So, it’s the end of summer and I’m sure you will miss your family vacations until next summer and can’t wait to go again! No? (I’m laughing right now, but not at you.)
Family vacations are hard! Blended family vacations are a nightmare! First, please know that you are not the first to experience a vacation gone wrong! Pretty much every stepparent that I’ve talked to has experienced the same thing. There is something about being stuck with your blended family somewhere other than home and with limited ability to get away from each other, that just seems to bring out the worst in everyone, while YOU are trying to have a perfect vacation (yeah, it’s never going to be that, so my first advice is to let that go and accept it).
My husband and I decided years ago to stop going on vacations with the whole family together after some terrible experiences. Now that doesn’t mean that YOU have to! I will give some suggestions a bit later, so keep reading.
Our Blended Family Problems
We decided after about 3 years to try it again and pay for everyone (including adults) to go to Disneyland. It was a Christmas gift and we didn’t realize it at the time, but it was kind of a recipe for disaster. Our oldest didn’t join us (she never wants to anymore, because blended families and priorities). Our second oldest daughter had ended a long-term relationship the week before (he never proposed to her and she was ready to move forward in life and start a family) AND she wasn’t feeling well. One of our sons announced with his girlfriend (along for the trip) made an announcement the first night of the trip that they were pregnant (see second oldest – what could possibly go wrong!). Pregnant girlfriend wasn’t feeling well and kept having to go back to the room, which for some reason really angered everyone else. Another son kept sleeping in. For those of you that have been to Disneyland, you are aware of the importance of going to the park early to get your fast pass for the big rides later in the afternoon. While the others were going early to get their fast passes he was mad that he wasn’t getting on the rides, so my husband give him his fast pass and the others were mad about that. I could go on, but you get the point.
My husband tried to make everything better by ignoring the bad behavior and facilitating the fun. There was a lot of fighting and complaining, but you all would have been so proud of me! I was the picture of perfect patience while all this went down…right up until the last night, in front of World of Color. Right before the show, everyone was complaining and fighting and I lost it and yelled at everyone to shut up and be happy to be there or they could go back to the rooms so I could enjoy the show (boundaries are important, but not my best moment, so I’m not saying to do that). There were a lot of wide eyes and everyone was quiet for the entire show! So, once that happened, I was the crazy, terrible person for the rest of night. Is any of this sounding familiar?
After the trip, there were a couple of kids that came forward and admitted that they knew they were awful on the vacation and sort of apologized. That helped and we’ve discussed as a family how we can do better.
We have done some other trips since then for reunions, etc., including regular trips to our family cabin. I wouldn’t call all of them a success, but I have learned some things and want to share some ideas:
- Don’t pay for your adult kids to go on trips unless they have an extenuating circumstance.
- You won’t be as upset that you spent money for them to ruin your trip.
- They may even behave better if they pay for it themselves because they won’t want to waste it on being angry, etc.
- Don’t ask them to help with anything. Someone usually offers, but if they don’t, you will be a terrible person if you react, or if you even ask in some situations.
- You are there to facilitate family fun. That’s it.
- Always remain patient…but don’t let them walk all over you. Find a way to communicate your boundaries in a loving way that puts them on notice that you are simply there to enjoy time with them.
- Disconnect when you need to, but before you let your anxiety show! Go for a walk, a drive, a coffee, a glass of wine (I don’t drink, but you get the picture)…whatever it is. Sometimes you need to recharge emotionally to get through the rest of the trip! Again, you are pleasant when you leave and you are pleasant when you return.
- PREPARE – don’t expect a perfect vacation. Be ready for all the antics, fighting, complaining, etc. They WILL happen, but how you respond will either diffuse it or turn it into a disaster!
In summary, you can’t change others. You can only change yourself. I hope that helps and I wish you the best of luck on your next vacation!
What is a blended family?
According to Your Dictionary, “A blended family is defined as a family made of two parents and their children from previous marriages. An example of a blended family is a woman with two children from a previous marriage who marries a man with three children from a previous marriage.”
What are common problems and challenges for blended families?
Common problems for blended families include children not feeling loved or feeling left out, sibling rivalry, children manipulating parents, ex-spouses, dreading holidays, vacations, marital problems, finances and discipline (or lack thereof).
Can blended families be successful?
Although many stepfamilies seem doomed for failure, it is absolutely possible for a blended family to be successful. While some situations are unhealthy for everyone involved, many families can be saved if there is a desire to work through the problems
How common are blended families?
Blended families are becoming more common. According to Pew Research 62% of children in the U.S. live in two-parent households and 15% of those are living with parents in a remarriage.