Our biggest sale! 50% off your PLUS subscription. Use code SUMMER

How to Celebrate Christmas When the Kids Are Away

Gina Smith

Published Nov 21, 2023
How to Celebrate Christmas When the Kids Are Away

Although I might miss my adult children during the holidays, it is a good time to evaluate my parent-heart and compare what I wanted for them when they were growing up versus what I want for them now. Do I have expectations? Do I feel they owe me something? They owe me nothing because I was doing what I was called to do as parents. -- For His glory. How can I fulfill my calling as parents of adult children and my big picture calling of doing all for the glory of God with the gospel being central in all I do?

It’s that time of year again: the holiday season. It can be an exciting, festive time of year, but it can also be a difficult time. I’d venture to say that, for many people, it is a very hard time of year. Life changes so quickly, and with the changes, we experience loss. It’s easy to long for the sweet days of the past and forget to linger in the moment and embrace what we are given today and our calling.

If you are the parent of adult children, I know you understand how this feels. It seems like all you did was blink, and suddenly, your once little children are having to split their holidays between you and their spouse’s family or other responsibilities. The holidays that you once anticipated with excitement can become days that you now dread because they are not the same without your family unit being all together. There’s no way around it! It’s a very difficult transition. So, what are we to do?

Acknowledge What You Feel

First, you must know that how you feel is normal and valid. There’s no shame in admitting that you miss your kids and you want them to be with you. Of course you do! They are your family and the closest people to your heart. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if things didn’t have to change and if we could have them all to ourselves? But that is not the reality of life, is it? We need to learn how to deal with our new reality in a way that honors God. So, pour out your heart to Him. Tell Him how you are feeling. Tell Him you miss your kids and wish they could be with you. Then, ask Him to give you His perspective and show you how to serve Him, your children, and others during the holiday season.


I remember being in college and wanting to be with my friends over Thanksgiving or Christmas break, being a newlywed, and having to split our time with two families who wanted our attention, yet also wanting to start our own traditions. I remember being the parents of little ones and feeling like it would be easier to just stay home rather than pack up kids and drive to grandparent’s houses, having teens who wanted to be with their friends, and it being harder to visit family during the holidays, and then, having college-aged kids and it being more challenging to get everyone's schedules to coincide so that we could go visit family.

I remember the guilt of spending holidays with one set of parents, knowing the other set of parents felt left out and wishing I could be at two places at once, yet also wishing that family would come to us so that it wasn’t always up to us to travel. And now here I am, on the other side of it, with grown children who are having to split their time between two sets of parents. It can be stressful and tiring! I want to do everything I can to make it easy on them. I want them to enjoy themselves, whether with me or other family members. I need to be willing to sacrifice what I might have seen as a holiday “tradition” for them to create their own traditions. I need to put myself in their shoes, remember what it was like, and then ask God to help me have His perspective.

Boy with grandparents on Christmas

Photo credit: ©GettyImages/Drazen Zigic

Being a Parent Is Hard

After my kids were married, one of them admitted that they remember feeling disappointed each year after their birthday and Christmas. What a stab in my heart that was because I knew how much thought I had put into each gift and each celebration, trying to make things special and create memories.

As parents, we spend the years our kids are growing up making sure that they are loved, cared for, accommodated, and have memories to carry them into their adult years. I am aware of all I wanted to accomplish in the years they were in our home, but their memories won’t, and cannot, ever reflect what was happening inside my heart during those years. I don’t think they will ever really understand how much we poured into their childhood. What I’m learning from this is that although we needed to do all we could to provide them with a sweet and memorable childhood, ultimately, it all needed to be done for the glory of God and to please Him. Our children don’t have the capacity to understand all that went into raising them, and it’s not fair for us to expect them to. They might begin to understand if they have their own children, but they might not even understand then. We need to get into the habit of parenting for God's glory and His purposes.

Although I might miss my adult children during the holidays, it is a good time to evaluate my parent-heart and compare what I wanted for them when they were growing up versus what I want for them now. Do I have expectations? Do I feel they owe me something? They owe me nothing because I was doing what I was called to do as parents. -- For His glory. I can move forward into the adult parenting season with a similar perspective if I take the time to evaluate my heart and have a gospel perspective. What am I called to in this season of parenting? How can I glorify God in the circumstances I am in now? How can I fulfill my calling as parents of adult children and my bigger picture calling of doing all for the glory of God with the gospel being central in all I do?

Focus Outward and Upward Rather Than Inward

My need to lean on God and partner with Him as a parent doesn’t end just because my children are no longer in my home. I need to focus outward and upward and be on my knees in prayer so that I will glorify God and be who He wants me to be. This will be my lifelong calling as a parent, no matter how old my children are, and this is the only way I will be able to persevere in a way that glorifies God in my calling.

The difficult and even painful moments of parenting can provide a platform to turn our heartache into prayer for those we know are also experiencing heartache. They can remind us that we want to glorify God in how we respond to circumstances that are not what we’d like them to be. And, on the hard days, during the holidays, we have an opportunity to bless our adult children by freeing them up to do what they need to do. We can give them the best gift of all when we live to glorify God by making the most of the holidays for God’s purposes and letting them know we are okay, even if they aren’t with us.

For God’s Purposes and for the Sake of the Gospel

As hard as it is to separate myself from the deep connection I might have to my children, I have an even higher calling and purpose than the calling of motherhood. We all have that purpose: “To glorify God and to enjoy him forever.” 1 Corinthians says, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” This is our calling every day and in all we do. It is our calling during the holiday season, whether our children are with us or not. It’s easy for us to find our identity in being a parent because it takes all our mental and physical energy to raise children, and that doesn’t end just because they grow up and move out of our home. But God wants us to find our identity in the fact that we are His children, here to glorify Him and do good works. (Ephesians 2:10)

We need to also find our identity in the fact that we are “carriers of the gospel.”

2 Corinthians 4 tells us, “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So, death is at work in us, but life in you.”

We carry the most valuable and powerful message of all - the gospel. We see in 2 Corinthians 4 that those who carry the gospel are fragile vessels and are empowered by God to keep going in our calling to share the gospel. We will face many obstacles, life changes, and transitions that cause our hearts to ache and make it hard to see clearly, but we are not crushed, in total despair, abandoned, or destroyed. No matter our circumstances, we are carriers of the gospel, which gives each day purpose.

No matter what is happening in our lives, no matter the changes, transitions, or losses we feel, we are facing little “deaths” each day that the life of Jesus may be seen as God empowers us in our weakness. We can proclaim Christ in our weakness and suffering to show His power in and through us as we choose to focus on our calling despite the hard and sad days in life.

Happy senior couple winter date around Christmas at cafe

Photo credit: ©GettyImages/Vesnaandjic

The Gospel in a Nutshell

-All of creation is under the curse of sin, and the result is death and eternal separation from God. God has given a lost and dying world good news: the Gospel of Jesus Christ!

-The gospel is the good news that “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1

-God loved the world and gave His only Son to die for our sin. John 3:16

-Jesus Christ came into the world in human flesh to be the perfect sacrifice for sin and to make atonement, or “propitiation for the sins of the people.” Hebrews 2:17

-Our salvation, eternal life, and our home in Heaven are guaranteed because of Christ’s death on the cross and His resurrection. 1 Peter 1:3-4; John 14:1-4.

-We can’t earn our salvation. God has purchased our freedom, and we are no longer in bondage to sin. God declares the believer to be not guilty before God and therefore treated as holy. John 19:30; 1 John 2:2.

-We were once enemies of God but have been reconciled by the blood of Christ and adopted into the family of God Romans 5:10; John 1:12; 1 John 3:1

Let’s persevere and lean into God during this season. Allow God to teach you a deeper truth and work in you a more profound compassion for the lost. Becoming a parent was something that really drove me to my knees in prayer! Let’s allow this season of parenting to continue to do that work in us. Let’s fight the good fight. Let’s persevere to the end.

Photo credit: ©GettyImages/RgStudio

Gina Smith is a writer and author. She has been married for 35 years to Brian, a college professor and athletic trainer. For 25+ years, she and her husband served on a Christian college campus as the on-campus parents, where Brian was a professor and dean of students. They reside right outside of Washington, DC, and are the parents of two grown children, one daughter-in-law, one son-in-law, and one granddaughter. She recently authored her first traditionally published book, Everyday Prayers for Joy, which is available everywhere books are sold. You can find Gina at the following: Website: ginalsmith.com, Instagram, and at Million Praying Moms, where she is a writer.