And remember, his or her family has their expectations too. So your adult children are trying desperately to please both families and probably failing miserably in the process, not to mention dreading the holidays altogether!

So take a moment to examine your expectations:

  • Have you just "assumed" that they would be at a particular gathering?
  • Are you willing to change your long-standing family plans to accommodate the new demands on your married children?
  • Did you allow your feelings to be hurt when they had to miss an event?
  • Have you experienced a sense of jealousy when they spent the holidays with the other side of their family?
  • Have you ever made them feel guilty for not being with your family?

In order for you NOT to be part of the problem, it is wise to be part of the solution. The easier you make things for them, the more likely they are to want to include you in whatever plans they make for themselves. And isn't that your true goal—to spend valuable time together?

Why not think outside the box?

What's wrong with going to your son-in-law's parents' house for Thanksgiving? Or inviting your daughters in-law's family to spend Christmas Eve at your house? Maybe they have never been to a Midnight Mass and would love the beauty and reverence of that special candlelight service. You can always collaborate with your children and their family to come up with a fun trip or cruise that all can enjoy. Or imagine spending New Year's Eve with the grandchildren instead of Christmas. Those fireworks can be as awe-inspiring to a young child as Santa's visit.

And if your worse fears actually do come true, and you and your spouse find yourselves alone again over a holiday for the first time in 30 years, then think back to what you did way back when—you might just enjoy this new-found freedom from responsibility. No shopping, no cooking, no preparing guest rooms for overnight visitors. You can go out to a nice restaurant or even rent a cozy little cabin in the mountains and rediscover why you fell in love and created this family in the first place!

Be the example you want to set for your children. Just because they are now adults, your role as parent is not over! You still have much to teach them as you experience each stage of life before they do.

Remember, you will always be a step ahead of where your children are going. You will always get there "first", which gives you a wonderful opportunity to demonstrate by your example, how to transition gracefully through all of life's changes. So start today by being the best in-law you can possibly be. Make spending time with your family as enjoyable for your children and their spouses as it is for you.

Let your presence be such that wherever you are, when your family is gathered together with you, they can breathe a peaceful collective sigh and say, "I am exactly where and with whom I want to be—This is HOME!"

"For the sake of my family and friends, I will say, "Peace be within you." Psalm 122:8

Deborah J. Thompson is a writer, artist and Stephen Minister. Her articles are published by Crosswalk.com and "The Fish" family of Christian radio station websites around the country. She shares "Reflections" on Life and Relationships on her website, www.inspiredreflections.info. And she is working on her first book, Your Life, Your Choice—5 Steps to Peace. Join her on Facebook and Twitter/InspireReflect.