Christmas is a fun and magical time for many families and it’s also a stressful time and trigger for others, step-parents included! We have sadness or disappointment that our stepchildren aren’t always home to open gifts Christmas morning and we need to be supportive and positive for our partners who are hurting, who have their own sadness and guilt over the fact that their children are not home Christmas morning. If you have your own children with your husband, or your own bio children with an ex-husband, the challenges increase during the holidays because you want everyone together and a Merry Blended Christmas doesn’t always happen.
The one thing we can control is how we react to the situation and making the best of it. In my home, we rarely have my step-daughters home to open gifts on Christmas morning, so we make another day Christmas morning, whether it is December 24, 26, or some other morning. Or if my step-daughters arrive in the afternoon, we treat it like Christmas morning, but instead of breakfast, we celebrate with lunch or dinner. Also, my husband and I don’t open our gifts to each other until the kids are home (my husband and I do not have children together, so this works for our home).
My husband is the king of flexibility and doesn’t often get bent out of shape if the kids are not home for every holiday, although it’s important to him that we see the girls on Christmas day. For most other holidays, we can celebrate near the day – which makes co-parenting during the holiday season easier. Of course, he would prefer they be home every Christmas morning, but that is not the reality of blended family life!
A few tips to fellow stepmoms for a Merry Blended Christmas:
- Know the custody schedule in advance and ask your husband for confirmation on the schedule. He may need to speak with his ex to confirm drop off days and times. No one wants to miss a holiday celebration that they’ve been looking forward to due to a lack of communication.
- In advance of Christmas, ask each child to each pick a side dish that they would like with lunch or dinner. Everyone will have something to look forward to and they will eat at least one thing on the table! Better yet, try to get them in the kitchen with you to cook their chosen dish.
- Do not compare your family celebration to anyone else! If you live in a blended family, you are unique (and no blended family is similar); don’t place added pressure on yourself because your holiday looks different than those around you. Comparison is the thief of joy!
- Develop a family tradition besides opening gifts, which is only a small portion of the day. Drive around neighborhoods to see Christmas lights, watch a holiday movie together as a family, purchase a new board game for the family each Christmas and then spend the afternoon on that activity, etc.
- Adjust your expectations. Brene Brown has a famous quote, “Expectations are resentments waiting to happen.” If you have the expectation that everyone will be on their best behavior, eat all the food served and that they will clean up all their wrapping paper and put away their toys, you’re probably going to be disappointed. Your stepkids may not be happy when they arrive at your house… if they arrive at your home after just opening gifts at mom’s house, they are still focused on those gifts and that celebration. Don’t take it personally if it takes a little bit of time for them to get into the groove at your house. There is no perfect holiday, so adjust expectations as needed.
If nothing else, take time for self-care. If the holiday season is a trigger for you, factor in time by yourself to shop, grab your favorite holiday drink at a local coffee shop, go for a walk, or watch a movie you love by yourself! Merry Blended Christmas!