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Grandparents' Holiday Survival Guide

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

Be realistic. Though I secretly believe that my son and his family should want to spend every holiday with my husband and me, I know this simply isn't in the cards. In fact, soon after becoming a grandmother I concluded that all the grandparents in our newly expanded family constellation were bound to feel disappointed and left out some of the time. Knowing this helps me take my own disappointments less personally.

Divide and conquer. Many families divide the holidays the same way every year, thereby avoiding the stress of annual negotiations. One set of grandparents may play host on Thanksgiving, while another set has dibs on Christmas. This tactic can ease tensions in any extended family, but comes in especially handy in families where religions are mixed. I've yet to meet a Jewish grandmother who feels possessive about the Easter bunny.

Think outside the goose. This year, I decided to skip Thanksgiving and Christmas altogether, and visit my son and his family in October and January. My disappointment over not seeing the kids on these days is easily trumped by the pleasures of being with them when I'm not competing with the other grandparents, when my son and daughter-in-law are less stressed and airfares are cheaper!

Practice generosity. This is what the holiday spirit is all about. Like my hairdresser, many young parents feel caught between enjoying time off with their kids and pleasing multiple sets of grandparents, which is no easy task. Be flexible and cut your adult children and your grandparent counterparts some slack. And remember, your grandchildren will be thrilled to see you — and accept gifts — any day of the year.

Barbara Graham's latest book is The New York Times best-seller Eye of My Heart: 27 Writers Reveal the Hidden Pleasures and Perils of Being a Grandmother. A widely-published essayist, she is a regular columnist for

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AARP's Thanksgiving Survival Guide can help take the stress out of the holidays with healthy recipes, money-saving advice, travel tips and more.

This article was originally published on Novermber 23, 2010.

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