Eating Thanksgiving meal at Grandma’s house. Opening presents with your children on Christmas morning. Celebrating the New Year with family and friends. Traditions are important to us because they connect us to our family, and the expected custom or ritual provides security in our lives. When traditions are broken or changed, something dies inside of us. Have you ever changed or broken a family tradition? How did you feel about it? Maybe you had no idea just how important that tradition was until you couldn’t or didn’t do it anymore.
Family identity is very much tied to traditions. Stepfamilies can often times find themselves torn between “your” family traditions and “my” family traditions, and trying to figure out new blended family traditions. The fighting to keep the traditions alive often leads to conflict and disconnect. Finding common ground for traditions requires time and a great deal of flexibility, especially for the parents and stepparents.
Holiday traditions put co-parent relationships to the test. If you’re not on good terms with your wasband or waswife you can forget about negotiating time for the kids over the holidays. Holiday experiences open the underlying hidden dynamics of stepfamily life. Parents pressuring their children regarding how much time they will have together and how travel plans are made lead to loyalty conflicts and issues of loss which can easily spoil the joyous season for children. Be compassionate and empathetic for the children’s sadness over traditions lost and memories from previous family holidays. Understand that they are getting used to new traditions, different food, and being with strangers in unfamiliar homes.
Here are 10 practical strategies for combining holiday and blended family traditions for you and your family.
- Be flexible and make sacrifices. Being flexible means you can adjust, change, or sacrifice old traditions during a given year in order to give your stepfamily time to develop new ones. You can’t make everyone happy all the time. Accepting this takes away the pressure to give everyone what they want. Showing a willingness to sacrifice sets the example for your children and or stepchildren. If you won’t, why should they, right?