One of the trickiest things to negotiate in a divorce is holidays and how kids will spend time with each parent. It is an area where I see the most negativity arise between divorced couples and it becomes even harder when new partners and stepchildren are added to the equation.
I was part of a blended family growing up and I saw the two extremes in the households where my biological parents lived. On one hand, my siblings and I felt like strangers, and it got even worse once we had children. We were allotted a short visit at Christmas and knew that the stockings with our names on them were coming down the second we left in favor of the biological children of our stepparent.
On the other hand, we had a household where anybody even involved with the family had a homemade stocking on the mantel and everyone was treated to a wonderfully prepared meal and we felt at home.
It was difficult growing up like this but it also prepared me well for my own future which now involves three stepchildren and my own four biological children. Through the years, I have compiled some tips to help divorced people and blended families get through the holidays peacefully and as stress-free as possible (because let’s admit it, the holidays are stressful no matter what):
1. As a parent, don’t be consumed by the actual date that you end up celebrating with your child. Think of Easter and Thanksgiving as an example and realize that those actual calendar dates shift annually. As long as you get to have a day or evening where you are celebrating each holiday with your child or children, then be happy and excited. If your children sense your excitement, they won’t care if Christmas with you is celebrated on December 24 or December 26, or even the next week. They will just be happy to be with you and celebrate the occasion. Don’t be consumed by missing the “Santa” celebration. Christmas is not about Santa. It is about family and giving and love.
2. Create new traditions for yourself so that you don’t fall into a negative state about how the holidays will work. For example, before our youngest son was born, my husband and I never had any of our six children on Christmas Eve. This upset me the first year as the tradition we had at my mom’s house was important to me. Instead of dwelling on this, my husband and I planned a special date every Christmas Eve and opened our gifts to each other as well. This made Christmas Eve one of my favorite nights of the year and it felt like our anniversary instead of Christmas Eve. Now, with our toddler with us on Christmas Eve, we still open our gifts together after we have put him to bed. The next morning we pick up all of the kids and have a great Christmas. The point of course is that you can find a way to be unhappy or you can choose to reframe your experience and make it amazing.