The holidays are around the corner! Are you prepared? What meals will you cook? Who will join you? What are your family traditions? Perhaps your family tradition is having Thanksgiving dinner at your parent’s home and Christmas at yours. The holidays are a time for us to give thanks, share meals together, be with family, and celebrate family traditions. And, let’s be honest, the holidays can also be stressful for families that bounce from one family’s house to another. Spending Christmas morning at your in-laws home and rushing over to your parent’s home for dinner. Then, you add family dynamics on top of that and if you have a blended family, things become even more complicated. Kids coming and going between parent’s homes. Your trying to make arrangements with schedules between your co-parent and you spouse’s co-parents. Ugh. I remember those days!
The stress in blended families can become overwhelming with family dynamics of insiders and outsiders, as you may already know from experience, then you add the complexity of family traditions in multiple homes. One parent try’s to keep their holiday family traditions alive and trying to form new family traditions while the other parent and home may be doing the same. Couple relationships are tested when the holidays don’t work out just the way they hoped. The silent ongoing battles between co-parents often become battles as we parents sometimes pressure the children regarding how much time we’ll have together, and loyalty conflicts and issues of loss can easily spoil the joy for our children if we’re not careful.
As the nurtures and caretakers of our homes, mom’s generally want to make sure everyone in their family is happy and taken care of so we run around trying to fix and please everyone. Does this sound familiar? Meanwhile, we add more stress to our holidays, to ourselves and our spouses, and to our families lives. This holiday season, the intention is to let go of trying to fix and please everyone, to be stress free, and embrace and enjoy the holiday’s. Here’s 5 Helpful tips to make the holidays stress free and more joyous for you, your spouse, and your blended families:
1. Plan Ahead. As a couple, discuss upcoming holiday plans. Decide ahead what your preferences are and what sacrifices you’re willing to make on behalf of the other home. Sacrifices means you’re willing to give up something for the sake of something more important. This year, you being stress free and enjoying your holiday’s are important. Contact your co-parents in the other home or homes and start negotiating. The sooner the better. Remember to be flexible circumstances can change.
2. Set an Intention. What is your intention for you and your family over the holidays? This is not a goal but what you’d like the overall outcome for the holidays to be. Example; you’d like for all of the kids to get along and bond, or perhaps you’d like you and your spouse to enjoy your time together over the holidays instead of spending time arguing about it, or maybe you want to have a peaceful exchange between homes. Write down your intention and put it someplace where you can read it daily. Remember to read it if you start to feel stressed to remind yourself to focus on your intention of what you want, not on what you don’t want.
3. Be Flexible. We can’t make everyone happy all of the time. Knowing and accepting this takes the pressure off to give everyone what they want. Being flexible means understanding that you can combine, modify, or sacrifice old traditions during a given year in order for your blended family to develop new ones.You set the tone for negotiation by showing your willingness to sacrifice.
4. Strategize Holiday and Family Traditions. If you and your husband have kids, you may find yourselves pulled in multiple directions during the holidays. One creative solution could be to let each parent and children spend the holidays with the extended family members of their choosing. This acknowledges their differing family connections and honors family traditions. Then when you make the decision to combine holiday activities, it may be met with less resistance. Not all family members will adapt to new holiday traditions or changes to old. Give them space to get used to things and practice patience.
A second solution is to offer your kids a choice of which home they’d like to spend Thanksgiving and which home for Christmas. A different approach is to try an alternating arrangement with the other home which gives each home an undisturbed Thanksgiving holiday and an undisturbed Christmas holiday. Remember to give your kids your permission to have fun at the other home and with all of their family members while away from you during the holidays.
5. Ask God for Grace. Ask for God’s grace over you and your husband and family, over your co-parent and his home, and over the other homes if your kids go to more than one. Seek His guidance in planning your holidays. Pray for flexibility, for empathy and compassion as you make and negotiate holiday plans. Pray for your children and your bonus children as they go back and forth between homes having to adjust to your family traditions, their other home and their family traditions, and to new family traditions. Pray for opportunities for healing and reconciliation between you and your wasband (aka. ex spouse) and for your husband between him and his waswife (aka. ex spouse). Pray that your extended families can come together peacefully and that you can all have a joyous holiday season.