son informs you that his brood will be visiting his father (the man who divorced you) and his father's new family over winter break?

Here are five strategies to help you make it through the holidays without tears.

Plan ahead. To avoid unsettling last-minute surprises, discuss holiday plans with your adult children as early in the year as feasible. That way, if you're unable to join them on the actual holidays, you can plan an alternate time to celebrate. Note to Rita's parents and in-laws: Roasted turkey tastes just as good (or terrible, depending on your palate) on Dec. 1 as it does on Thanksgiving Day.

Next: Make alternative plans for visiting grandkids. »

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