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Celebrating the holidays as a blended family

Negotiating the holidays

Emotions run deep come the holiday season. Holiday planning can be hectic, especially for blended families.

Today’s families are increasingly blended, meaning they’re a combination of families due to divorce or death. Even though the holidays are meant to be joyous, navigating traditions and accommodating the unique needs of all involved — including cultural traditions, visitation schedules, rituals, and religious beliefs — can be challenging. But blended families need not fret as they attempt to negotiate Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanzaa, or New Years.

Logistics

The first step to holiday planning is to keep in mind predetermined custody or visitation agreements. Although there can be hope for holiday flexibility and generosity, try to stick as close to existing arrangements as possible. Some families choose to divvy up particular holidays throughout the year in advance. Others may do it as plans get arranged. As long as the arrangement is fair to everyone, the choice is up to the families. The plans should be made known to all involved.

Discuss expectations

The Stepfamily Association of America says that communication during the holiday season is vital, especially for children so they know what to expect. Writing down specific itineraries can help alleviate the stress of not knowing where they will be at a given time.

All members of the family should vocalize how they feel about particular aspects of the holidays so that no one is disgruntled. Do not expect others to be mind readers. Perhaps one person is focusing a significant amount of energy on trimming the tree when that isn’t as important to others. Discussing expectations can make planning that much easier.

Create new traditions

The holidays without everyone under the same roof enjoying traditions that have been part of celebrations for years can contribute to feelings of anxiety for people accustomed to these annual traditions. Draw the focus away from how things used to be done and create new traditions that all can anticipate. Host a holiday movie night if this isn’t the year to have the kids for Christmas. An annual outing to see a concert or show might be a new tradition the entire blended family can enjoy.

 Don’t expect perfection

Putting too much emphasis on trying to make the holidays perfect can backfire. Blended families must recognize that holiday celebrations will change. It can take time to find a new celebratory rhythm, and comparisons always will be made. It’s acceptable to have mixed feelings about new traditions, but each member should go into the season with a positive attitude.

Blended families may face additional challenges during the holidays. Working together, such families can restore joy to the season and create new traditions.