The holidays can be stressful, even in the most traditional settings. For blended families with stepchildren and exes, a widened sphere of relationships can complicate things further. To reduce stress and create happier memories, learn some effective ways to create a calm, positive holiday experience.
Make New Traditions with Stepfamilies
It's not always easy for adults to let go of resentment, jealousy and unresolved issues related to past relationships. Often, these hurt feelings manifest when people are thrust together for holiday gatherings. Jealousy can also be a big problem for stepchildren, who can feel as though they are treated differently from their half-brothers and sisters. Whatever the issues, you can create a more fertile environment for fun and closeness using the following strategies.
- Plan ahead. Provide everyone with an itinerary, so they know exactly what to expect.
- Keep an open mind. Let go of any preconceived notions relating to how things should go. Don't expect a made-for-TV, Brady Bunch Christmas-style affair, or you are bound to have feelings of disappointment.
- Be inclusive. Communicate key details to extended families and co-parents. Discuss options and allow others to share their ideas.
- Keep things simple. Create a basic plan that's free from complications. Avoid packing too much into your schedule.
- Be flexible. Don't treat your holiday schedule like the Ten Commandments. Be open to spontaneity and don't get flustered if you aren't able to follow your schedule to the letter.
- Strive for equity. Understand that children and adults will make gift comparisons. Try to be thoughtful and fair with all children, step and biological alike.
- Rise above hostility. Children experience significant stress when blended families are uncivil and disrespectful to one another. Meet the challenge by remaining calm and controlling your own behavior, even when others refuse to do the same.
- Blend traditions. Ask others if they have any traditions and include them in the festivities.
- Eliminate guilt. Don't project your hurt feelings onto your child when they go to spend part of the holidays with an ex. Release your children from guilt by being as supportive as possible.
- Be realistic. Accept that you may never be able to fully eliminate all anxiety and step-stress. Understand the role of loyalty and loss, and just do your best to make things as smooth as possible, one step at a time.
Enjoy the Moment with Blended Family Members!
Blending families requires a delicate balancing act of incorporating new traditions and maintaining existing ways. By making a strong effort, you can create a sense of togetherness and wholeness that will lead to new family memories. Even if you harbor ill will toward an ex or family member, it's important to remember that you can control your actions. A little planning will also help reduce anxiety by getting people on the same page and making everyone feel involved.