This article comes from the book The Joy of Family Traditions by Jennifer Trainer Thompson.
Christmas can be especially hard for stepchildren. Not only do kids stand to lose the traditions they shared with their biological families, they may be shuffling between two households, neither of which necessarily feels like a safe, secure place they can call home. Throw in a potential income disparity between families, new stepsiblings, and possibly receiving modest gifts themselves while stepbrothers and stepsisters are showered with expensive gadgets from an absent parent-and you’ve got the makings for an emotional minefield. Blended families need new traditions to smooth the way:
- Make Christmas a season, not a day. If you focus traditions on that single twenty-four-hour period, and your children only see you every other year on Christmas Day, they’ll feel they’re missing something on the years they’re with your ex. Create new traditions that aren’t date specific such as picking out the tree, making wreaths, and shopping together.
- If you are with stepchildren on Christmas Day, don’t push all your traditions on them at once; maybe this year you shouldn’t visit your mother on Christmas morning-save that for a vacation day later in the week. Start traditions that will make new family members feel special-which may mean foregoing some favorite activities in favor of making time for new ones.
- Try not to force two celebrations on Christmas Day-”We’ll be home in the morning, at noon you’ll go to your father’s house, then we’ll pick you up at 4 P.M., with a quick stop for eggnog at Grandma Jane’s on the way to Uncle Bill and Aunt Barbara’s for their annual Christmas Day open house, then we’ll end up at your Grandpa Jack’s for supper because I know you wouldn’t want to miss that.”-unless of course you want the children’s enduring holiday memory to be that of sitting in a car, racing against the clock.
- Be flexible. Be creative. Be generous. Ask them what they want to do to celebrate. Maybe they’d like to go ice skating on Christmas Eve or watch a holiday movie in the afternoon. Choose holiday activities that everyone can do together: skating, sledding, baking cookies. But don’t be afraid to experiment with some separate activities that, while open to all the kids, don’t require everyone to participate.