Holidays can be brutal for the children of divorced parents. Kids often feel incomplete. If the children spend the time with you and your partner, they will no doubt feel torn about not being with poor Mom or Dad. Try to respect the fact the kids are thinking of their other biological parent and their nostalgia for the past is not a direct shot at you. It is nothing personal.
Virtually all kids have these fantasies, especially around the holidays. The kids like the idea of their parents together, even if in reality their parents cannot spend two minutes in the together in a room without making the children want to run off to the nearest closet and cry.
If the kids spend the holiday with their other biological parent, they will be missing your partner—and even you!
Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, your birthday—there are lots of opportunities for feeling down about being a step parent. But do not give in. An attitude will get you nothing but grief. Moping around because no one remembers your birthday is not fair. You have to tell people, “Hey, my birthday is on Friday and I want us to all go out to dinner.” Tell your partner birthdays are important to you, and strongly suggest your partner talk to the kids about acknowledging it.
Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, “Hallmark” holidays or not, can feel like particularly high hurdles to cross, especially the first one. Do not leave it to chance. Discuss your feelings with your partner before you get disappointed. Then it is your partner’s job to get the kids involved.
Before special events or days which are important to you, take the initiative:
- Be clear about your plans. Anticipate problems and discuss them with the children.
- Tell them your expectations. People are not mind readers. Talk with your partner.
- Do not expect a major deal about Mother’s or Father’s Day. The kids feel conflicted enough as it is. Acknowledging it is important, but celebrating it may be too painful.
- Yes, of course it hurts to be ignored or snubbed. Try to understand the positive intent behind it. It is not meant to hurt you. It is about guilt and loyalty to the other biological parent.
Holidays are influenced with rituals (and rituals are not considered rituals unless you do them over and over) we all expect certain things to happen during the holidays. But what happens when the rituals change? We’re still expecting them. If not careful, we will find ourselves back with the feelings of disappointment and pain.
The longer you are together as a family, the easier the holidays will feel as you develop your own rituals and traditions. But at first, the crunch of expectations and disappointment can make holidays rough. Each of you in your step family has an internal sense of what feels right for the holidays, and this sense is built from your past experiences. Every family does things slightly different, even if celebrating the same holidays. Incorporate change slowly and include the children in on the planning. Help them to understand that when families combine, it creates a new opportunity for new traditions and new celebrations. The children will be more apt to participate if they feel included. Just remember – change takes time, patience, and love.