This will be the first Christmas Day I will be spending with my parents for some years and my husband and two teenage daughters will be with me. One of our daughters is very accommodating but Jill, (not her real name) the older one is going through a rebellious phase and will turn up with tattoos, piercings and very strong views, all of which my father will hate. I am worried that it will ruin the festivities, which traditionally are very fraught. Should I warn my parents in advance about Jill or wait until we arrive, ask Dad to take no notice and explain that it is probably just a passing teenage phase and to please not let it spoil our family Christmas? Of course I don’t want him to launch into me either and tell me I am a lousy parent, which is what he thought I’d always be. Luckily my husband understands by now what my father is like and will try to divert him into football talk which he even mugs up on before we go.
What a shame that after several years your reunion with your family at Christmas fills you with dread. It’s a good idea to think through some of the possible pitfalls in advance and try to work out a coping strategy. It may not avoid your Father’s critical comments, but will make you aware of what might be said.
It is great that your husband supports you and has practical ideas to help the situation. You might think of recruiting your daughters in the same way. Perhaps suggest they think of ideas of jollying their grandfather along. Despite the tattoos Jill might be able to charm and soften him. Do remind them before you go that a key strategy in families is to be tactful and not cause offence.
We also think that you should warn them about her appearance as a shock could make them react even more strongly. If your parents choose to spoil Christmas because of what their granddaughter looks like or something any of you say there is little you can do about it. However, if either of them are unkind to your daughters do step in to protect them. There is no need to apologise for how your daughter looks.
In addition, if they criticise your parenting remind yourself that allowing your daughters the freedom to express themselves as they wish, is what has made you a great mother. You should also seek an early exit.