6 Tips to Survive Blended Family Holidays
I can’t think of any person that gets married and has children with the intention of getting a divorce. Consequently, the shear idea of breaking a family a part and having “yours, mine, and ours” kids is not something anyone sees coming. Other times, children are born into a family where their parents are not married and over time one, or both parents, marry someone else. Unfortunately, blended families are real and is happens frequently, even among Christ followers.
As a remarried mommy of 8 children, the holidays are an extremely interesting and sometimes stressful time of year. After the initial tension, anger, and sadness of the divorce and my remarriage settled, it became obvious of one thing. Our children were the ones who were really bearing the weight of being in a blended family. It took countless tears from my children for myself, husband, and my ex-husband, to realize that something had to change. We needed to make an adjustment to “how” we were handling the holidays. After family meetings and extensive conversations, we came up with 6 Tips to Survive Blended Family Holidays.
It’s Not About You
This first tip is probably the most important. When a parent decides to remarry, they are so over the moon with finding a new love and being able to move on from the past. Children’s feelings are many times overlooked. The parents don’t take time check in with the vast emotions their children are dealing with. During the holidays, children are told (either by courts or their parents) where they will be spending the holidays. Depending on the circumstances, children should have a voice in this decision. Children in blended families are the innocent bystanders of the failed relationship. No matter the dynamics between adults, the best interest of children should be considered when making decisions. Their voice should be heard and validated.
Don’t Insist of Having Control
As someone who LOVES being in control, this is probably my greatest struggle. I want things they way I want them because I feel it is the best solution. After becoming a blended family, I had to learn to acknowledge and validate the feelings and opinions of my children and my ex-husband. All adults involved, who truly feel the best interest of the children is the most important thing, will humble themselves and be willing to relinquish control. This tip doesn’t mean you have to be miserable or only agreeable. It just means, you are willing to accept that your solution my not be the best or most practical solution for the holidays.
Have you ever found yourself arguing with your ex or the new spouse of your ex in front of your children? Do you find yourself bad mouthing your ex or their spouse in front of your children? Both scenarios are detrimental to the overall health and well being of your children. Being in a blended family is already difficult. Children are shifted back and forth between homes, constantly readjusting to the norms and rules of each home, and even missing out on events or activities due to visitation schedules. Listening to parents verbally assault their other parent or step parent, being placed in the middle of an adult argument, or even asked to pick sides is unfair. Make a commitment to be respectful of your ex and/or their spouse, their family holiday traditions, and their gifts or lack of gifts. Children should not have to be little grownups.
Make a Plan
In many instances, during divorce proceedings or a separation, visitation and custody plans are addressed or determined. At times, weeks, weekends, holidays, and vacation time is haphazardly assigned without the consideration for children or the reality of the lives of children. In a blended family, taking time to touch base with all parties and making a realistic plan is essential to reducing stress and chaos. Are some holidays bigger experiences than others in a family? Where do the children want to spend the holiday? Which home is more feasible? All of these questions are necessary when planning. Taking time to discuss and plan long before the holidays season arrives will create a more peaceful atmosphere and will help everyone prepare without unexpected changes.
Create a New Tradition
Growing up, Christmas time was such a wonderful time of year. The entire month of December was filled with activities, such as, driving through the neighborhood looking at decorations, making Christmas chocolates, my Aunts famous homemade cookies, and more! I remember every Christmas morning, we would wake up extremely early, open presents, call our grandparents and our close friends to chat about all of the things we got. My mother would then serve homemade waffles with all the fixings. Through the years, my brother and I have continued many of these same traditions with our own children, right down to the homemade waffles.
After my ex-husband and I divorced, we realized we both wanted to be a part of Christmas morning. We stepped out on a limb and my ex-husband decided he would arrive before the kids woke up, open presents together, and enjoy Christmas breakfast all together. When I remarried, my husband humbled himself, knew that this day was about the happiness of the children he also calls his own, and opened his home and heart to my ex-husband. Although the whole thing is strange to many, our tradition is the perfect fit for our family.
In a blended family, someone will most likely be without the children on the holiday. Does this mean the beauty of the holiday has to become non-existent? Absolutely not. This is the perfect time to create new traditions! Celebrate the holiday on a different day, if logistics permit celebrate the holiday in the morning and in the evening. The options are endless. Thanksgiving can consist of a family breakfast buffet at one house and dinner at the other house and Christmas presents can be opened in the evening or on Christmas Eve. Step out of the norm and do what makes the most sense for your family.
Remember the Reason for the Season
It is so easy to get caught up in the commercialism of the holiday season that we forget why we celebrate the holiday at all. Taking time to reflect on things we have to be thankful for during Thanksgiving and celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ at Christmas is the Reason for the Season. Despite the circumstances of becoming a blended family, keeping the reason at the forefront of your mind will help you to stay focused and positive. If you end up with your children for the holiday, encourage them to reach out to their other parent. If you end up without your kiddos for the holiday, try celebrating with someone who has no family or friends, volunteer to serve at a shelter, take a meal to an elderly neighbor or family in need. Be the hands and feet of Jesus.
There is no doubt about it, blended families are challenging! No book, article, or person can give you the answer to what works best for your family. Keeping your children’s best interest first and having an open and humble heart will save your family a lot of stress during this holiday season.
CHIME IN: What tips do you have for blended families during the holidays?
Need a few gift ideas for the kids to give? Check out 8 DIY Christmas Gifts from Kids