The cheer of the holiday season is upon us and if you’re like many, you’re busy buying gifts, attending holiday festivities and enjoying time with your loved ones. However, if you’re a part of a blended family with step kids, exes and spouses – the stress of it all can make it NOT one of the most wonderful times of the year. For nearly half a million Canadians who are stepparents, this time of year can be especially complicated.
During this cheerful season, it’s important to always remember that at one level or another stepfamilies and blended families are born out of one or several losses either through death, separation or divorce. Since the holidays are a time of remembering, that can sometimes include: past losses, relationships and good and bad memories. This time of year can also be a time when emotions run high and individuals, adults and children alike, can find themselves sad, easily disappointed or pessimistic because they expect the holidays to be difficult. But, it doesn’t have to be that way for you and your family. It can also be a time for new beginnings, shared love and appreciation of the people in your lives.
To help you manage the holidays we have compiled a list of a few ideas to help you decrease some of the stress and tension of the holidays and maximize your chances of creating a memorable time together:
Focus on the kids
This is the absolute most important step to a successful and happy holiday. It’s crucial that you put any anger or resentment toward exes aside during the holidays so you can focus on making a special memory for your children. Be willing to try some experiments. Try it the way the other parent wants it or try letting the children decide how they want it to be, within reason. Additionally, sharing informal, productive activities is very bonding, as is allowing others in the family to mentor you.
Focus on the future (not Christmas past)Though hard for some to accept, the holidays will be different with the new blended family than your holiday celebrations in the past. However, this is a great time to look at it as an opportunity to create new and special traditions. Communication is key and talking to your children about how things are changing and including them in your decisions is a great way to make everyone feel involved. By talking about these realities and sharing expectations, it highlights that this new family dynamic is unique and different from the first family and can release pressure for everyone. This opens the door to new traditions, new activities and new ways to spend time together as a blended family.Biological parents should try to spend some exclusive time with their children
While everyone tries to get in a little more family time during the holidays, biological parents especially should take advantage of opportunities to spend special one-on-one time with their children. Whether it be having a hot chocolate together and watching a movie or cutting down the Christmas tree, this ensures that the child knows that though everything else might seem to be different this year during the holidays, your love and loyalty will always be there.
The holiday season doesn’t have to be a time of stress overload for blended families. Though creating new family memories isn’t always easy, it’s always worth the effort. Hopefully in the future you and your stepfamily can turn a chaotic holiday gathering into the loving family picture you can view in the years to come.