Blended Family Holidays

by Ron L. Deal

When Sheree became a stepmother, she discovered that the holiday season was now three times as hectic. "Try coordinating schedules, dinner plans and Christmas gifts with the parents of three households — most of whom don't care for each other very much," Sheree says. "Everything is more complicated."

If you're a stepparent, you probably are facing similar challenges. To minimize the stress, it's important to proactively manage family dynamics throughout the holidays:

Plan well. Because your celebrations will require coordinating with multiple households, get an early start on your holiday schedules. Advance planning eases stress later on.

Maintain simple rituals of connection. Amid your hectic schedule, don't forget to nurture your family relationships. Give hugs before the kids leave for school; enjoy family dinners or Friday night movies with popcorn and cuddle time. Don't neglect your date nights either — take much-needed time to reconnect with and enjoy your spouse.

Promote positive communication. Work on your co-parent relationship throughout the year in order to improve holiday negotiations, but realize that ultimately you cannot control the other household. When stuck in tough situations, appeal to difficult family members with, "For your son's sake, let's put our differences aside and resolve this matter." Hopefully this will be motivation enough to make any necessary concessions.

Be flexible. Modify old traditions to include stepfamily members. Be willing, for example, to open presents a day before or after Christmas in order to ease between-home transitions for children.

One stepfather found himself disappointed year after year because his stepson had to rush off to his father's house in the middle of Christmas Day. This dad was never able to fully enjoy the day with his wife and stepson because everyone was watching the clock.

As it turned out, his stepson's biological dad was also discouraged each Christmas and was open to changing the visitation agreement. They settled on an alternating arrangement that gave each home an undisturbed Christmas while the other home had an undisturbed Thanksgiving.

Your situation will be unique, but do what you can to make the holidays a sweet time of connection for all families involved. And for those things that don't come together, set what you cannot change at God's feet.


Ron L. Deal is the founder Smart Stepfamilies and director of FamilyLife Blended for Family Life. He is also a licensed marriage and family therapist, a popular conference speaker, and author. Ron and his wife Nan reside in Little Rock, Ark., and are the parents of three sons.

This article originally appeared in the November/December 2009 issue of Thriving Family magazine. Copyright © 2009 by Ron L. Deal. Used by permission. ThrivingFamily.com.


Did you enjoy this article? Read more like it. Subscribe to Thriving Family magazine!

Favorites

Special Needs: Scared to Let Go

Special Needs: Scared to Let Go

Encouraging your child's independence is hard . . . but worth it

Love on Purpose

Love on Purpose

Conversation starters to strengthen your faith and your relationship

Create Your Own Fun

Create Your Own Fun

Unstructure your tween's free time

Book Reviews for Parents

Book Reviews for Parents

Read our teen and tween book reviews for parents.

Thriving Family Archives

Thriving Family Archives

Articles from the magazine and the website

How God's Design Reveals His Best for You

read more >>

Men of God who made history

read more >>