It is normal to be overwhelmed and unsure of what to do, so don’t think you are unique or that there is something wrong with you. If this is your first holiday with your new blended family, expect challenges. Also, don’t think your situation is unique, as more than 50% of American families are re-married or re-coupled households, according to a survey by the Stepfamily Foundation.
Here is what can make your holidays fun and provide good memories for everybody:
- Blend old and new traditions. You need to create a balancing act between old traditions that you, your partner or the children don’t want to give up and new ones that reinforce the notion that this is a new beginning for all of you.
- Don’t pass judgments about old traditions or other parents, as tempted as you might be. Kids get very attached to their traditions and get hurt very deeply by criticisms.
- Involve the children in creating new traditions. This counterbalances the lack of control most children feel when their families break up. Involving them in creating new traditions gives the feeling of being included and having more control.
- Don’t take children’s reactions personally: they are dealing with losses. They may experience painful memories, feelings of sadness, resentment, disappointment, anger, and more. So, make room for these feelings to be acknowledged and teach children how to express them appropriately. Remind yourself these feelings are not directed at you.
- Put kids first, being sensitive to their feelings and the difficulties they may be facing.
- Don’t over schedule. If you try to do too much, everybody will be exhausted and nobody will enjoy anything.
- Spin it. Be positive. This is not a time to mention the word “divorce.” Instead, remind the children that they have two houses now and thus they will have double of everything.
- Set realistic expectations, for yourself as well as for everybody else in your household.
- Rise above hostilities and bad feelings. Bite your tongue when you want to say something negative about one person or another. Remind yourself this is a time of good will and happy thoughts.
- Be inclusive. Even though it is not your personal preference, you may want to include the kids’ other parent or other members of the extended family for some event or activities where the kids are involved. Remember, children want everybody to get along, because this creates fewer conflicts for them. Teach by example.
- Strive for equity: treat your biological children and your step-children the same way. Give them the same amount of attention. Share the same activities. Buy the same number of gifts and make sure they are of similar value. Children take note of everything, and it is easy to feel ignored.
- Expect challenges and difficult times, no matter how well you planned, especially at times of transition, such as schedules of who is with whom and when.
- Take care of your needs too! You cannot be there for others unless you are sensitive to your needs and feelings.
- Rely on your partner’s support. Don’t try to do everything alone!