How to Blend Traditions in a Blended Family

Blending traditions during the holidays give stepparents a chance to build strength in the new family unit.

The holidays are coming, sooner than later at this point. With a large family, Christmas shopping begins around the time the fireworks stop exploding. It’s the only way to budget! Holidays can be a wonderful time of year, but for blended families, they can also be a time of stress and confusion for step children. It’s difficult to hold on to everyone’s special traditions while still building new ones with the new family unit, but it is definitely important to try.

If you are celebrating the holidays in a new family unit for the first time this year, it is important to honor everyone’s ideas about what the holiday should be. This does not mean that you entirely replicate the type of celebration that your stepchildren would have had with their own parents but that you recognize that it is important to your stepchildren to know that you value their traditions too.

Stepchildren can often feel completely disregarded during the holidays – nothing more than a reason for their parents to argue over custody or for the new family to focus on traditions that seem unfamiliar. There are several ways you can make sure that you blend traditions in such a way that will honor the new family unit:

  1. Combine traditions. Does your family like to open presents Christmas Eve while his likes to open them Christmas morning? Instead of seeing it as a point of contention, encourage the kids to celebrate the fact that they can have two Christmas celebrations instead of one. Often, rather than trying to decide whose tradition should “win” it can be just as fun to do both.
  2. Special foods. When it comes to holiday dinners, the menu can vary from home to home. If there is something special your stepchild loves to have at Thanksgiving, Christmas, or Easter dinner, you can go a long way toward making him or her feel special by making sure that special food item is part of the menu.
  3. Include the kids. So often, the children are the last people consulted about who, what, where, and when during the holidays. While I’m not an advocate of putting the kids in charge, having a conversation with your stepkids about their favorite holiday memories and traditions can ensure that the most important elements of their celebration are included in your plans.
  4. No fighting! Kids do not need to look back on their childhood memories of holidays and think only about how all of the adults in their lives fought the whole time. You have to realize that kids want to be with all the people they love during the holidays, no matter what the court custody papers say, and the more accommodating you can be, the happier everyone will be.
  5. Equality. If Christmas morning comes and the stepkids have socks and pencils under the tree and your biological kids have iPods and Wii consoles, there will be hard feelings and hurt. Kids all need and want to feel important and loved. Don’t make choices with the gifts you buy – or anything else you do – that make your stepkids feel like they are less important or worse, unwanted.

The holidays can be a special bonding time for your new blended family. All it takes is treating everyone with love and respect.

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