Blending two families together can be hard no matter what season it is. According to the US Census Bureau, in 2011 there were over 1.3 Million households in the United States with stepchildren. That’s a lot of blended families. There is no season more difficult for a blended family than the holiday season. Having a blended family during the holidays creates all sorts of new and unique challenges. You may have to figure out time between households if there is split custody. You may experience the struggle of whether or not to travel to new family homes. It can also be a difficult time for children as it is a time that the absence of a parent may be really felt.
What are your family’s challenges?
Regardless of the situation, it’s hard to know what is appropriate and what is crossing a boundary in this season. This is true whether you are the step-parent trying to fit in or the biological parent wanting to include your new partner. So much of the holidays are based around time spent as a family that you want to make sure to make the best of it. One of the ways you can do this is by creating new traditions with your blended family during the holidays. Here are four helpful tips when it comes to making these new traditions:
Don’t try to replace or compete with their other family traditions.
As a blended family you do not want to be competing or making children choose new traditions over old. It is important to still respect that their old traditions matter. As well as letting them know you are not trying to replace those. For example, if children used to always make gingerbread houses with their parents and still do, do not try to outdo them. Try instead to pick a tradition that is different, like opening one present on Christmas eve. It is still a new family tradition to be excited for, but does not undermine old traditions.
Create new family traditions together.
A big piece to being successful as a blended family over the holidays is including members of the family in decisions about the holiday. That includes decisions about making traditions. Ask children and your new partner’s input on what they think would be the best tradition for the family. This helps make everyone feel like they are a part of the team. Even if that means you create more than just one tradition, it is important to value other family member’s opinions and remind them that they are a part of the team.
Choose a tradition that will continue over the years.
It may seem fun to start a goofy tradition when kids in your blended family are really little. Try to remember that traditions should last and grow with the family. That means that although doing silly pajama dances on Christmas eve may be fun at first, your teenagers may not be as into it. Be cognizant of this. Both when creating traditions with little ones and when creating traditions if you have a large age gap in between step-siblings.
Be flexible and present.
This may be the most important thing for members of a blended family to remember. Not everything will always go as planned. Being flexible and adaptable gives you the greatest chance at making the holiday season with a blended family go well. Even if you feel like you have already created a new family tradition, be willing to create a new one. Or if you recognize that one you have created in the past was not the best fit for your family, that’s ok! The best time to create a new tradition is now! Part of being successful as a blended family during the holidays is being willing to step aside when you have to and readjust your expectations.
The holiday seasons are stressful for even the most well adjusted family. It’s ok to feel overwhelmed or nervous about what lies ahead. If you feel as if you are struggling more than you can manage, or need some extra assistance in helping blend your family check out my previous blog post. If you are still feeling like you need more help I highly recommend Ron Deal’s book, The Smart Step-family.