It’s hard enough negotiating the holidays when there are only two sides of the extended family involved. But blended families have the extra emotional and logistical challenges of sharing holiday time and making visitation arrangements.
Here are some tips to help you plan for joyful holiday season.
- Focus on what’s important. Keeping the kids happy and away of adult stress is paramount to successful holidays
- Keep it positive. Remind the children that having two or even three Christmas or other holiday celebrations, isn’t always a bad thing!
- Communicate with children and stepchildren. Talk about the holidays and what they would like to happen. Find out what their ideal holiday would look like. You might learn some things about their visitation hopes that you’d never considered. Keep an open mind. Some scenarios may work and some may not. The way you express your decisions will influence how your children accept them.
- Plan in advance. Anticipating upcoming holiday events can factor into current plans. Holidays in all families need to be divided up between extended family. This is the case for blended families too, only more is involved.
- Clarification. Kids need a clear idea of what to expect. They can remind themselves that if they are with dad for Thanksgiving, they will be with mom Christmas. This provides them when a sense of order and minimizes uncertainly that they may feel.
- Acknowledge and celebrate difference. Families come together from different backgrounds and traditions. With blended families it’s key to integrate important cultural and religious aspects from all family members. Take the best part of different families’ traditions and unite them into a combined tradition for the new, blended family
- Cover logistics in advance. Don’t get stuck arguing about last minute, undefined details and the Â logistics of transitions. Those are the easy part and yet they can easily bog down a family who has not planned and organized in advance. The details of who, when, where, what, how, need to addressed and decided without bringing kids into the details of transaction minutia.
- Talk Gifts. In blended families there are many adults that may provide gifts for kids. Coordinate gifts to prevent overlap, duplication, unnecessary, spending and creating spoiled entitled kids. Don’t’ compete for the big-spender role. That only means you’ll be in the big loser role. It may feel good at the time to know you get your kids a bigger gift than the ex, however, kids see through it and don’t respond well to ego-based competition amounts their parents
- Communicate directly. The holidays are no excuse to start communicating through the kids. Use email if you can’t stand to talk to each other. Children are never go-betweens.
- Be realistic. Not everyone is going to get exactly what they want in traditional and in blended families. When kids living in blended families are disappointed remember that there is plenty of that in all families. Disappointment is fleeting for adjusted kids. Validate it and they will move on nicely to appreciation and joy.
- Time will help. The first couple of years of doing things differently will take some adjusting. Before you know it you’ll have set new routines, transitions, expectations, and memories for the blended family you have created!
- Unblended families. Children who were part of a blended family that is not longer intact will miss their step-parents and step-siblings at the holidays. Parents would try to find opportunities for them to spend time together and keep the connection alive as the children need it even after parents split up.
For more than twenty-five years Dr. Kate Roberts has helped children and families navigate through the ever evolving world of relationships. As a licensed psychologist, family therapist and couples counselor, and wife and mother of two, Dr. Kate offers a unique and highly qualified perspective in her practice, in the media and in her blogs on Psychology Today, Empowering Parents and Nobullying.com.