Christmas is magic…but it can also be stressful and a bit more complicated for blended families trying to navigate new territory. Blended families face new challenges like shared time during the holidays and conflicting family traditions which can frankly kill the best of holiday buzzes. But it doesn’t have to. With a little preparation and lots of communication, your specially blended family Christmas can go smoother than expected.
Blended Christmas Survival Tip #1: Stay United
As tempting as it is to divide and conquer, make sure you and your spouse remain a united front. Especially if outnumbered by kids (got five over here!) it’s easy to give in to ‘split family’ requests and cater to the needs of your respective kids wanting distance from “the others.” Your kids may not want to go to the “new grandparents” house on Christmas Eve or wait for their step-sister to wake up before searching for the elf on the shelf. They may rebel against their new step-dad’s insistence on caroling the neighborhood (insert excessive eye rolls) and your new step-kids may hate your method of opening presents on Christmas morning (one at a time people…mama wrapped for hours!) but if long term bonding is what you want, do not cave! When you divvy up family activities/traditions it can make you feel at odds or disconnected with your spouse, and we had enough of that feeling when we were single. In the end, kids want security and consistency, which is what they will feel, despite their groans during “Silent Night.”
Blended Christmas Survival Tip #2: Communicate As If The North Pole Depended On It
So obvious, right? Communication is every mid-grade therapist’s solvent to marital bliss. But spending time with our spouse can really take the back burner during the busiest, most hectic time of year, and there really is so much to hash out if this is one of the first holidays you’re sharing as a new family. What are some of the stressors and challenges surrounding the holidays this year? What do you wish could happen, that almost feels impossible at this point? Does your husband know all your feelings on these subjects? Resolving potential conflict before it happens will help you avoid stress and possible arguments, so pick a day soonish to have a relaxed heart-to-heart with your hubs and hash out the holiday play-by-plays. It’ll probably require compromise, but what doesn’t these days?
Blended Christmas Survival Tip #3:
Have A Heart-to-Heart With Your Kids
After you what Christmas is going to look like… where the family is going for Christmas Eve & Christmas, what you’re doing for school vacation, what the spending limit on gifts will be (some families drastically vary on this one!) set aside some alone time with just your kids. This might seem like an easy one but how many times have we intended to talk and then life takes over? The conflict-avoidant gal might shy away from this step, but your kids will feel more valued and acknowledged if you take the time to fill them in, even if they want none of it. We all know children can feel so many varying emotions like insecurity and unsteadiness during the early stages of a family blend, so try not to skip one.
Blended Christmas Survival Tip #4:
Establish New Family Traditions
When people think of blended families, more negative connotations that come to mind …mom and dad running interference amidst two camps of discontent kids while onlooking friends thank heaven their marriage is intact. But blending families can also offer new, fun opportunities, with a simple change of perspective.. Instead of picking and choosing which existing Christmas tradition to uphold, think of new unique activities. This can be anything from having a bake-off to compete for Santa’s choice of cookie (extra present for the cookie that’s gone!) hiding a pickle ornament on the tree for the kids to find Christmas morning or finally taking a trip to that Christmas light display you always said was too far. Maybe even a family sleepover under the tree (air mattress recommended).
Blended Christmas Survival Tip #5:
Combat Sadness When Your Kids Are Gone
There’s a sadness felt during the holidays most non-divorced parents will never experience Those of us sharing custody-even if it’s minimal- with an ex can fall prone to bouts of sadness when we don’ have our kids for portions of the holidays. Nothing can replace our kids being home but I’ve found this much more bearable after inheriting two amazing step kids (I call ‘em bonus kids). They lift my spirits when my natural kids are not around, and they warm that place in my heart left void when my kids are away. It also helps to plan and make the most of the time you do have with them, so when they’re gone, use that time to plan out the fun activities you’ll enjoy when they return. There’s no solvent to deeply missing our kids when we don’t have them on Christmas Eve, or Christmas night, etc. but focusing the time we do have together, and while pouring your love into your bonus kids (if when during separate times) helps tremendously. Most importantly, remember to pray for strength and peace when you’re feeling down. Ask for increased quality time and more joy and peace during the time you have them. Makes all the difference in the world.
Blended Christmas Survival Tip #6:
Focus On Jesus
As much as I’d love to believe this article will solve all our blended family woes this Christmas, the odds are low. So above all else, try and shift your awareness and focus away from the stress, towards the reason we celebrate Christmas to begin with. While so much of the world really has no connection to its true meaning, Christians experience even more joy of the season, if we remember to stay connected to the heart of Christmas. Remaining grateful for the gift of Jesus definitely keeps our spirits high while the siblings fighting over the new iPad or have an Emmy Award-winning meltdown mid-carol.
For more on low-stress blended family Christmas read 5 Tips for Hosting the Holidays This Year.
Check out some ideas for new blended family traditions here.
Join my e-family to receive a free “Sane Mom Survival Guide” for more encouragement!