While each blended family is different, there are some things you can do to simplify the situation and more importantly make sure everyone involved gets to enjoy the holidays. Here are some ground rules that may go a long way in helping you and your family enjoy the holiday season.
Find Common Ground
No matter how strained the relationship may be, start by trying to find some common ground. For example, if you share children with your ex, this would be giving the kids a nice Christmas. Start there and keeping this most important goal in mind, make your holiday plans. If nothing else, it gives you a starting point, and a reason to talk and make things work this Holiday season, no matter how that ends up looking.
When children are small, parents set boundaries that are clear expectations for their conduct. As long as a child operates inside the boundaries, they are allowed to engage without any consequences. If they step outside of the boundaries, they are redirected back to what is acceptable.
Parents who place a high value on parenting engage their children in the process. They use logic and love to explain why the rules exist and why the consequences are important for failure to comply. The benefit of operating within set boundaries becomes knowing what is expected, why and understanding that there are limits. Children raised with clear, consistent and appropriate boundaries tend to be better at self-regulating, delayed gratification and adapting to their settings as adults. Setting boundaries outside of parenting has the same benefits.
Setting boundaries about the holidays allows for the same outcomes as parenting. Preparing a budget and holding to it, decided whom to share the holidays with and negotiating what activities to participate in will create a sense of calm in a potentially anxious season. The key to making meaningful boundaries is to do it ahead of time.
Prior to the season, discuss the expectations, finances and opportunities available and make clear decisions about how resources will be used. Once the decisions are made, stick to the plan.
Be Ready To Compromise
Blended families involve a lot of people and with that come different commitments, traditions, and expectations. In order to make things work this Christmas, be prepared to compromise. Maybe you want the kids at home Christmas morning while your ex wants to take them to Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. Make it work, even if it means you have to take a drive across town at two in the morning.
The same goes with traditions. Each family has their own traditions, decorations, and holiday plans that tend to clash when you blend two families together. Sit down and have a talk early on in the season with everyone involved. Find out what’s most important to each family member and find compromises that work for everyone. Blend your traditions, and don’t be afraid to make some new ones as well.
Practice Makes Perfect
Last but not least, don’t expect things to go off without a hitch during your first blended Christmas season. It takes time to make this work. New traditions aren’t created in a day. Keep working at it, keep practicing, and before long you will find your stride and come up with the new perfect Christmas for your complicated, but lovable family.