Q. My husband and I have two young adult children who attend university and will soon be coming home for Christmas break. I am happy our entire family will be under the same roof for a few weeks, but I am also bracing myself for hurt feelings and frustration. What can I do to plan for a fun time together rather than being angry and resentful all the time?
A. Thank you for your very frank question about your concerns on the upcoming Christmas holiday with your adult children. The emotions you have expressed are not unusual for parents of young adults.
We appreciate your willingness to approach this holiday season differently than you have in the past. Essentially, your question is the answer to your deep concerns. The truth is, when it comes to family relationships—even with your adult children—the quicker you accept the fact that you have no control over the other person’s behavior and realize you can only control your response, the faster you will be on your way to enjoying time together with them.
We have three thoughts to help you face the upcoming holiday season with your adult children with grace and joy:
Stop wishing for them to behave differently. The relationship between wishing your children behaved differently and your level of disappointment is much greater than you can imagine. Ask yourself what would happen if you decided to love them just the way they are? Undoubtedly, your way of thinking about your children would change in obvious and extraordinary ways, creating a more pleasant environment for everyone.
Choose good will over annoyance. You will surprise yourself by how effective this intentional way of thinking can transform the way you view your children. Every moment you interact together during the holidays will bring you to an emotional fork in the road. If you choose good will over annoyance your relationship with your children will be transformed from bitterness to pleasure, creating an enjoyable space for all of you.
Respond with love. This is by far one of the simplest, yet most profound counsels we can share with you about how to relate to your adult children when they come home for this Christmas holiday. We agree it isn’t easy. Yet it is the best approach you can put into practice. When you respond in a loving and caring manner toward your children, you set the stage for loving interaction between you. This approach will make you warm and easygoing to your children, creating a welcoming and hospitable place that will allow you to enjoy the time you spend together.
The Bible states: “Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and good success in the sight of God and man” (Prov. 3:3, 4).
You and your husband are in our prayers as you make plans to spend a wonderful family holiday with your adult children.
Bible references are from the English Standard Version.
Willie Oliver, PhD, CFLE an ordained minister, pastoral counselor, family sociologist and certified family life educator, is director for the Department of Family Ministries at the world headquarters of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. OliverW@gc.adventist.org
Elaine Oliver, PhDc, LCPC, CFLE a licensed clinical professional counselor, educational psychologist and certified family life educator, is associate director for the Department of Family Ministries at the world headquarters of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. OliverE@gc.adventist.org