When people think of blended families, images of iconic sitcom families like the Brady Bunch, or more recently, Modern Family, come to mind. Those sitcoms make us feel good because we know that no matter how complicated the family dynamics might be at the beginning of the episode, in 30 minutes, all will be well. If only real blended family life were that simple?
Creating an inclusive blended family, particularly around the holidays, requires an investment of time that goes well beyond 30 minutes. However, the results and memories you’ll create for your children will last long after the next blended family sitcom has ended. If you are looking to create an inclusive environment for all the members of your blended family this holiday season, here are a few tips for maximum merriment.
When it comes to the holidays, family members often assume that old family traditions will remain the same year after year without considering changes in circumstances or family dynamics. Taking this approach in a blended family is a recipe for unnecessary strife and strain. A better path is to schedule a family meeting early in the holiday season to check in on holiday plans, ideas, and schedules. By planning early and communicating often, you can ensure that all family members feel included, seen, and heard.
During the holidays, co-parents can find themselves arguing over where children spend the bulk of their time during special times like Thanksgiving dinner or Christmas morning. While getting time with your children on these occasions can feel like a “win,” your kids may end up feeling guilty just thinking about the “loser” parent spending this time alone.
So, psychologist Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker reminds parents that during this time, “dates aren’t important; feelings are.” Parents should take care to ensure that each parent has a holi-DAY with the kids during the season no matter what. That holi-DAY doesn’t have to fall on any predetermined date, but both co-parents must not make the other parent’s holi-DAY feel like a second rate event.
The ever-changing location of the elf on the shelf, singing Christmas carols, and decorating the home for the season are just a few of the traditions children get used to during the holiday season. But when co-parents find other partners, they might be eager to replace the old traditions, not realizing just how much their children thrive on predictability and routine. Instead of throwing out the baby with the bathwater, try blending old and new traditions.
Let your kids decide which old traditions the family should keep, and then work as a family to create new traditions to add to the mix.
If your relationship with your ex has been contentious since the moment you broke up, it might be difficult to implement a cease-fire, even during the holidays. However, what children need from both parents during this time is a clear separation of their adult problems from the season’s joy and celebrations. They also need to know that they can enjoy themselves without fear of hurting one parent or leaving another. So to make the season merry and bright for your children, co-parents need to be heroes.
Make the conscious decision to avoid arguing with your ex, talking about their shortcomings, or leaving them out of holiday cheer. Though these gestures of goodwill might feel uncomfortable at the moment, they will pay off for your kids in the long run.
Need help with your blended family this holiday season? We’re here for you. Contact Angela F. Brown and Associates today so we can help you make sure that this special season remains a happy one for you and your family.