Holiday Tips for Stepfamilies – Part Seven

Holiday Tip #7 – Change what you can, accept what you cannot

The Serenity Prayer

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can, And wisdom to know the

I can list dozens of circumstances within our stepfamily I wish I could change. Instead I strive to accept difficult situations, looking for positive nuggets among the challenges.

I wish I could change that my ex-husband is an alcoholic, resulting in homelessness some years, negligence in his relationship with our girls, and disregard for child support payments. Instead I choose to accept his instability, including lack of financial help, despite escalating expenses with one daughter in college and the other one close behind. I choose to accept that the girls need extra love and guidance from me to sort through their feelings and disappointments.

I wish I could change that my stepchildren lost their mother to cancer five years ago, resulting in painful emotions, particularly during the holiday season. I wish I could rescue them from their loss. Instead I choose to stand beside them on good days and bad, listening to heart-wrenching feelings that children should not have to experience. I choose to allow them the freedom to make good choices and not-so-good choices, praying for healing and maturity through the process.

I wish I could change that our eight-year-old son sees evidence of divorce in his immediate family everyday. I wish I could change the circumstances when he asks why his older brother and sisters have more than one mom or dad. Instead I choose to answer his questions honestly, hoping to give him the tools he needs to engage in healthy relationships as he matures.

We make choices everyday that allow for peace and serenity or anger and anxiety. During this holiday season, I choose to seek serenity as I change what I can and accept what I cannot.

Holiday Tips for Stepfamilies – Part Four

Holiday Tip #4 – Be proactive in planning your schedule

Stepfamilies typically have a lot of people to consider when planning the holiday schedule. If the stepfamily marriage included children from both sides (like ours), there are two other parents and families to consider. So, the sooner you can start negotiating the schedule, the better the chance of finding a schedule that is acceptable to everyone.

This Christmas, my ex-husband decided he was going to make a concentrated effort to see the girls. They have not seen each other in five years and he is usually very unpredictable because he battles addiction. He lives in a neighboring state and planned on coming to visit the week between Christmas and New Year’s. It was the same week we had planned to visit my parents so I tried to work out an alternate plan with my parents, which happened without too much trouble.

We also like to work out a time to have our oldest daughter visit when our other four kids are together. She lives over 300 miles away and has limited time because of her work schedule. So we start planning our schedule with her several weeks before Thanksgiving. It seems very complicated sometimes but it is always worth the effort to have everyone together.

Another part of the holiday schedule that is important to plan includes dates of special programs, church services, etc. that you want to attend and invite other family members to attend. It takes additional scheduling to coordinate piano recitals, choir concerts, etc. but it’s meaningful for the kids to have family members at their special events.

Other activities to consider might include: decorating together, holiday cooking, shopping together, and gift exchange. Planning for each activity in advance allows family members to participate without additional stress to their schedule.

Holiday Tips for Stepfamilies – Part Two

Holiday Tip #2: Put Your Children First

There’s our gang. I love our kids. But sometimes I forget to put their needs before mine. I have to remember that when my husband and I married, we created a stepfamily. Our children didn’t have a choice about it and haven’t always been happy with it.

So, when it comes to the holiday routine, their needs have to be considered also. The kids shouldn’t be pulled between two biological parents for visitation. They don’t need to be put on a guilt trip when they go to their other home. If it’s an emotional departure when the kids leave, they can’t enjoy the time with their other parent and that’s not fair to them.

We also have to put our feelings aside and allow our children to invite their other parent to special concerts, plays, or performances they take part in. There is naturally more communication with the other parent during the holiday period and it is easier for everyone if the communication is friendly and free of conflict, particularly in front of the children. We can take the mature role, even when the other party chooses not to.

For our kids, the schedule has become simpler as the kids have gotten older. My girls’ dad lives in another state and they don’t see him often. My stepchildren lost their mother five years ago after a difficult battle with cancer. However, in the early years of our marriage we struggled with heated discussions and competing schedules every year. We tried to consider the kids’ preferences when negotiating for time and places for special activities.

Work towards creating good holiday memories by considering your kids needs first during the holiday season. They may even thank you for it later!