Today I’m posting a guest post by Laura Reagan-Porras, MS, a parenting journalist and sociologist. She gives a few tips for thriving through stepfamily holidays.
One Part of New Normal and Two Parts of Stepfamily Doesn’t Equal Holiday Fruitcake
The holidays present special challenges for stepfamilies. I divorced 13 years ago and remarried 7 years ago. Through trial and error I’ve learned a few things about what works and doesn’t work. As a clinical sociologist, I also facilitate co-parenting education groups.
Marriage and family sociologists estimate at least 1300 new stepfamilies are form every day! According to the U.S. Census, over 64% of families will have at least one step-relationship at some point in the arch of the family. We are the new norm!
· Let Go of Expectations
My husband invited our daughters to his parents’ Christmas Eve dinner but didn’t push them to go. They were older and had their own traditions established with me as their biological parent prior to the new marriage. My girls chose to go to dinner with his parents but didn’t want to stay for the gift giving extravaganza since they didn’t know extended family members well. Tweens and teens may need to take their time embracing an extended family.
There is not a perfect holiday family activity that will make everyone suddenly feel closer.There is not a perfect holiday meal. There is no perfect gift that will heal divorce. There are only opportunities to connect and connection can be defined in a variety of ways. Children may choose to connect or they may not, depending on where they are in the process of accepting and feeling part of the stepfamily. Wherever they are in the process is valid.
· Be Open and Flexible
“My mom doesn’t make the turkey that way.” A brave step parent might respond by saying, “Tell me how your mom does it. I might want to try it like that sometime.” If the child says, “Daddy’s Christmas tree has the ornaments I made when I was little.” A wise stepmom might say “That must be really special to have those memories and ornaments on the tree. Will you help me make an ornament for our tree? Biological parents can support the stepfamily dynamics by sharing with the child, “Not everyone does things the same way; we can try a new way.” Learning to live with different people and different styles is a positive skill that helps kids of stepfamilies their interpersonal and professional lives.
· Keep It Simple
Keeping activities simple helps diffuse tension and helps new family members get to know each other without pressure. Here are some ideas for starting new family traditions.
– Watch a holiday DVD and string popcorn for the tree.
– Go to a holiday movie in a theatre together.
– Go Christmas caroling around your neighborhood, laugh with each other, let kids be silly
– Go to church, synagogue or mosque together.
– Volunteer together at the charity or non-profit of your choice.
– Bake holiday cookies together.
– Make New Year cards for military service personnel.
– Trim the Christmas tree together as a family
Family is about being loved and accepted for who you are, no matter how family is defined or configured. Don’t let stepfamily challenges ruin your holiday fruitcake this season.
Laura Reagan-Porras, MS is a parenting journalist and sociologist. She facilitates co-parenting education classes. Laura and her husband, Medardo are enjoying the benefits of stepfamily blending with two daughters. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or LinkedIn.
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.
Pic by artur84