Step Families and Holidays
A step parent who has particular holiday traditions from the rest of the family, especially a step parent with no child of their own, can feel left out of the celebration. All family traditions have force. It is vital for everyone to be considered when planning holidays.
- Who is going to spend the holiday where? Holiday plans can be predetermined by custody or shared parental agreements. If you have the flexibility of options, discuss them with the children and try to be flexible around their desires. Some families split up the holidays each year. “I’ll take Halloween and you take Thanksgiving,” or some try to do both “I’ll take Christmas Eve (Mom) and “I’ll take Christmas Day” (Dad). Several people celebrate twice, once with each parent. You also need to consider where the gifts will be opened. Parents who purchase gifts for their children like to see their reactions when the child is opening the gift. How would you feel if you didn’t get to see their surprise? Make sure you think of all parties involved when making plans.
- Take into account the religions of those involved. Hanukkah and Christmas for example. It is important to keep family traditions alive with certain cultures.
- Watch out for trouble on the step sibling front when the kids have other plans. Step children can feel left out if there are “whole” kids in the picture. (Remember your new baby!) Try to keep the presents even, and have the major festivities take place when all the kids are present.
- Create New Holidays – If all the holidays seem to be taken up with stress and other people’s claims (“But Thanksgiving is mine!”), you can always select another day (Cinco de Mayo, Arbor Day, Step parents Day) to become an annual blow-out holiday. Give gifts! Decorate the house! Throw a party!
- If you will not have the children for the holiday, create an alternate festivity for yourselves. Do not stay home and mope. Do not force false cheer. Make new memories. Get creative.
- Plan ahead. Do not let expectations go unspoken, otherwise you will be doomed to disappointment.
- The first few years, try to lower your expectations.
- Do not assume holidays will be calm and peaceful if daily life is full of conflict. There is no holiday from mixed feelings, and you cannot force fun, laughter and family spirit.
- Do not expect holidays to be as you had in the past. Also, be aware the loss of the old ways of doing things is a disappointment for the kids, and for you.
- Discuss how holidays were for each of you, and have each person define which rituals are most important to them. This can be hard to hear but it is important. Incorporate into your holidays a few of these important old rituals.
- The winter holidays are traditionally a time of family togetherness. You and your partner can have private time too but always take the children and step children into consideration.
- Acknowledge you are starting from scratch. There is a new excitement about having the opportunity to create holidays as you would like them to be. Then create a few new family rituals, things none of you have done before. Aim for creating your own holiday spirit (with additions) and welcoming kids into it.
- Do not try to re-create another’s rituals. You cannot make it as it was, you do not want it as it was, and you will only make people unhappy if you try. It will definitely backfire.
- Be flexible and encourage flexibility.
- If things are tense, do not force a get together, or minimize the amount of time spent together.
No matter how you celebrate (or when), remember to celebrate. You are a real family.