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!
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,
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.