Crazy Blended Family Holidays: What’s a Stepmom to Do?

huff-po-christmaIn nuclear families, Christmas can be very hectic. There’s grandparents and extended family to visit and gatherings galore. If you have a blended family, let’s face it. Holidays can all out suck. The delicate schedule gets out of whack. The kids get shuffled and shuttled back and forth more than normal. Even parents can become selfish and accusing. Can you say cray cray?

Often times, stepmoms can get caught up in the middle of the whirlwind. But, hey, relax. The good news is there are still some things you can focus on to keep the season merry and bright without losing your jingle bells.

Focus on the season rather than the day. So much emphasis is placed upon the magical December 24th and 25th. However, if you’re like us, our Christmas is celebrated every other year on December 26th and the world does not end. The season of the holidays is a whole month so get out and enjoy it with the kids whenever you get the chance.

Don’t obsess with when but focus more on how. How to make it memorable. How to make it special for your family. With social media, it is easier than ever to find cool events and seasonal happenings. Last year, we took the boys to a woodworking toy making shop where we learned the entire process of how a limb off of a tree becomes a toy.

Focus on giving to others. For several years, my daughter and I have gotten involved with our local church to assist families in need. Gifts are donated through angel trees and we help them shop, wrap and load up their gifts to take home to their family on a designated night.

Last year, I took the money we set aside for my gifts and donated it to a soldier and his family through Vet Tix. “Vet Tix provides tickets to events which reduce stress, strengthen family bonds, build life-long memories and encourage service members and veterans to stay engaged with local communities and American life.” My husband wrapped the receipt as my gift, placed it under the tree and when we opened presents, I shared the story of the soldier we were helping. There is nothing better to take the focus off of the stress and ourselves like giving to others.

Focus on making new traditions unique to your family. Since we’ve moved into our neighborhood, we’ve tried to make little gifts for our close neighbors and friends and we give them out as a family every year.

For instance, one year I wrapped a can of soda and bag of microwave popcorn in a gift bag and attached a little message card to it that said Pop pop fizz fizz oh what a good neighbor you is. Last year, we decided to make homemade healthy baked dog treats and give them to our neighborhood dog owners.

Instead of having to decorate the tree on a specific day, we always wait and decorate the tree together. Each of our kids has special ornaments that they love to hang on the tree themselves. That way, now matter how the schedule falls, they still feel a part of the celebration of the season.

Focus on the reason for the season. The holidays can mean different things to different families. Christmas for us is a time to reflect on what we value and what we hold most dear and a time to remember the love born on Christmas. What ever makes this season special for your family is what’s important.

We have a special snow white stocking that hangs over the fireplace in front of the rest. All during the season, we write down special things and place it inside its soft shimmery folds. We write things that we are thankful for in each other or maybe something we have seen the other do and we are proud of them, or something that has touched our heart. When we celebrate our Christmas, we read them and try to guess who wrote it or who it’s about. It is one of my favorite times we have together!

I’ve shared about some of our holiday fun and ideas on how to keep the crazy to a minimum. However, there is one thing that should not be the focus. Don’t focus on the negative.  It’s toxic and unhealthy. The holidays with stepfamilies are already complicated so don’t poison it by focusing on the Grinches who would love to steal your Christmas. Reflect on what you value and what you hold most dear, the love that you have for each other.

TRADITIONS

Christmas is so close it’s freakin scary!  If you are like most families (blended or not) finances are tight and this can be a stressful time.  If you throw in parenting times over the Holidays and money trouble you have a “Lord help me just make it til New Years” stressful time!  In thinking about Christmas in our blender I thought I would share how important I think traditions are and especially in a blended family.  The other parents of 2 of our children were on board with dividing time fairly between us and them every other Christmas.  We felt that both parents deserved the right to be able to have their child at Christmas.  One of them, however felt that they had a right to have their child every Christmas.  Unfortunately, we had to go to court and ask a judge for every other Christmas.  During the hearing, we were asked what traditions do we have in celebrating.  It was sad because we had not as of yet had the chance to really form any because of the “control monster” that had stepped in and limited our Holiday time. (click here for previous post about this monster: http://blendermom.me/the-control-monster )  It got me to thinking though how traditions really help to ground and solidify blended families.  It doesn’t have to be big expensive things.  It can be as simple as doing an advent candle wreath or read a specific story or watch a specific movie while stringing popcorn.  Doing these things give the kids something to look forward to and something they can count on which gives them stability.  Some examples for us is that we always decorate a gingerbread house and place it on our dining room table for display.  We always go pick out a tree together and we always decorate it as a family.  We have special ornaments that each child loves or made and they get to always hang those on the tree first. We have a white column in our dining area that I always wrap red ribbon around and we all call it the candy cane north pole.  The key word is “always”.  The kids can count on what you are going to do.  Even though it seems small that can make them feel more safe and secure, to always be able to count on those traditions.  You should also think about more traditions that you can do throughout the year.  We always have pizza or fastfood on Friday nights and eat it in front of the TV while watching a movie.  We do a devotional reading with the kids and talk about it as a family. ( http://www.amazon.com/dp/1475155050/?ref=cm_sw_r_pi_dp_9E2uqb177D1BM Proverbs For Kids is a great book and what we are currently reading.)  We always put the boys to bed at the same time and have them say goodnight prayers every time.  What I am saying is traditions do not have to be some complicated ritual!  Make Sunday night taco night every week.  By the way, the judge did rule in our favor and we now have all three children every other Christmas.  We miss them during the off years but that’s what we as parents do, we make sacrifices.  Remember, it’s not their fault their parents got divorced.  They have just as much right to love and form traditions with the other parent as they do with you.  I personally do not ever want my kids to look at me and say “I don’t have a relationship with my father/mother because of you!” If you are dealing with the other parent who really is being mean and spiteful you can look at it as giving them the rope and let them hang themselves if they want to. 

Traditions are important in families and what better time to start one is at Christmas!  Remember,  “Christmas began in the heart of God. It is complete only when it reaches the heart of man.”  Try to reach your child’s heart this Christmas.