When you throw parents, grandparents, siblings, children, stepchildren, in-laws, and exes into the mix, the holiday season can quickly cause a lot of tension and drama. So how can you make sure your blended family survives the upcoming Christmas season? Here are few tips to help you get through and maybe even enjoy this time with your family.
Expect the Unexpected
Far too often, people experience symptoms of anxiety because their expectations aren’t met. But did you know that expectations are oftentimes a form of control? By letting go of your expectations and acknowledging that you can only control your side of a conversation and, thus, can’t control the outcomes of all holiday interactions, you will have much more peace in the midst of the chaos. Expect the unexpected and nothing more. And take deep breaths when you get triggered to relax yourself.
Be Open to New Traditions
As a blended family, you will be merging traditions from two families and that can cause some growing pains for everyone involved. Children might be hesitant to accept new holiday traditions or let go of old ones, but you can set a good example with a positive attitude and willingness to compromise. If your family is arguing constantly over whose traditions should be maintained, it might be time to consider starting fresh and building a new holiday routine that’s just as unique as your blended family. Sit all together over dinner one evening and brainstorm or Google “holiday traditions around the world” (e.g., http://www.whychristmas.com/cultures/). Get creative!
Plan Holiday Schedules in Advance
If you are sharing custody of your children with an ex, make sure you plan a holiday schedule far in advance. Deciding where your child will spend Christmas can stir up a lot of emotions. You might feel angry, frustrated or even depressed. By dealing with these scheduling issues ahead of time, you will have time to move past the initial emotions before the holidays arrive. If you don’t have the kids for Christmas this year, plan a great getaway for yourself, commit to working in a soup kitchen, or put together a few friends and do something special. Take care of yourself!
Be Mindful of Children’s Emotions
Kids will be more vulnerable to anxiety and stress than usual during the holidays. Young children in particular just do not have the maturity to express some of the mixed emotions that come from spending Christmas in a new place with a blended family. The holiday season might bring up old memories and be a fresh reminder that mom and dad aren’t together anymore. Even if both parents make a genuine effort to make the holidays special, it still won’t be the same as before and children will often mourn these changes. Be sure to validate your child’s feelings. It’s okay to feel sad! Tune in with your whole heart and know it’s okay to say that you feel a little disoriented too, if you do. And then you can gently remind children (and yourself) of all the new things to celebrate as well… two Christmas trees instead of one, the opportunity to make new experiences and traditions, and getting to be with a variety of people we love, for instance!
Cling to Joy
Even if everything goes wrong and he holidays don’t go quite as you imagined, you can still choose to cling to joy. Take an inventory of your blessings and give thanks for your new blended family. Remember that love is multiplied not divided. Blending two families into one might pose some unique holiday challenges, but ultimately it can sometimes add more joy to the mix.