For newly blended families, it can be tempting to give in to the fantasy that your holidays together will be perfect and stress-free. The holidays can be especially difficult for children spending time away from their mother. Children may struggle with feelings of disloyalty or homesickness if they spend most of their time elsewhere. There are several ways to help your children enjoy the holidays.
Make the holiday season light and fun. Busy schedules, unrealistic expectations, and dismissing familiar traditions can create an unpleasant environment for everyone. Traditions provide a sense of stability and familiarity for children. Try including everyone in the family, which will bring joy and create a sense of belonging. Adding in some new traditions is a good way to welcome this new chapter of family life together. Ideas include binge-watching holiday movies, exchanging gifts amongst siblings, driving around looking at lights, and Elf on the Shelf. Discuss ideas with the entire family and choose something you all can enjoy.
It’s important to avoid arguing during the holidays. Agreeing on a holiday schedule and making a plan can make the season easier for both parents and children. It’s a good idea to include your children in the planning process. Find out who they want to visit, what activities they’d like to do as a family, and discuss wish lists. You may want to consider extending an invitation to a former partner and even their family members, like grandparents or cousins. While you should always keep your child’s preferences in mind, don’t put them in a situation where they have to decide between parents or feel the burden of choice. There’s a balance and open communication is key.
Your child is going to experience an array of emotions after a divorce or with the introduction of a new family. Acknowledging feelings of sadness, guilt, and anger can help your child move through them. You may also want to help your child to see some of the advantages of having so many people to share the holidays with. If things go wrong, and they may, remember it’s normal and don’t blame it on individuals or the “blended family” itself. When all else seems to fail, focus on what matters most. Enjoy time with each other and celebrate the reason for the season.
Here are eight easy tips to help you and your family enjoy the holiday season.
- Make a plan. As we suggested above, be proactive in discussing upcoming holiday events with everyone. A lot of stress results when families fail to plan.
- Maintain a simple routine throughout the holidays. Simple routine behaviors communicate love and keep us connected even when our typical schedule is disrupted. Hugs before school, a story before bed, and enjoying an afternoon snack together are routines that should be maintained.
- Give kids your permission to enjoy the other household and all their family members. When a father says, “Enjoy Christmas with your mom! I can’t wait to hear all about it when you return home” he’s preventing feelings of guilt and worry.
- Honor traditions. Maintaining old traditions can be more difficult given the shifting presence of family members. Keep the ones you can and look for ways to establish new traditions if new family members are present.
- Be flexible and make sacrifices. You cannot make everyone happy all the time. Accepting this truth takes away the pressure to give everyone what they want. Simply do your best.
- Spend some exclusive time with your children. Schedule some one-on-one time with your children. They want to spend time with you and be seen by you. Maybe go see a movie or plan to Christmas shop together one afternoon.
- Discuss gift-giving. Make sure everyone is on the same page when it comes to gifts. It might be helpful to discuss gift ideas and set a budget. The holidays should not become a competition between parents. Stepparents and stepchildren should be encouraged to give gifts to one another that feel appropriate to their relationship. Don’t force it.
- Embrace your blended family. You may not have chosen all the members of your multiple-household family, but choosing to welcome, embrace, and love them is a gift to everyone.
We hope you find these blended family tips helpful. If you’re experiencing visitation issues or matters regarding legitimation, please contact our office. You deserve to see your child during the holidays. Happy Holidays!