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Christmas Without Grandma

Toddler and Teenager Expert Advice from Carleton Kendrick, Ed.M., LCSW

Q: My mother died last July so this will be the first Christmas our kids and family will be without her. They are eight and ten. She was devoted to them and they loved their Grandma a lot. She has been a big part of our Christmas celebration, always making her special Christmas eve cookies with our kids and then sleeping over.

I don't want to cause my kids any additional hurt on their first Christmas without her but I don't think I can just pretend like she's not there. Any ideas?

A: Your desire not to bring your kids sadness on Christmas is understandable. But not noting their Grandmother's absence and not finding ways for them to remember and commemorate her would bring the most hurt and sadness. Your kids can learn that they can include her (and all loved ones) in all family celebrations by giving voice to their enduring memory and love of her.

I would suggest having a talk with them soon about how they would like to remember their Grandma on Christmas. Acknowledge that everyone is going to be sad that she won't be with them this holiday, but focus on keeping her memory alive during Christmas. They might not come up with any ideas so you might want to have a few to offer: looking at some photographs of Grandma and them over Christmas past, making a special tree ornament or decoration that you display every year, making Grandma's special Christmas eve cookies with them and toasting her with milk glasses held high.

By keeping Grandma alive in the celebration of Christmas you show your kids that death cannot diminish their love for her and that as long as we give voice to the memory of our departed loved ones, they are alive in our hearts. There will be some sadness during this holiday but the richness of loving memories and the warmth of your family will carry the day.

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Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.

Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.

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