As our families get more complicated, so do the holidays. Most families nowadays no longer consist of Mom, Dad, 2 kids and one or two grandparents. Instead, your holiday gathering and extended family probably includes some who are dealing with ex-spouses, their new partners, a mix of children, step-children, and various half brothers and sisters. And, grandparents from those relationships.
When extended family gathers for the holidays, you may have to deal with complicated family situations, but that gives an opportunity to be gracious and show the love of Christ.
Your family may add its own brand of complication, if you have chosen to let God decide the size of your family, and He has blessed you with many children. You may get questions from family members that are personal. And, if, on top of that, you have chosen to Homeschool your children, as we did, you will be an anomaly. Expect, and be prepared for, questions about your children’s socialization, and how you homeschool, which are sure to come.
Take this as an opportunity to demonstrate Christ-like love. Graciously, and with gentleness, answer their questions. Respond in a non-defensive manner that represents the Lord favorably, and causes the questioner to feel God’s love, if not embrace your choices.
How to deal with added complication in an already busy holiday schedule.
There are some things you can do, if called upon to host or attend a gathering, to simplify the situation, and try to make sure everyone involved enjoys the holidays, and more importantly, show the love of Christ to all.
Here are three ground rules that will serve you well, and possibly prevent strife.
Find Common Ground
No matter how different your lifestyles are, or varied your family circumstances, you can almost always find some common ground.
Finding common ground can be difficult, if your values are contradictory to one another’s, your beliefs collide, or you don’t get along with part of your family, but, it will be well worth it to try and find some. It will make your gathering more peaceful for all. Think creatively and pray ahead for God to lead your interactions.
Be Ready To Compromise on Non-Essentials
Extended families involve a lot of people and with that come different commitments, traditions, and expectations. In order to make things work this Christmas, or any time you gather, be prepared to compromise, as long as you don’t have to disobey the Lord.
The same goes for traditions. Your extended family may have traditions that are very different from yours, and their plans may clash with your beliefs.
Sit down with your spouse and talk through what you know and what you can expect. Then pray about it. When appropriate, involve your children in these discussions and times of prayer. Commit the holiday events to the Lord, and bathe them in prayer. Pray over your responses, and how to lovingly opt out of any plans that violate your convictions. Communication, without a judgmental attitude, is critical.
Suggest Alternative Activities
When a grandparent’s beliefs or traditions pose a problem, pray about how to creatively accomplish the objective of their heart (which usually is to express love to their grandchildren, and to bless them) while not exposing your children to situations or religious practices that would be contrary to your beliefs.
If your extended family’s habits or traditions include activities you don’t participate in, due to your Biblical convictions, or you just try to limit these activities in your child’s life, try to find an alternative activity that will give grandparents, or other caring relations, time with your children.
Host Events in Your Home
Often, the best solution is simply to host the meal or event yourself. This allows you to set the ground rules, since it’s in your home. If you have a large family, this may alleviate stress for the members of the family who aren’t used to having a lot of children in their home.
There is No Perfect Family Christmas
Remember, that, as long as we are on earth, there will not be perfection! There is no perfect Christmas. We are all sinners! Sinners together with other sinners means there will be times of strife, unloving words, and unloving actions. But, we can certainly pray, and try not to be the ones causing the strife.
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