After two years of a global pandemic, many of us have a newfound recognition of the importance of relationships, especially family relationships. Retirement means you can be the organizing force to foster these relationships.
For many, that means getting your immediate family — your parents, your children, and their families — together for special occasions, holidays, or vacations. While getting everyone together may be important to you, be mindful of your expectations and the pressure you put on your family.
Here are some tips from the adult child perspective on how to make these gatherings successful so that everyone looks forward to the next get-together:
Be casual yet appreciative: Value any time you spend together. Be grateful for the effort made to gather. Don’t harbor hard feelings about past events when someone couldn’t make it.
Be inclusive: Include significant others or close friends, so everyone has their “family”. Hold off on lifestyle, dietary choices, politics, or child-rearing opinions.
Give space and breaks: If you are doing a multi-day vacation, ensure everyone has ample space and time to do their own thing. Although it may be tempting to pack everyone into a smaller house or fewer hotel rooms, splurge on the extra accommodations. Make sure you’re not planning a week of unrelieved family-together time.
Be flexible: Family members with toddlers may need to eat dinner and turn in early. Others may want to stay up late. Let everyone optimize their best schedule.
Let go of the little things: Hard feelings generated at one event can prevent future participation. Be prepared that hanging out together can bring up past issues and hurt feelings. Let the past go and be present now.
Celebrate holidays on off-times: The holidays are busy with competing priorities. To maximize participation, consider celebrating around the date instead of on it. Celebrate Thanksgiving the weekend before or after and December holidays in January. If travel is difficult for some family members, you can offer to pay for their travel or simply travel to them.
Have a sense of humor and bring positivity: Your attitude can influence everyone else’s. Choose to be happy and positive.
Enjoy the time together and savor the memories.
Throughout the “Sandwich Years” section of this blog, we will provide you support for launching children into adulthood while caring for aging parents.