Holiday Tips for Blended Families
Adding Family Members Can Add Stress
It's hard enough negotiating the holidays when there are only two sides of the family involved. But blended families have the extra emotional and logistical challenge of sharing holiday time and making visitation arrangements.
Here are some tips to help you plan for as merry and seamless a season as possible.
Tip #1: The Children Come First
It's easy to lose sight of what's important this holiday season when you're dealing with egos and animosity. What's really important isn't which parent gives the most gifts or has the most extravagant vacation plans. It's keeping the kids happy and out of the line of fire.
Try talking to your children and stepchildren about the holidays. Ask them what their ideal holiday would look like. You might be surprised to discover that their ideal visitation plan is one you'd never even considered.
Tip #2: Divvy Up All the Holidays at Once
It may seem extreme to be talking about Valentine's Day when Christmas is right around the corner, but having everything set ahead of time gives all parties involved an opportunity to talk about which holidays are most important to them. Kids will have a clear idea of where they'll be for which holiday, and parents have time to emotionally prepare for holidays when the kids will be gone.
Blended families with different religions will have different priorities. For example, it may be that one parent doesn't have any investment in Easter, but feels strongly that the children is with them to celebrate the Jewish High Holidays.
Tip #3: Communicate Clearly
It's not enough to decide that the children will spend Christmas morning with their father and New Year's Eve with their mother. Other details need to be worked out, too. Questions to ask for clarification include:
- Who is picking up the kids, where, and at what time?
- Will the parent who doesn't have the kids on a certain holiday have contact with them on that day?
- How will grandparents and step-grandparents be involved?
- When does the holiday start and end?
Clear communication also means not using your children as go-betweens. As difficult as it may be, try to speak directly to your ex- about the schedule and any changes you're proposing.
Tip #4: Keep Realistic Expectations
The reality is that no matter how hard you try to make the holidays perfect, someone is going to be unhappy with the arrangements you've made. It's better to keep celebrations low-key. Consider having family visit you at your home for the holidays so that you don't have to figure out how to be in six places at the same time.
Tip #5: Create New Traditions
Each person who's a part of your blended family is used to their own holiday traditions and extended family. Since your family is different than it used to be, maybe your traditions should be too. While it's probably not a good idea to change everything—from the food to the venue of your holiday celebration—starting with small changes is a good way to bring your family closer together.
Start by taking inventory of what everybody in your blended family likes to do and work from there. It could be as simple as having three types of pie every year to meet everyone's tastes.
Bringing It All Together
The holiday shuffle can be very difficult for children and parents, especially if it's a relatively new arrangement. Adding an entirely new family to the mix is overwhelming both in terms of the emotions involved and time commitment.
But it doesn’t have to be calamitous. Reining in possible holiday hiccups before they happen will ensure high quality bonding time instead of halls decked with dread.