Holidays are stressful, there’s no getting around it. That stretch between November and January is the climax of family togetherness and as wonderful as it’s all suppose to be, it can quickly lead to stress fighting and spiked eggnog overdoses. Factor in a blended family, and you get eggnog blackouts. Only kidding. Can that happen? Nonetheless, holidays can be tricky for blended families. There are more sides of the family, — especially if parents have remarried — more schedules, more events, and each parent wants their child with them for all of the family togetherness. It is in everyone’s best interest to nail down holiday schedules long before the first decorations go up. Bonus points if it’s done before Walmart starts selling decorations! Other than that, here are five tips to help your blended family keep the cheer this holiday season.
1. Give the kids advance notice
Nothing can make kids spiral downhill faster than an upset schedule — especially if your kids are younger. The holidays bring on many types of schedule changes and in the mayhem of executing them, kids are often the last ones to find out. Idea: talk to your kids about the changes* and mark it on a calendar where the kids are likely to see it often.
*always and forever be positive about your child’s schedule. It’s tough when children don’t want to participate with one of their parents, but always encourage them to make the most of it. Never talk negatively about your child’s parent. Ever. Even if it’s the truth.
2. Deck the halls…whenever you can
Presents don’t have to be opened on the 25th and turkey doesn’t have to be gobbled on Thursday afternoon. The date of the celebration isn’t nearly as important as the family who celebrates it. Take some liberties and schedule as many family gatherings as possible around your children’s schedules. At the same time, be mindful of scheduling a big turkey dinner an hour after your child gets back from the big turkey dinner at his other parent’s house. Include, but don’t overwhelm. Idea: If your child is spending Christmas with his other parent, open presents on Christmas Eve and save the stockings for when they return. This also gives them time to play with their toys before switching homes. Which brings me to…
3. Gift giving
There are many aspects to this one. First of all, this is not a popularity contest between parents, so don’t over spend in an attempt to one-up your child’s other parent. This doesn’t help anyone. Also, presents are given for the child, not for the house. If your child wants to take her gifts to her other home, let her. They are hers now. Lastly, be mindful of gifts your child wants to give to her other parent and his/her new spouse. Take your child shopping for them. A little graciousness goes along way and your child will always be thankful for your thoughtfulness. Idea: Homemade gifts are fantastic here, especially if your budget just can’t squeeze another brown paper package tied up with string.
4. Don’t be critical of small things
Focus on creating good memories for your children, but don’t get stuck on your own definition of good. It can be assured that your holiday will not go exactly as planned, so be ready to roll cheerfully with the changes and let it go. This is especially true for blended families meeting new sides of their spouses family. Be open to creating new traditions. Idea: Talk with your kids about the special blending of families and warn them that some traditions may change, so that they aren’t taken by surprise at a familial stranger’s house.
5. Family Ties
I love hearing stories about blended families who put aside their differences and host a holiday gathering for all sides of the family. Adults who can lead the way in these festivities are amazing examples to their children and testaments to their family. It’s not easy, especially the first time, but what a remarkable way to show children the qualities of family and give them the opportunity to have everyone they care about together. Idea: When deciding whether this would be good for your family, open communication with your child’s parent is a must. Not up for an in-home gathering yet? Suggest a family dessert after the kid’s holiday play performance.
And whatever you do, enjoy this season! Your kids are learning how to handle stressful situations by watching you. By being welcoming and gracious of their other family, you’re offering a gift that truly keeps on giving. As they grow, they will realize more and more how you went out of your way to make their holidays special and inclusive. These five tips will put you well on your way to a festive blended family holiday, no special eggnog needed.