“It’s the most wonderful time of the year…” – WAIT – Are you full of holiday cheer or are you like: “hand me another beer”, with all the changes and chaos in your stepfamily schedule this holiday season?
We know first hand how overwhelming and emotional this season can be. Unlike other families, you may be having to deal with multiple celebrations, on different days, with different schedules, sibling rivalry, battles with exes over traditions and customs – just to name a few.
Being a part of a stepfamily isn’t always easy.
Where we can’t change most of our circumstances, what we can do is remain flexible, lay down some boundaries and focus our mind on the similarities in our families, rather than all the differences and challenges.
Today, we’re going to give you our Top 3 Tips that we use in order to navigate through the chaos and feel the joy of the season.
Plan In Advance
One bonus of having an arranged custody schedule, is that you know pretty far in advance what your schedule will be like around the holidays. With this knowledge in mind, take a proactive approach, rather than reactive.
Instead of focusing on all the time you won’t be with your kids, focus on the time you DO have with them. And include your extended family in on the plans. Whether you’re the only stepfamily in your extended family or not, reach out and share when you’ll have your kids with you and see if your family can be flexible in when the celebration can take place. This is especially important if there are multiple stepfamilies with many different schedules in your family.
If you don’t have a custody schedule set in place, set an intention and time for you and your co-parent to discuss the holiday schedule sometime towards the end of the summer or early Fall. Don’t wait too long – this could cause unnecessary stress and heightened emotions as the dates are quickly approaching. Come up with an agreement together, get it in writing, sign it if you feel that is best, and communicate the schedule and expectations to the kids.
Keep Schedule The Same
No matter HOW tempting it might be to change your agreement with your co-parent, we would suggest not going down that road. In our experience, and with our clients, we’ve seen it do more harm than good. Even with the best intentions, it could set up an opportunity for manipulation, parental alienation and too many compromising situations for the future.
We want you and your family to enjoy & experience peace during the holidays, not have more stress, frustration and chaos. Even though this may mean you miss out on your child’s birthday, or Christmas or New Year’s Eve with them, it’s better for you, your house and your children to have the right expectations and stability.
This may mean that you have to use the word “NO” more often and look like “the bad guy/girl” to your children. However, it is worth it in the long-term. Short term losses, for long-term gains.
*If you or anyone in your family struggles through transition days, come check out our post here where we help guide you to make this process easier & smoother: How To Make Transition Days Smoother
Celebrate the meaning, not the day
We know that custody schedules are tough. They are not always fair. Everyone looks forward to spending more time with their family and celebrating traditions around the holiday season. In stepfamilies, it’s not guaranteed that everyone in your family will always be around.
What we do, and what we’d encourage, is to make it a special day whenever you get to see your children. Whether it’s December 28 or January 3, continue to do the traditions you want, and make it your own.
In fact, you could make it a new tradition to have your own special celebration that is unique to your family. Emphasize that with your children – special occasions are more about the people you share it with, and the memories you make, not what day you do it on.
The holidays are an opportunity to slow down, reflect and acknowledge all that you have & can be thankful for.
With all the chaos that may be around you, it’s important to keep your focus on what you CAN control. When you plan in advance, aim to keep the schedule the same and celebrate the meaning of the day whenever you’re together, you set yourself up for feeling empowered and having a smoother holiday season.
There are SO many stepfamilies struggling to navigate all the ups & downs of the holiday season, so please share this so other families, like yours, can take back control of their holidays and have that peace & joy.
We were recently interviewed by a fellow stepfamily coach, Winel / Blended & Flourishing, where we go deeper in how to FLOURISH during the holidays – you can grab all our tips & insights here: Click here for interview!
We’d also love to hear your thoughts! What do YOU do to manage the chaos of this season? Which tip above resonated the most with you? Let us know below!
-Kim & Cheyanne