Bob and Rose are a blended family now. They are asking for ways to make the holidays better in terms of that blending. Here are 10 tips:
- Examine your expectations and let go of any ”Brady Bunch” fantasies. Most disappointments come from unrealistic expectations.
- Continue “old” holiday traditions with your biological kids while creating new ones with the stepfamily. This helps the children ease into the new.
- If the kids don’t feel the holiday cheer, try to see the world from their point of view. They have lost the old and are adjusting to the new. Eventually, they will adjust.
- Practice the fine art of silence when your stepfamily is stressed by the holidays. You don’t have to share all your negative feelings.
- Don’t compete with your children’s “other” parents by showering kids with expensive gifts.
- Stepmoms, reach out to your stepkids’ mother. Buy her a gift. Tell her you appreciate her children. (OK, this is optional!)
- Don’t fight with ex-spouses about how much time you will spend with children over the holidays. It only hurts the children
- Invite your ex-spouses over for a holiday party. Brace for surprises.
- Join a stepparent support group to share the many feelings about “family” that come up during the holiday season.
- Pray and be patient. Blending takes on average, 2-4 years of adjustment time.
- We will be traveling to our relatives in another state for several family gatherings during Christmas. Two of my siblings are problem drinkers and I am not sure how to handle this with my family. We do not drink so my children are not used to seeing family members act up while under the influence. In the past, the drinking has gotten out of hand. My children are now old enough to ask questions. What do I do or say if the drinking starts to become a problem again?
Drinking during the holidays can get out of control and create many problems for families, especially in families where problem drinkers are in denial and do nothing to prevent getting intoxicated.
The best advice is to make sure that when you visit, you have a way of escape. Even if your siblings offer to let you stay at their homes, reserve a room at a hotel. That way, if their behavior becomes problematic, you can leave.
Before you travel, I would tell them and your parents that the past history of drinking makes you uncomfortable and that if things begin to get out of control, you will excuse yourself and leave. This way it puts the burden on them to moderate. If they persist in their behavior, you explained the rules ahead of time.
If you leave, have a talk with your children about the importance of family (the reason you continue to visit) but that there are times family members must set limits and boundaries on behavior that is unsafe or inappropriate. Being around people who are drunk is not something you want to expose them to or be around. Altered states change people in ways that are not always nice. This is a hard line to take but one that will earn the respect of your children and may cause others to rethink their enabling behavior. Don’t allow anyone to put guilt on you for setting boundaries. You are not telling your family what to do, but telling them what you will or will not tolerate to keep your family safe.
- Even though I love the holidays, I also dread them because of the stress involved. I feel on-edge, my children are out of sorts and my husband and I seem to fight about family and activities to attend. I don’t want to feel like Scrooge this holiday season. Are there ways to minimize the stress and actually enjoy this time of the year?
The holidays can be overwhelming if you allow the activities and commercial hype to take over your schedule and life. Approaching this time of year with intention and planning helps prevent family meltdowns and conflict.
First order of business is to purchase a small notebook and write down a list of what needs to be done during this season. Include everything you can think of from shopping to baking for school events. Then put it all on a calendar according to deadlines.
Next, you and your husband sit down together and go over the list. Prioritize the list and make sure there are activities you both like and agree to keep on the list. You can turn down invitations and reduce your volunteering if the list looks overwhelming.
Third, consider shopping-online. You save time and the hassle of crowds. To save money, watch for free shipping days.
Finally, focus on the spiritual side of the holidays. The commercialization of Christmas is emphasized in our culture, so you must do all you can to promote the true meaning of Christmas. Read the Christmas story, attend church services and special programs, pray as a family and take the time to sit quietly in front of your tree and thank Jesus for being Emmanuel, God with us. It is this reality that brings peace to our lives.
Despite the stress, the message of Christmas is about joy, peace and hope. The light of the world has come! Rejoice!
- I am divorced and think my ex spends way too much money on Christmas gifts for our two young kids. This is causing tension between us. It feels like a competition I can’t win. I find myself spending too much because I don’t want to look cheap. He has more money than I do. I think he buys the kids expensive gifts because he feels guilty for leaving. How do I get him to be more reasonable?
Getting along with an ex seems to require more intention during the holiday season. To deal with this issue, you need a no competition rule. Instead of trying to one up each other, focus more on how to make the time with the children meaningful and pleasant. Both of you must work together for the sake of the children instead of using them to make a point.
Meet your ex for coffee and talk about gift giving and see if you can work together on a gift list for the kids. If you can’t do this in person, then try email. If there is an expensive gift, then suggest going in on it together. Don’t bring up other issues. Stay on point and try to coordinate the giving.
If he refuses to work with you, talk about the impact of this on the kids. Resist giving him counseling!
If he continues to buy the children’s affection, be careful not to say this to your children. Simply say, “Wow, really nice gift from daddy,” and drop it. The tension is created by your anger or upset for his lack of cooperation. You may be right about his motivation but to hang on to that resentment only hurts you.
So, present the issue to him, suggest ways to work together for the sake of the kids and see what he does. With or without his cooperation, you can let go of anger/resentment, release the tension and give it to God.
Spend only what is reasonable in your budget and don’t make it a competition. Sometimes when there is a tug of war, the best strategy is to drop the rope. And whatever you do, don’t involve your kids in this issue. Keep in mind that your children won’t remember who bought them the most stuff, but will remember who helped make the holidays a positive and memorable occasion.