By Brenda Rodstrom, MSW, LCSW
Holidays can be so wonderful. Family, great food, decorations, finding (and receiving) the perfect present for a loved one. But for a new, or not-so-new, stepfamily, there are many landmines to be negotiated. A bit of thought and planning can go a long way to making holidays enjoyable for all. Here are a few tips that have helped my clients, and myself, during this time of the year.
If you are newly married you may have very high expectations of creating the perfect day. This thought is to be avoided at all costs! The word perfect should be eliminated from your vocabulary. Better to look at it as a time to further your relationship as a stepfamily. It will grow and get better every year, but the early years are bound to have bounces. Enjoy what goes well, and learn from what doesn’t.
You and your spouse are heads of the household and will set the tone and orchestrate the day. But it would be wise to get input from your children, no matter what the ages. Do they want to continue certain traditions, or are the traditions a reminder of days when Mom and Dad were still married? It might be a good idea to change the way the day is set up. For instance, if you and your ex had an early Thanksgiving Dinner and then went outside to play in the park, it might be better to do something else. Why not invite friends in for part of the day instead? Even changing the hour of the meal or the food served can make a difference in how your kids feel.
It’s a good idea to keep everyone occupied. Kids can help with the meal, set the table, and decorate. Doing things together can be quite bonding. Think of games and activities that the family can participate in. Be sure to ask your kids for input on this.
This is a favorite of mine, and can be enjoyed by a newly blended family. There are so many volunteer opportunities in November and December. Pick one as a family – it could be shopping for the needy, contributing food to a soup kitchen, or visiting an elderly person in your neighborhood. Talk it up as a family and try finding one or two activities that everyone can feel good about.
These are a few ideas of not just surviving the holidays but also thriving. Give yourselves and your family time to grow into new traditions and remember that relationships do not blossom overnight. This is just one more step to becoming a great family unit.