Looking back on your blended family holiday
What do you get when you blend two families? You get unresolved feelings of anger and bitterness over what has been lost, mixed allegiances as birth parents and step parents, loyalty confusions for birth children and step kids, conflicts with ex-spouses, and lots of confusion for you and the children who are in the middle of all of it. Add a holiday and everyone has extra challenges to meet and overcome.
You made it!
Hopefully, you and your blended family have survived the peak holiday stressors. You were flexible when it came to who sees who on Thanksgiving Day, and in arranging various dinner invitations and extended family gift-sharing gatherings. You were super polite and genial with your partner’s ex-spouse, and you refrained from overreacting when your mother-in-law kept calling you by your predecessor’s name. Your spouse went the extra mile to make sure you felt comfortable around your new extended family. Your own parents were accepting and loving with your step kids. So why do you still feel a little let down?
Something is missing
Just as you sympathetically pointed out to your kids and step kids, it is normal to feel a little sad at Christmastime when you cannot be with all the people you love. It is not unusual for children to feel unhappy about not being with you, or with their other parent, on special days or holidays. That goes for you, too! By gently forgiving yourself for having them, you can move past feelings of remorse and find more enjoyment in the celebration.
How things are supposed to be
A blended family is by definition formed from two unrelated parts, with disparate customs and rituals. Just because you and your children have always sent Thank You cards for gifts received, do not assume your step kids have been schooled in the same way. A desire to invent new holiday traditions for your blended family may meet with resistance or bad feelings. Try not to judge tipsy Uncle George or prickly Cousin Natalie too harshly, and let instances of inappropriate talk or behavior at family gatherings pass, too, unless of course they directly impact the children. Be patient as you and your new blended family learn to live, laugh and celebrate together, and let go of ideas of how things ought to be. You are in new territory, and everything is up for possible adjustment or elimination.
Family celebration as a non-competitive sport
Enjoying the Holidays is not about buying the best gifts or spending the most time with each other. Competing with an ex-spouse over gifts or time with your children creates a tense environment for your child. Instead of allowing jealousy to make you compete for his or her attention and love, focus on being the best parent you can be for your child. Be mindful of how you are feeling. When you feel anger or resentment toward an ex-spouse bubbling up, take the challenge to be the best person you can be. Replace negative feelings and thoughts with kindness and generosity, for the benefit of your child.
Review the holiday
After the dust settles, talk with the kids about how well they thought your blended family Holidays went. Did they enjoy meeting or spending time with extended step family members? What could have made the Holidays better? Which traditions do they want to be sure remain part of your blended family celebration? Which parts could you all do without?
Your blended family holidays and celebrations are yours to develop, to change, to keep, or to exchange. Each year you celebrate together, you are creating important memories, bonding, and growing as a blended family. Remember that the only constant thing in the life of a blended family is change. Embrace it, learn from it, and you will be surprised how satisfying blended family life can be!