8 ways to better navigate the holidays as a blended family

We’ve been bombarded by indicators of the vacation season since early November. Turkeys, menorahs, and now, Santa and Christmas tunes in each retailer and on each radio station. If you happen to’re like me, and from a blended family, the seasonal trappings can add a entire new degree of stress. Whether or not they’re fashioned after a dying or divorce, blended households create a widening net of prolonged family relationships to be thought-about at celebration occasions, magnifying the complexities they expertise all yr spherical. 

In accordance to the Pew Analysis Middle, in 40% of U.S. families, at the least one accomplice has a baby from a earlier relationship, far totally different from the mid-1970s when my widowed dad married my stepmother. At the moment, most kids lived with two mother and father who had been of their first marriage, and my solely prior publicity to a blended family was the TV sequence The Brady Bunch. Widower Mike, the father of three boys, married the mom of three women, Carol. We solely discover out in a post-series Brady film, that Carol’s husband had additionally died. Their previous marriages are by no means actually mentioned in the sequence and no grandparents appear to exist.

After my dad’s remarriage, we adopted a related sample, leaving the previous behind to create a new future, leading to diminished contact with my maternal relations. My memoir, The Art of Reassembly, recounts how, a lot later, I understood the detriments of this method. It’s more healthy, I realized, to acknowledge the realities of being a blended family, even when they’re difficult. Candor is very vital at the holidays when peculiar stresses could also be amplified. Listed here are some concepts for embracing the complexity: 

Soften Your Expectations 

Releasing expectations of how the celebrations ought to go will foster the most useful mindset. Expectations are insidious. They creep in underneath the radar of our consciousness, forming sharp edges round our feelings. Then they poke others when they don’t seem to be met. Upfront of the vacation season and persevering with as it unfolds, verify in with your self about expectations you might be holding and check out to allow them to go. 

Provoke Communication

Ask everybody to weigh in on how to have fun. Gaining perception into what the others in your blended family need from the vacation season may assist with releasing expectations. Perhaps your youngsters or stepchildren don’t actually care as a lot about the belongings you thought had been sacrosanct. Perhaps they may have solutions of how to stability time with all their totally different households that you simply hadn’t thought-about. 

Put the Youngsters First 

Inviting enter about vacation celebrations from all the youngsters concerned in your blended family facilities them in a manner that issues, however you could observe it up by prioritizing their preferences, even (or particularly) in the event that they battle with yours. This doesn’t imply indulging their each whim. Simply allow them to know you’re listening. Kids normally have little or no say in massive selections like divorce and remarriage that majorly influence them. Permitting them selection when you possibly can will construct belief. 

Embody Your self Too

Placing the youngsters first additionally doesn’t imply ignoring grownup wants altogether. The vacation season is a lot lengthy, so make time in the calendar for one thing that sparks pleasure or brings you peace or connects you to your individual historical past and traditions. As you nurture your self, you’re additionally offering a wholesome mannequin to your youngsters and stepchildren to witness. 

Make House for Feelings

Loss and alter are inherent to any blended family, whether or not from a dying or the finish of a marriage. As with every loss, emotions of grief are seemingly to recur round vacation occasions, which serve as annual reminders of how issues used to be. Settle for that painful feelings happen. They could seem as offended outbursts or chilly silence or sudden weepiness over one thing seemingly unrelated. Noticing and naming emotions permits them to movement by moderately than escalate. 

Schedule Downtime

Feelings are extra seemingly to crescendo when individuals are run ragged. Permit house in the calendar for downtime and relaxation. 

Create New Reminiscences

Whereas spending time with all branches of the blended family is vital, so is creating new reminiscences as a unit. They are often quite simple, such as serving a particular meals or a gathering for a film night time or taking a stroll collectively. New traditions may additionally emerge organically over time. 

Hold Speaking

After the holidays have handed, proceed the communication. Ask everybody what they loved, what they thought labored nicely, what was arduous, and invite their enter about future celebrations. Deliver up the dialog at totally different occasions of yr. It could be simpler to focus on new concepts when the holidays will not be instantly proximate. 


Writer Peg Conway practices Therapeutic Contact vitality remedy in Cincinnati, OH, the place she additionally volunteers at a youngsters’s grief heart. She writes usually about early mom loss and long-term grieving. Her first guide, The Art of Reassembly: A Memoir of Early Mother Loss and Aftergrief, is out now.