The holidays are exciting for most families; however without planning, holidays for stepfamilies can be disastrous. My husband and I are a blended family of eight children and have been married for over thirteen years. Starring out we really struggled on almost all of the holidays whether it was Christmas, Easter, Father's Day or Mother's Day. Through our trials and tribulations we would like to share our top ten tips for ensuring a happy holiday season.
1. Plan, Plan, Plan – It has been said if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Preparations must be made early in the year. Where will children spend the holidays, how will you celebrate the big events like Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s?
2. Manage Step Schedules – Standard visitation schedules means sharing children with the other parent. If you had Thanksgiving this year, children may spend Christmas day with the other parent. Coordinate and be considerate of others, especially the children. Share calendar dates for additional activities such as programs, parties and other events at church, school or work.
3. Manage Expectations – Unrealistic expectations can lead to disappointment. Do not make promises you are unable to keep. Be realistic and communicate with everyone in the stepfamily system.
4. Establish New Holiday Traditions – Families have traditions around when, where, with whom, and how they celebrate holidays. Even holiday decorations and gift opening can be a source of contention when everyone wants to do things the way they used to. Combine the best of both worlds and make new memories and traditions.
5. Manage Holiday Budgets – Discuss how much you will spend for the holidays especially related to gift buying. Decide how much money will be spent on each child. One way to save money and avoid competition with the biological parent is to discuss gift choices and split costs.
6. Holiday Meals - Involve everyone in meal planning and consider dietary restrictions. Be strategic in seating arrangements. The husband and wife should sit in the King/Queen position at the table. Seat younger children closest to their biological parent if possible. Know everyone’s favorite dishes. Include children in cooking and planning. Inform adult children of what items they are to contribute.
7. Consider Extended Family – Children in stepfamilies may have as many as four sets of grandparents. Do not overextend your family time by trying to visit everyone in one day. Think of the holidays as a season rather than only one day and make plans with extended family accordingly.
8. Manage Guest Lists – Discuss guest lists with everyone to avoid surprises such as children inviting your ex to a holiday dinner. Be ready to explain your choices.
9. Learn From Mistakes – It won’t take long to figure out what went well and what went not so well. Make adjustments accordingly and get a head start by beginning next year’s holiday planning no later than the end of June.
10. Remember the Reason for the Season – Never forget holidays are about family, fellowship and food. Put aside your differences and have a happy holiday!
Janice R Love, Author
First Lady, Mom, Stepmom and Divorce Ministry Coach