Children are usually very excited during the holiday season - the thought of Santa, the festive lights, parties, and trees, and buying gifts are enough to send shivers of excitement down any child's spine! However, adults and children in blended families sometimes experience stress and worry around the holiday season.
Adults and children of blended families often have expectations that the previous traditions of the holidays can proceed as before. However, in a newly blended family, there are now the traditions and rituals of two families to be considered. Often, the best solution is creating new traditions, with the realization and acceptance that the past and its traditions will be grieved, both by adults and children - and that's okay! Without this grieving, the holiday season can result in hurt and anger, frustration, and confusion.
So, here are some tips for planning your holidays so everyone in your blended family enjoys them:
- Talk to your children about which traditions are important to them. You will not truly know which traditions are important to your children until you ask them. You might actually be surprised by what is and what isn't important to them. Consider trying to incorporate one of each children's top favored traditions. Which brings us to the next tip...
- Be flexible about the timing of your celebrations and traditions. Flexibility is one of the most important characteristics for a happy, blended family, and it is even more important during the holidays, since there will likely only be certain times the whole family is together. For some, this might mean eating Thanksgiving meal on a day other than Thursday, and for others it might mean opening presents on a day other than Christmas morning. Giving the family permission to celebrate in new, different ways can be a way to incorporate some of the previous loved traditions into the new, blended family.
- Establish new traditions. Along with incorporating some of the previous traditions, it is important for your new blended family to develop its own family traditions. Be creative with it, and above all have fun! Maybe there are things that your kids always wanted to do but never seemed to find the time during the busy holiday season. Those can be developed into fun, new family traditions. Again, don't forget to ask your children their input on what new things they would like the family to do together!
- Take a deep breath, and be patient. Please understand that it will take time for a blended family to run smoothly - it won't happen overnight! Expect some bumps along the way, and understand that your children might express their feelings in many ways, all of which might not be constructive. So, patience and understanding are two things that your children will need from you during this time.
- Communicate your plans to everyone involved. It's important that everyone is on the same page about your holiday plans, including your ex and other parents involved. Make sure all the adults/parents are clear on the schedules to avoid conflicts. And, make sure your children all know the plans in advance, so they know what to expect. Ensuring they know what to expect will reduce the stress and allow everyone to enjoy the holiday plans.
Lastly, don't forget to let the kids mourn the loss of their previous family and traditions. As we said before, the grieving is a critical piece to letting go of the past so they can embrace the new blended family. Your children may want to reminisce about previous holidays and traditions, and it's important to let them do so. Though your family may not be intact, the many memories still exist and you don't want your children to feel bad about that! Also, let them know their feelings of loss are normal, and it's okay to feel that way.
Flexibility, small steps, and a realistic view of the holidays will enable you to have fun blending your families during the special holiday season!