Five Ways to Find Peace During the Holidays by Gayla Grace

Five Ways to Find Peace During the Holidays

Today my friend, Barb Goldberg, shares her thoughts on celebrating the holidays as a stepfamily.



What is the first thing that crosses your mind when you think about stepfamilies and holidays?

I’m guessing it isn’t peace!

Stepfamilies have an advantage over other families. We know that we have to practice our mediation skills. And we know that we have to establish our peace processes now.

Stepfamily or not, holidays are stressful! But a stepfamily holiday experience can be holiday stress on steroids.

In addition to the everyday chores of a holiday, we get to juggle divorce agreements, children’s schedules, ex-wives, extended family, egos, and gifting. All within a 24-48 hour time frame.

Although it may sound like a nightmare, peace is within our grasp.

Here are five tips that can take your holidays from a war zone to a haven of thankfulness and serenity.

  • Generosity of time
    Be flexible with the schedules. It’s important to keep those agreed-upon commitments, but if a parent runs late, let it go. Relatives may be visiting and holiday events can make you forget about time. Roll with it. Children hate to hear those arguments. It completely stresses them out.
  • Fight the urge to compete
    It’s easy to fall prey to gift wars. In a subconscious battle to win your stepchildren’s love, don’t start buying expensive presents to impress them. The only person who will be impressed is the executive who runs your credit card company. Children know what you’re doing and it’s a bad lesson to teach. Keep the gifts thoughtful regardless of what the other ‘side’ is giving.
  • Write the ex a note
    Holidays are a great time to be grateful and thankful. Write your stepchildren’s parent a note and let them know how much you appreciate their children and the time you spend with them. If you have any other lovely things to express, please do so. There is still nothing like getting a written note.
  •  Act the way you want the holiday to be.  If you still feel like ‘humbug’ when you envision your holidays, act the way you would like them to be. Human behavior is contagious and you will spread cheer when you pretend. Even if you are miserable, don’t show it on the outside. You will be shocked at how you will be convinced by your own show.
  • Swallow your tears and volunteer!
    Volunteering is the best way to spend your time. If you are without your children this holiday, it is the best distraction. If you are with your children, it is the best lesson. Helping others will put your stepfamily woes in perspective. They really are not very serious when you look at the grand picture.

Stepfamily life is a precious gift because it truly does teach us how to celebrate holidays with the perfect spirit. We are lucky. Happy holidays!

Barbara Goldberg

Saving the World, One Stepfamily at a Time

Barb is the author, blogger, speaker, and teacher for The Evil Stepmother Speaks. Barb teaches the art and science of stepfamily management.

Her book, The Evil Stepmother Speaks: A Guide for Stepfamilies Who Want to Love and Laugh is a funny, must-read.

For additional holiday tips, check out our holiday e-book,

Unwrapping the Gift of Stepfamily Peace,

 co-authored with Heather Hetchler of CafeSmom. 

It’s packed with proven tools, tips, personal stories, and new holiday traditions you can create with your stepfamily. And a list of recipes!

It’s a great way to help you find peace at the holidays.

 Unwrapping the Gift of Stepfamily Peace by Gayla Grace & Heather Hetchler

Gayla Grace with Three Reasons Stepfamilies Need Traditions

Traditions – Three Reasons a Stepfamily Needs Them



“Family traditions are a great way for stepfamilies to connect with one another. Family members come together and work toward a common goal in a non-threatening environment. Traditions can be as simple as making paper chains to count down the days toward Christmas (one of my kids’ favorites) or more involved such as helping serve a meal at the homeless shelter. The goal is to find activities that the family enjoys and will look forward to doing together.”

It’s been seven years since I originally penned those words. Little has changed except now the kids are older and we don’t make a paper chain. Some of the kids are now married, so we’ve adjusted our traditions to include spouses and to accommodate the schedules of these new families. Well, now that I think about it, maybe more has changed than I realized. But I still believe family traditions are one of the keys to successfully navigating the holiday season as a stepfamily.

With traditions, everyone knows what to expect and works at accommodating their schedule to allow time to participate.

There are three benefits to creating traditions.

  1. Traditions create bonds. Bonds are strengthened as the family does something together. Think of the strands of a rope. One strand by itself is weak, but when woven together with more strands, the rope becomes stronger. Creating bonds makes your stepfamily stronger.
  2. Traditions provide a means of expressing love and laughter. These emotions help protect a family from brokenness and conflict. Working for a common purpose creates a sense of loyalty to each other and the family.
  3. Traditions create special memories. Memories that will be cherished long after family members pass on. Reminiscing of times’ past with loved ones can help ease the loneliness that creeps in when celebrating the holiday without that special someone.

Traditions are important and flexibility is key to making them work in stepfamilies.

Continuing traditions already in place also helps to provide routine and predictability.  Routine during the hectic holiday time just might offer some stability to otherwise unstable emotions that seem to surface this time of year.

It’s never too late to start family traditions. They offer a sense of belonging that can help cement relationships. Bring your family together and enjoy some new traditions this year!

What are some of your family traditions?

Dear Stepparent: Wrap Yourself in Grace

I cringed with guilt as I watched my son pull a uniform shirt out of the dirty clothes to wear to school. Ugh – how had I failed to get the laundry done?


I’m overwhelmed some days during the holiday season. I can’t keep up with where I’m supposed to be or what I’m supposed to be doing. There’s shopping, parties, Christmas concerts, decorating, baking, gift wrapping, and there’s… writing deadlines, coaching clients, and conference calls. Add in the daily family responsibilities and it’s easy to hit overdrive!

After I dropped my son at school that day, the guilt started again. I need to get those gifts in the mail, I should have done more shopping by now, I forgot to call my stepdaughter and check on her job situation… But then I stopped. I decided to start over with grace.

My thoughts changed to: I’m doing the best I can.  I’ll tackle the laundry as soon as I get home. I’ll ask my husband to go to the post office. I’ll text my stepdaughter and see how she’s doing. I’ll work on shopping after I finish my writing deadline. I don’t have to be perfect.

Are you pushing yourself into a frenzy of guilt? Are you expecting more from yourself than is feasibly possible? Step back and wrap yourself in grace.

Retrace your steps. If your stress set off a string of harsh words, apologize. If your head is spinning from an overly-committed schedule, cross something off. If your house needs cleaning before company comes, hire some help. But don’t strive for perfection. Sometimes good enough is, well, good enough.

Step back and remember the reason for the season. It’s not all about what’s under the tree or hosting the perfect Christmas party. It’s about celebrating with those we love and building memories through good times and bad. Your stepkids won’t remember if you bought the perfect present ten years from now, but they will remember if you apologized for a less-than-perfect parenting moment.

Grace is a beautiful gift. When we offer it to ourselves or to those around us, it multiplies.  One act of grace deserves another. If you forgive yourself for your failure, you have energy to start again. If you hold onto the guilt, you succumb to defeat.

Give yourself the gift of a grace-filled holiday season. And offer it freely and often to others. You’ll find joy and peace in the process.

How will you offer grace to yourself today?

For more holiday tips, follow my blog and  Heather Hetchler’s blog at CafeSmom  as we share tips from our holiday e-book, Unwrapping the Gift of Stepfamily Peace, every Mon, Wed and Friday. Our e-book is a great tool to help you and all stepparents find peace during the holidays and beyond. It’s packed with proven tools and tips, personal stories and a list of recipes and new holiday traditions you can create with your stepfamily.  Unwrapping the Gift of Stepfamily Peace









Pic by Natara

Don’t Let Strained Co-Parenting Steal Your Holiday Joy

I listened as the teen-age girl negotiated the schedule with her dad. It was complicated and she was stressed. I knew she was doing the work her mother should have done; instead she had been thrust in the middle.


Co-parenting often creates tension and additional stress. During the holidays, it’s even harder as we negotiate schedules during an already busy season. It requires intentional effort on our part, including sacrifices and tongue-taming, to make it work. But it’s our responsibility, not our children’s, to negotiate the details.

Co-parenting doesn’t mean we try to control what’s happening in the other parent’s home. After divorce, we relinquish control of how our children are parented when they’re not in our possession. We may not like the rules or lack of rules in their other home, but we can’t control that.

The biggest challenge of co-parenting — learning how to be amicable in a relationship with someone you couldn’t get along with in marriage — is the link to success when parenting children after divorce.  And when disagreements arise, it’s important to keep them out of range of children’s ears. Adult issues need to be confined to adults.

Successful co-parenting strategies include setting boundaries regarding how you will be treated. If you’re dealing with a hostile ex-spouse, you may need to communicate via text or e-mail. Love and respect yourself enough to avoid vulnerable situations that could lead to emotional abuse.

Strained co-parenting gives us an opportunity to practice the gifts of the Spirit as defined in Galatians 5:22-23: “…love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” I know it’s not easy but as our children watch us model kindness and goodness or patience and self-control in the midst of rude or unkind behavior, they learn the value of asserting these qualities in their own lives. And we gain the satisfaction of knowing we did the right thing, even when it wasn’t easy.

Drama, strained co-parenting, and stepfamily holidays too often co-mingle. But you don’t have to let it steal your holiday joy. Take every opportunity to conquer it with a positive perspective, peaceful interactions and determined effort to work through the challenges.

How do you handle co-parenting challenges? I would love to hear your tips.

For more holiday tips, follow my blog and  Heather Hetchler’s blog at CafeSmom  as we share tips from our holiday e-book, Unwrapping the Gift of Stepfamily Peace, every Mon, Wed and Friday. Our e-book is a great tool to help you and all stepparents find peace during the holidays and beyond. It’s packed with proven tools and tips, personal stories and a list of recipes and new holiday traditions you can create with your stepfamily.  Unwrapping The Gift of Stepfamily Peace: A Stepparent's Guide to Success

Pic by Keerati