Blended Families and the Holidays
Even with the most perfect circumstances, the holidays can still be a time of high stress and challenges. But when you add the complexities that come along with a blended family, that can add more stress than customary. Holidays can be a time when the pressure and strain to be a happy unit can become more magnified than usual. One thing to acknowledge is that blended families have at least one thing in common… they were born out of one or several losses either through death or divorce. In our case it was both; and it was our goal to take what could be a dismal situation and turn our new beginning into new experiences, new family traditions, and opportunities to create new memories.
We are sharing a few ideas to help you and your spouse decrease some of the stress and tension around the holidays, and allow yourselves the opportunity to create new memories. Remember, one of the greatest gifts you can give your children are the memories of a peaceful and wonderful holiday.
1. Plan: Communicate with co-parents (if necessary). Discuss options and new traditions with your spouse. Plan ahead as much as possible. Believe us your kids will be less stressed and you will too if you know things in advance.
2. Try to rise above uneasy/bad feelings and hostility: Children are relieved when the adults in their lives demonstrate that they can be civil and respectful of each other. Remember that the holidays are a time of peace so especially at this time, try to make this a priority, if only for the kids. Take the challenge of remaining calm under trying circumstances and focus on your own behavior (which is the only thing you can control) instead of the behaviors of others.
3. Old traditions mixed with new: Traditions are so important to all of us. Blending families requires a balancing act of maintaining existing ways of doing things and incorporating new traditions. Creating new traditions can give a blended family a sense of togetherness and wholeness and will be the start of creating new family memories one small step at a time.
4. Be Prepared: More likely smaller children but maybe even your teenagers may have a difficult time with transitioning from one household to the next during the holiday. Encourage them and be upbeat and help them to anticipate the good times they will have with each of the families they will spend time with. Help them to see some of the advantages of having so many people to share the holidays with.
5. Be Flexible: Who says your family has to celebrate a given holiday on its official date? Who says all members of your blended family needs to be together on a particular holiday? Do your best to stay out of power struggles with former spouses and other family members about where the children will spend the holiday. If you adopt a flexible mindset, you'll discover many satisfactory ways to celebrate holidays. For example, in your family you may decide to celebrate Thanksgiving on the following Sunday. In the short run, this may ease the stress on everyone. 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 and creates pleasant memories that are not rooted in the more distant past.
6. Enjoy Your Family's Uniqueness: Expect your blended family 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. Avoid blaming problems on the blended family. Kids will be kids and adults will occasionally be immature whether in a first-marriage family or a 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. Appreciate your family as a training ground for love. Discuss what is right in your family, and express appreciation for one another. Do it until it becomes a habit.
Just remember the most important thing as parents of a blended family, is to make sure to take care of your marriage, keep grace in your heart as you bond with your new family, and remember that the kids/teenagers/young adults did not pick this. Blending a family is a very difficult situation to navigate. It can feel lonely at times and often does not fit into the traditional family mold. If things are getting too tough, reach out to family or friends that support you. Truthfully, it should be the goal of every family, blended or not, to make the holiday season a time of joy and happiness for everyone involved.