We are right in the middle of the holiday season and nerves are starting to fray even in the best of families. This is amplified for those of you who are stepparents and have to deal with combining family celebrations. For those of you that have added the moniker “stepparent” to the resume, here are 10 pointers that are a stepparents survival guide for the holidays:
1) Discuss with your spouse how holidays have been celebrated in the past and how you would like to celebrate them as a blended family. Being transparent about what you enjoyed in your “old life” can only help to pave the way for a calmer, more cohesive celebration.
2) Discuss with your children what rituals in past holidays have been meaningful for them. If possible, try to include them as well as respecting the needs of new members of your family.
3) Preparing food and cooking together is always a great place to start a blended family celebration. Doing an activity together is often a way to make people closer. And cooking is a great place to start.
4) Don’t try to compete with your ex-spouse as far as gifts are concerned. If possible, have a discussion with him or her and figure out a comparable gift from each of you. The holidays are not a time for competition.
5) Create new rituals. Do something different this year that you’ve never done before that includes all family members. This will establish new experiences for everyone share.
6) Do something charitable this year. As a blended family, find something bigger than yourself to celebrate. This encourages a broader view of the holidays for children, making them think about others and not about their displeasure at their parents’ divorce.
7) Remember the grandparents and other family members of your ex-spouse. They did not ask for a divorce either, so include them in your plans, wishes, and celebrations if possible.
8) Spend some time alone with your bio-children. It will mean a lot to have that extra recognition that all of you have been through a lot together.
9) Remind your children to call their absent parent. This encourages your child not to feel caught in the middle, but rather that it is ok for them to feel that they can love both parents in front of each other.
10) Be mindful and compassionate of those in your family that may be having trouble with the transition to a blended family. Validate the child’s concerns and don’t take it personally. Then try to include the child in a fun group activity like a board game or Wii.
The definition of “blend” is to mix or relate harmoniously. The holidays are a great way to practice living a more thoughtful and inclusive life.