Holidays can be highly charged occasions in the best of times, but when you’re celebrating Christmas with your newly blended family, emotions are inevitably heightened. So how do you make it work when your kids will be putting up two trees in two homes? When you’re mixing your children with your new spouse’s children? When traditions clash? Blending a family takes time. That first Christmas together can be awkward and challenging, especially when one or both families have gone through a recent divorce.
Patience is key in all things involving your children and new relationships, including a child’s acceptance of the situation, respect for a new authority figure, and tolerance of a holiday with new people. You may be delighted to have a new spouse who you love and adore, and you may have visions of a heartwarming Christmas in a full house with everyone getting along. This is the ideal situation, but you would be wise lower your expectations – if everyone is civil and gets along, consider it a win.
Children are excited on Christmas and this slight mania can sometimes lead to the need for a scolding. Your kids no doubt balk at the discipline you dish out, let alone any commands that may come from someone who isn’t “one of us.” Decide early on who will be disciplining the children. You may encounter less resistance if the biological parent sets the decrees for their own children and the stepparent acts as a support. Make it clear to your kids that your new spouse isn’t attempting to replace their biological parent, but to simply connect with their new family members and become another trusted adult in their life.
You undoubtedly want to coax as much joy out of your children as possible on Christmas, but allow your kids to experience their sadness without making them feel guilty or forcing them to show an emotion they don’t actually feel. A Christmas season without a biological parent there during pivotal moments – decorating the tree, hanging stockings, visiting Santa, opening gifts, eating special meals – is difficult.
If everyone gets through the holiday with few tears, arguing, or tantrums, then you’re doing better than most families, blended or otherwise. Your family, no matter how many new people are in it, is still a family, and families come with messiness no matter how they’re formed. Appreciate the new people to love in your life, and strive to create a balanced home. Over time, the new will become the norm, your blended family will form traditions all its own, and this adjustment period will feel like a thing of the past.