It is the beginning of November and holiday season is right around the corner. For the blended family, we take a deep breath and get ready for the whirlwind of events and transfers of children. Like many families, ours is more of a family bush than a tree! We have divorces and remarriages on both sides of our family which makes the holidays for our blended family even more adventurous. There are things we need to remember during this time to help kids navigate through a lot of change and adjustment.
• Plan ahead and make the plan known
o Let the kids know who you will be spending time with and when
o Display a calendar so the kids know where they will be. (Perhaps even color code it so that each child knows not only where they will be but also where their siblings will be.)
o Have a discussion with your kids about what the nuclear and extended family traditions are. Explain what these traditions entail. Remember, although this may have been something you and your children have enjoyed for years, your new spouse and their children may feel uncomfortable or awkward if they are not prepared for the event.
o Talk with your kids about traditions they enjoyed when their parents were still married. Are there activities they would like to share with their new family? Are there new traditions that the family can do together? The important thing is that all members will be allowed ownership in the activities. If you feel the kids might be too protective of certain ways traditions were done, perhaps that one can wait until the family is a bit more “blended”. The important thing is that there is time set aside for the creation of these new memories.
• White Space
o Although this can be a busy time. Make sure there is some white space in your calendar. Your family will need time to decompress as they adjust to changes. Even if all the activities are fun, there is grief present for the children (and perhaps for you too). They likely will feel a sense of loss for the times their parents were still together.
o Give yourselves and your children time to rest and process all the changes that have taken place.
Even if this isn’t your first round of holidays as a blended family, it is not too late to talk about these things. You may even want to talk about the year prior to see what the kids felt went well and what they wish could have gone differently.
Most importantly, as parents of a blended family, make sure to take care of your marriage, keep grace in your heart as you bond with your new family, and remember that the kids did not pick this. Blending a family is a very difficult situation to navigate. It can feel lonely at times and often does not fit into the traditional family mold. If things are getting too tough, please reach out to us here at Emery Counseling. We are here to support you.