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Wednesday, December 11, 2019
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Happy Baby Boomer Holidays!

 
The Baby Boomer generation is facing challenges and embracing opportunities unlike any generation before it. Baby Boomers, generally considered to be those of us who were born between 1946 and 1964, don't fit the traditional picture of the retired elderly person in the rocking chair waiting for family to come ease our loneliness and break the monotony of our lives. Among this generation's unique traits are a longer and healthier lifespan and more active lifestyle. We Boomers are busy starting new businesses, going back to school, exploring our creativity, traveling and doing all the things we've always wanted to do.
 
Yet, those of us who have not planned ahead may find ourselves unable to cope with the adjustments which occur as our children grow up and leave the nest. These adjustments are never more apparent and never more wrought with potential problems than during the holidays.
 
We've worked hard to raise our kids with the goal of teaching them to be strong and independent. Yet, the first year a grown child calls to say he or she won't be home for Christmas, we're often caught by surprise. All kinds of emotions may bubble up including anger, sadness, resentment, loss, abandonment and even a sort of mourning.   That's why it's important to be ready for this change...both emotionally and practically.
 
Be Prepared
 
First realize that it's normal to feel hurt when these changes occur. All change is stressful...even positive change…such as when your daughter decides she wants to stay home and be with her husband and new baby on Christmas morning.   Change is stressful because it makes us face the fear of the unknown, and we find ourselves asking, "What now?" By acknowledging that change is on the horizon, you remove the surprise element and can better handle it when it occurs.
 
Second, understand that the holidays are inherently rich with emotion. All our holiday memories, whether happy or melancholy, are wrapped up in our five senses. The sight of the lights on the tree, the fragrance of Christmas cookies baking, the sound of an old favorite carol…all these are sense memories that bring back holidays past and fill our hearts so full so that anything more, such as a change of plans, can feel all out of proportion to the reality of the situation. Realizing that we’re often more emotional than usual during the holiday season helps us understand why we feel the way we do and deal with bumps in the road. 
 
 
 
Finally, we Boomers are so busy these days, we tend to forget that time marches on. Then we get an unexpected phone call and our grown child’s independence suddenly comes along and reminds us of our own mortality. It's particularly tough being reminded of that reality at Christmas time, because loved ones we ourselves have lost are most likely on our minds.  Staying busy doing something we enjoy and particularly doing for others, such as volunteering in the community, will help us get through these moments.
 
Traditions
 
All families have traditions which develop over years and generations based what makes us and our loved ones happy. Whether it's the jam cake recipe passed down from our late grandmother to our mother to our daughter, the annual after-dinner tag football game in the back yard after Thanksgiving dinner or the white glue and glitter ornaments made by our children lovingly hung on the tree each year, our traditions provide us with continuity as our lives change around us.
 
Tradition is important...even vital to a healthy loving family. But, it's also important to realize that sometimes traditions must be tweaked, updated or even replaced. Insisting that they never change under any circumstances creates stress as we try to force the square peg of our family's changing needs into the round hole of the way we've always done things.
 
For instance, most of us have much more leeway in our schedules and money in our pockets than do our children...especially if they have children of their own.   After all, we're no longer planning around school breaks, church plays and visits with Santa or trying to fit Christmas into the tight budget of a growing family. 
 
 It's hard on a our children who feel obligated to keep to the usual traditions on both sides of the family. Driving up and down the road to parents’ and in-laws’ homes on Christmas Day with a couple of cranky kids in the back seat is no fun. We know. We've been there, done that. So, the greatest gift we can give our grown children and grandchildren may be the freedom to begin creating their own family traditions. In fact, we should encourage them to do so.
 
So, what are Boomers to do with these inevitable changes to our holiday routine?  
 
 
 
New Traditions
 
Be creative and flexible. Give yourselves and your families the freedom to do whatever it takes to remove the stress from the holidays while keeping the love and joy in them.
 
Look for ways to get together and celebrate at times other than Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year's Eve which are usually overscheduled anyway.
 
·        Host a day-after-Thanksgiving pot luck and ask everyone to bring their leftovers.
 
·        Have a tree trimming party a couple of weeks before Christmas or a tree-UNdecorating party after the holiday.
 
·        Have a Day-After-Christmas-Breakfast and invite everyone to wear their new robes, pajamas and slippers.
 
·        Have an "anti-black-Friday" party and invite family over for a Christmas movie marathon rather than fighting the crowds at the mall.
 
·        Gift your children with a parents' day or parents' night out sometime during the holiday season and use the time to bake cookies with the grandkids. 
 
·        Have an Ugliest Christmas Sweater contest the week after the new year when everyone is dealing with the post holiday let-down. 
 
There are so many ways to celebrate with family other than the old, familiar ways. 
 
Explore the social media as a new way to connect with grown children who have moved away. 
  • Send e-cards, Skype or just call and wish each other a happy holiday.
  • Send Christmas e-cards to the grandkids and make them think you're cool. 
  • Share funny Christmas stories and photos about your kids and grandkids on facebook. 
  • Share your day on twitter by tweeting throughout the day and asking your absent family members to do the same.
 
It's the connection that counts.
 
 
 
Explore local volunteer opportunities if you find yourself without a houseful of children and grandchildren on the major holidays. Other families need love and care too. And don’t forget to stay connected with friends and your church family who can help fill the void when your grown children are celebrating the holiday away from you. Other Baby Boomers who are in the same boat are among your most valuable resources. 
 
Most important, remember that the changes in holiday routine and tradition are positive signs. Your goal has been to raise your kids to be independent and to raise their own families. The fact that they may not be coming home for Christmas is acknowledgment of your success as a parent. That's their unintended gift to you.
 
Best wishes for a holiday full of family, love and new traditions.
 
Send us your own ideas for having a Happy Boomer Holiday by going to our contact page or e-mailing us at Shelby.Boomer@aol.com.  Or visit us on our facebook page:  Shelby Senior Connection.