7 tips for navigating holidays with blended families

Divorce? second marriages? Holidays can be a delicate time, but they don’t have to be stressful.

Family meal

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The holidays can be stressful enough, even under the best circumstances.  Add in divorce, blended families and stepfamilies to the mix, and you can be creating completely new stressors.  You are now combining households, traditions and entirely new family members, it’s important to refocus on what the holidays are supposed to be about – love, peace and kindness.

Here at ADC, we have a few tips to help you navigate the holidays and make things a little less stressful for everyone.

Tip #1. Make your own holiday.

Your ex has the kids for Christmas? Celebrate a day or two early.  Every parent wants to spend Christmas Day with their children, but it’s important to respect the custody agreement and give the other parent their time as well. The focus should be on creating happy memories and spending quality time as a family, not on the date on the calendar.

Tip #2. Create an Itinerary.

Communicate, communicate, communicate.  If everyone knows where everyone is supposed to be during the holidays, you will lessen any confusion and anxiety.  The kids will feel less stressed if they know what to expect and where they are going to be on certain dates. Two apps that can help keep your calendars in sync are 2Houses and  Cozi.

Tip #3. Be kind to each other.

Rise above the anger and resentment you may feel towards your ex.  Your kids will feel more at ease if they see their parents (and their new significant others) getting along and being civil to one another.  Remember, the holidays are a time for peace, so even if for this one time of year, try to make this a priority for the kids.

Tip #4. Blend the old and the new traditions.

Traditions are important to people of any ages, especially young children.  Don’t try to start all new traditions, instead  blend some of the old traditions with new ones.  If you are bringing together two families, incorporate traditions from both sides to create an inclusive holiday.  There really is no better way to bond a new family together than the start of new traditions.

Tip #5. Be Inclusive.

When sending out holiday cards, put everyone’s name on them.  Include your stepchildren in as many family events and activities as your schedules allow. Make sure children and stepchildren receive equal gifts.  Even though gifts shouldn’t be the main focus of the holidays, kids will notice if they are being snubbed in the gift department.

Tip #6. Allow everyone to share their feelings.

The holidays can bring up all sorts of emotions, from sadness to anxiety and fear.  Let the kids be honest and open with their feelings.  When you acknowledge their feelings, you can help them move past them and focus their energies elsewhere.

Tip #7. Toss the perfect Christmas out the window.

Once you stop trying to create the perfect Pinterest-inspired Christmas extravaganza, the less stressed you will be.  Let go of the notion of the perfect Brady Bunch holiday, it will only lead to disappointment and hurt feelings.

Bonus Tip # 8. Take a time for yourself.

As parents it’s easy to put ourselves last, especially during the holidays when we are focusing on our kids happiness.  Take an hour out of your shopping day and go get a massage or have lunch with a friend.  Taking some time for yourself will help ease your stress and make the holidays more enjoyable for everyone.

Blended families take time to become a cohesive unit.  If this year’s holidays do not go off well, don’t dwell on that.  Instead, focus on your successes and try again the next year.  Make sure the children understand that they can look at the positives of their new family life.  Instead of being a part of one family, they are now part of two even larger families who love them and want them to be successful and happy.