BY CHERYL HARBOUR
Over the river and through the woods? – Holidays with your new GRANDbaby
Not many of us actually live that pastoral picture of a horse-drawn sleigh bringing rosy-cheeked grandchildren to our home for the holidays, but our holidays can be just as lovely.
Here comes the season of celebration –Thanksgiving, followed by meaningful religious occasions. It can be a time for harmonious family togetherness. Grandparents have a lot to do with how it all flows. They serve as a link to family history, the keeper of traditions – and that’s important because a holiday with a new baby is all about tradition and transition. The baby won’t remember what you do this year, but other family members will, so how you celebrate matters.
A Quick Look at Some of This Season’s Holidays
Thanksgiving (American) – November 24 What Americans think they know about the history of Thanksgiving doesn’t always square with the truth.
Bodhi Day (Buddhist) – December 8 Celebration of the Budhha’s awakening or enlightenment
Milad-un-Nabi – or Malwid, ID-E-Milad – (Muslim) – December 13 Birth of the Prophet Muhammad
Yule/Winter Solstice (Ancient/Pagan) – December 21 Shortest day of the year
Christmas Eve and Christmas (Christian) – December 24-25 Birth of Jesus Christ
Hannukah (Jewish) – Dec. 25-January 1 Rededication of the temple in Jerusalem
Kwanzaa (African) – December 26 – January 1 Celebration of family, community, and culture
Holidays focus on family, hope, and light, peace and love –Click on this video and share with your grandkids
Managing Everyone’s Holiday Expectations
People bring customs and expectations to holiday celebrations– and now there’s a new grandbaby at the center of it all. Figuring out how to manage it now – when your grandbaby is little – will make future celebrations run more smoothly.
One of the most challenging situations arises when the parents of the new grandbaby practice different religions.
A “Religious Landscape Study” conducted by Pew Research found that almost 4 in 10 Americans who have married since 2010 have a spouse who is in a different religious group.
Even in families where religious preferences are the same, past experiences aren’t. The food, and the timing, the rituals of gift giving, the customs and habits we want to carry forward – all can take different forms. We’re sentimentally attached to the activities that mean “holiday” to us.
Here are suggestions to help families have harmonious holidays:
- Respect differences. Learn about others’ beliefs and traditions. A little research will give you a basic understanding of other religions. If the differences are based on family customs, discuss them before the holidays.
- Celebrate common themes everyone agrees on – thankfulness, sharing, etc.
- Talk about gifts. Make sure you abide by your grandbaby’s parents wishes as to the nature of volume of gifts.
- Embrace a little chaos. Some unexpected happenings might become your family’s favorite memories. With babies and young children, the days of perfect holidays may be temporarily over.
- Keep the big picture in mind. If this is your grandbaby’s first holiday, there’s time ahead to shape the holidays to everyone’s satisfaction.
- Special advice for grandparents – cooperate don’t compete, with the other grandparents.
A reader’s question illustrates potential holiday strains on families.
Q. We raised our son as a Presbyterian; his wife is Jewish. This will be their baby’s (our grandchild’s) first Christmas. Is it ok to begin introducing our Christmas traditions? It would break my heart to have to give up the customs that always made our Christmas special.
A. Deciding on religion and religious customs are among the most important decisions your adult children face. Perhaps they’ve had discussions you don’t know about. Talk to them and find out what they’re thinking. Be honest about what’s important to you, but be flexible. Follow their lead and work within their preferences. The best gift you can give your son and daughter-in-law is understanding. You’re on a long journey together. As it says in The Lord of the Rings, “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”
Holiday traditions can be a powerful force in a family. Traditions help children form a sense of identity and when repeated, time after time, they instill a sense of security. Family bonds are reinforced when traditions are fun and/or meaningful.
Young children come to count on something happening in the same way at the same time – especially rituals they establish with their Grands. Traditions give us a tangible way to communicate our values. Experts suggest you pick a tradition for a particular purpose and then personalize it.
The memories made by tradition may help later on. All of us have nostalgic moments about our childhoods, and scientists now believe that thinking wistfully about the past is good for people. Dr. Constantine Sedikides, a psychologist at the University of Southhampton in the UK, developed the Southhampton Nostalgia Scale and concluded that nostalgia can help counteract loneliness, boredom, and anxiety.
Here are a few ideas grands have contributed to get you started forming traditions:
At Thanksgiving, many families go around the table and say what they’re thankful for. Or, have a “thankfulness box.” Each member of the family writes down something they’re thankful for and puts it in the box. Each slip of paper is read aloud and the family guesses who wrote it.
Since we’re focusing on winter holidays – giving a new pair of pajamas each year can become a tradition.
Baking or cooking a special holiday dish. Let your grandbaby bang the pots this year – and next year, he or she might be able to stir and scoop.
The reading of a specific book annually on the same holiday or the gift of a new book each year – to be read together, of course. Book suggestions:
Why Babies Cry On Santa’s Lap…
At some point, whether you celebrate Christmas or not, your grandbaby might be plunked on Santa’s lap. But sometimes that cute idea sometimes goes awry. According to an article on Yahoo Parenting, quoting Gail Saltz, MD. associate professor of psychiatry at The New York Presbyterian Hospital Weill-Cornell School of Medicine, it’s probably related to stranger anxiety, which many children experience between 8 months and 2 years of age. First, young kids aren’t used to being handed to strangers. Add to that the costume — people don’t usually wear bright red suits! Throw in the beard, the bushy eyebrows and the hat that hide most of Santa’s face. Young children pick up cues about emotions from faces — and this one’s covered with fur!
So, what’s a parent or grandparent to do? Take it slowly. Let the child observe other children getting on that lap…and surviving. Don’t force it. Because you know something the child doesn’t… there’s a different and furry lap waiting in a few months: The Easter Bunny!
When your grandbaby comes to visit for the holidays
Basic equipment to have on hand for newborns:
- Somewhere for the baby to sleep—a bassinet or crib, unless the parents bring their own portable
- Somewhere to change the baby—and all the supplies (diapers, wipes, petroleum jelly)
- A few sets of clothing
- A duplicate of the baby’s favorite blanket or stuffed animal
- Pacifiers, if the baby uses them
- A baby first-aid book and the supplies recommended there, including a rectal thermometer and a medicinal syringe (to give medicine if necessary)
As your grandbaby gets older and begins to move around, it’s time to baby-proof the house:
Here’s a partial checklist of some important safeguards from Good to Be Grand – Making the Most of Your Grandchild’s First Year:
Cover sharp edges of furniture with molded plastic pieces made for this purpose.
Secure sliding doors.
Put window shade cords and lamp cords out of reach.
Cover electrical outlets.
Secure or lock cabinet doors.
Remove anything fragile or heavy from where the baby might reach. For example, a camera on a table with a strap hanging down is an invitation for the baby to pull it down on top of him or her.
Inspect surfaces and remove any small objects that pose a choking risk, especially batteries, pet treats and toys, coins, buttons, paper clips, or small pieces of food or candy. Purses are wonderlands of small, enticing, and dangerous objects. Keep them in the closet.
Keep plastic bags away from the baby.
Be especially careful with latex balloons—they can be inhaled and then block the child’s airway. Don’t let babies play with balloons. If they pop, throw the pieces away immediately.
Point knives and forks with the sharp parts facing down in the dishwasher’s utensil basket. Keep the dishwasher door closed and locked.
Toys with magnets don’t belong within reach of children under the age of three. Magnets are a particularly devastating hazard. If a baby or young child swallows two magnets and they are attracted to each other inside the child’s digestive tract, it may be impossible for the magnets to pass through the tract.
Continue to check areas as the baby moves from room to room, in case something has fallen on the floor or been moved around. As the baby gets older and begins to climb on things, you will need a whole new level of security—for example, checking for windows with screens that can be pushed out.
Enjoy your GRANDbaby’s first holiday – and don’t forget to take a lot of photos and share here with GRAND!