The holidays are a wonderful time for every family, but they don’t come without some stress and anxiety. Many step-parents find that begin dread family gatherings. They miss traditions that were lost when the family blended or they want to avoid figuring out which kids are going to which parents. Even when this is outlined in the parenting plan of the divorce documents, it can be stressful. Step-parents also worry about the acceptance and appreciation of their stepkids and worry about whether they would rather be somewhere else.
Holidays in our Blended Family
In our family, we have had some pretty interesting holidays which left me with a slight aversion as they crept closer. The kids’ mom usually joins us for the holidays. The few times that they didn’t was when she lived out of state and they went to her or when she was mad at us for some small thing with the kids and we just acquiesced to her wishes to make it easier. The rest of the time, we decided that inviting her would allow all of us to have time with the kids and enjoy the holiday. If this seems like the weirdest thing you think we could possibly do, it might be a good idea for you to read my post on The Other Mom. In the past, this included the other mom fighting with her oldest daughter and yelling profanities, but most of the time it was fine and only my own insecurities would get in the way. Since the kids didn’t have as much time with their mom as they did with us (they all lived with us at the time), they spend all of their time with her and I would end up doing all of the work and feeling like I was missing out on the fun. My own kids also felt left out and my oldest started to avoid holidays too. I had no idea at the time how to navigate this problem and in some ways we still deal with the same issues.
I spoke with a friend recently that also shared her apprehension about Thanksgiving. She has 4 kids and her husband has 6 kids. His kids don’t live with them, but even so, she feels that she has lost her families traditions as her husband has tried desperately to make his kids feel at home while sticking with their old traditions. Family traditions for Thanksgiving are an interesting thing. They can include types of food prepared, baking pies together, taking turns sharing what we are thankful for, drinking alcohol and watching football, and so many other diverse traditions that can leave anyone feeling out of place after years of looking forward to the same traditions.
My Advice for a Stress Free Thanksgiving
This Thanksgiving holiday, I want to present some ideas for preparing for this family time that will make it special and lower the anxiety level.
- Talk about family traditions with the kids on both sides before the holiday. Ask them which family traditions are important to them and see if there is a way to blend the family traditions in your blended family. This might be a great opportunity to come up with new family traditions as well that can be added as your new family tradition.
- For me, a lot of emotional preparation goes into holidays. As the stepparent, I work to facilitate a wonderful holiday for everyone. This is not about me. If you are worried about enjoying the holiday, don’t worry about that. The reward comes when your family enjoys each other and there will always be someone who appreciates all that you did. If they don’t, you will still feel the satisfaction of knowing what you did for them.
- Sit down with your family and talk about the meal. There might be items you have always prepared that no one even wants. You can also go on Pinterest and look for new ones. I have a couple of recipes that have been a big hit at our house that you can find here.
- Don’t ask for help. When you ask for assistance and don’t receive it, it will make you feel hurt and unappreciated, which I have found creates a downward spiral, since your family will notice your change in demeanor and will likely not respond the way you would want them to. Just happily serve your family and I promise there will usually be someone that will offer to assist and appreciate all that you are doing. This might not happen right away. When it does, make sure you express your appreciation to whomever is offering their help and it’s fine for others to hear you do it.
- Focus on being thankful for your family. Pray or meditate about being thankful for your family, especially if you don’t feel that way right now. Pray or meditate about being thankful for the learning and growth opportunities that come with being a stepparent. Eventually, you will truly feel grateful.
I hope you have the most wonderful Thanksgiving you have had in a long time. Please know that when you feel unappreciated, there is someone out here that knows and understands your pain and is thankful for all you continue to do for your family.
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.