Planning for holidays can be complicated in a blended family.
With divorce or remarriage, comes many new things as you work to create an enriching holiday for your blended family.
Vacations and holidays, such as Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, or Christmas, may be challenging due to unresolved feelings, animosity, and complicated schedules.
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Experts agree that minimizing holiday stress is one of the greatest gifts parents can give their kids.
With forethought and creativity, your blended family can enjoy pleasant and enriching holiday celebrations.
These tips can help you to make any holiday happier and less stressful for your blended family.
Plan Ahead. Blended families are not only made up of children, biological parents, and stepparents. You may have a close-knit extended family that includes four sets of grandparents and several aunts and uncles who all want to spend time during holidays with your children.
The Stepfamily Association of America urges parents to plan.
Deciding how to celebrate the holidays may not be easy, but planning in advance can help you bypass problems.
It is nice to anticipate the holidays without the stress of last-minute planning. Make itineraries for the kids so they will know what to expect.
According to Donald A. Gordon of the Center for Divorce Education in Athens, Ohio
The kids are uptight, because they’re not sure where their base of security is. If both parents have remarried, they don’t have a place where they really feel at home.
Be Flexible. It may work best for your family to celebrate a holiday on an unofficial date. It isn’t about being together as a family on a certain date, it is about being together as a family.
Margorie Engel, a Boston-based author, and consultant on divorce and families suggests
Give yourself permission to color outside the lines. Don’t be locked into only Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. Just brainstorm a little.
After doing this for a year or two, you will have a new tradition in your family.
Creating new ways of celebrating encourages the growth of bonds between family members.
It also creates pleasant memories that are not rooted in the more distant past.
Create New Blended Family Traditions.
Traditions help us bond as a family and create memories we cherish over our lifetime.
There is no better way to help a blended family build strong bonds than to create new holiday traditions.
Start new traditions that every family member can look forward to every year. Focus on having fun, even if you must be a little outrageous. Gloom disperses quickly when someone gets silly, breaks into a grin, or makes a funny comment. Especially during the holiday season, blended family members need permission to let the past stay in the past and to enjoy the present.
Encourage Expression of Feelings. Let youngsters, grandparents, and others share their feelings. Listen sensitively without interrupting or trying to fix problems that are shared with you.
You may not agree with everything a person says (and you certainly will not be able to accommodate everyone’s preferences). However, family members will appreciate your listening to them and keep their needs in mind.
Allow time and space for the child whose biological parent is not present to express sadness, regret, or guilt.
Sometimes a child will feel disloyal to the absent parent.
Acknowledging such emotions helps the child move through these feelings rather than getting stuck in them.
Reassure the child who will not be with you that he will be missed, but that you will be all right. Give him permission to enjoy himself with the parent he visits. If you have conflicting emotions, confide in a caring adult rather than your child.
Make Sure Your Child Is Able To Give As Well As Receive Gifts. Family standards of gift-giving present a nightmare in stepfamilies. Consider the possibilities: assorted levels of income among Mom’s household, Dad’s household, extended families, and extended stepfamilies. There also may be grandparents who have not yet accepted stepchildren. Additionally, unfamiliar traditions among new in-laws and gift overload from multiple celebrations may be an issue. An almost-certain result is that somewhere along the line, someone’s feelings will be hurt.
Sometimes both parents subconsciously compete to provide the “best” holiday for their child. This may cause a child to feel pressured into favoring one parent over the other. Being involved in loyalty conflicts is one of the most dangerous aspects of divorce. The children can’t win. They feel that they have to hide their love for one parent from the other.
Ideally, parents should ask children to write a wish list. Then the two parents should work together to determine what wants and needs, will be provided by each of them.
A strong sense of family values will last longer than material gifts.
The real solution for happy holidays ultimately lies in each person’s attitude.
Enjoy Your Family’s Uniqueness. Expect your stepfamily to be very different from a first-marriage family. A blended family is no better or worse than any other family, but it is unique. Learn to appreciate the advantages of your family and the strengths of each person in it.
Remember to avoid blaming problems on the blended family. The idea of perfect families who celebrate perfect holidays is a myth. All families struggle, and it’s through these difficulties that we grow in understanding. Children in blended families are relieved and adjust best when the adults are pleasant to one another.
It is very important to children that the adults they love get along with each other.
While each blended family is different, there are some things you can do to simplify the situation.
Find Common Ground
No matter how strained the relationship may be, start by trying to find some common ground. For example, if you share children with your ex, this would be giving the kids a nice holiday. Start there and keeping this most important goal in mind, make your holiday plans. If nothing else, it gives you a starting point, and a reason to talk and make things work this Holiday season.
Finding common ground can be tough when you don’t get along with part of your extended and blended family. However, it will be well worth it.
Be Ready To Compromise
Blended families involve a lot of people who have different commitments, traditions, and expectations. In order to make things work be prepared to compromise.
Sit down and have a talk early on in the season with everyone involved. Find out what’s most important to each family member and find compromises that work for everyone.
Blend your traditions, and don’t be afraid to make some new ones as well.
Practice Makes Perfect
Last but not least, don’t expect things to go off without a hitch. It takes time to make this work. New traditions aren’t created in a day. Keep working at it and keep practicing.
Before long you will find your stride.
Now it is your turn.
I would love to know what your experience is with blended family traditions.
Please comment below.
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