How do you blend your family traditions? By their very description, holiday traditions are meant to be kept in the same way every year. What happens when you re-marry someone with their own traditions? Do you give yours up? Do you expect your partner to give up their traditions? No!
You and your blended family have a great opportunity to compromise, respect each other and be sensitive to what the kids’ needs and expectations are surrounding the holidays and the traditions you all grew up with, and want to keep.
Keep some old traditions from each family and create new ones together.
Create a day of giving. Visit nursing homes, dog shelters, give to a homeless coat drive, do something to demonstrate service in the community. Be compassionate and do something that is meaningful. Invite singles or neighbors to your table. Ask your kids if there’s a friend from school they might like to include.
This is all new territory for your family and you can make it anything you want. A good idea is to have a family meeting where you brainstorm and allow each person to express what is most meaningful to them. Look for commonalities – food, religious observances, Christmas plays and parties; Christmas Eve or Christmas morning, Hanukkah, Kwanza, etc.
Allow everyone room to talk about traditions that mean the most to them. Ask them to think of ways to make them work in the new family configuration. Everyone deserves to feel loved and important and to have their input considered, There might be court-ordered visitation rules and depending on how rigid or flexible the adults are, these can be loosened up a bit during the holidays when school is out and you can make time for the kids to see relatives and parents on different than normal schedules.
Thanksgiving at Grandma’s house is a tradition that no one wants to lose, especially grandparents! It’s important to consider time with the family elders into the equation. Your children will thank you in years to come for the memories you create. Encourage storytelling, ask elders to relate the history of the family and the legends that are passed from one generation to the next. This will help give stepchildren a connection to their new family members and draw them into the fold.
Look for ways to incorporate everyone’s desires into yours; and while you will realize you can’t make everyone happy all the time, a sincere effort to keep important traditions will go a long way towards forging a closer step parent/step child bond.
If you’re a new step-parent it can feel awkward and you might feel like an outsider with your new spouse and their children. I recommend that you begin a new tradition that is exclusive to just you and the kids. Take them ice skating, caroling, to The Nutcracker Ballet, to see a Christmas film release or to cut down a tree. Make your activity something new and fresh that they’ve never done with their parents before. This can be your new special tradition from now on.
Make memories as a family that will be talked about in future years. Your blended family may take some time to gel. Shared experiences and adventures are a great way for everyone to learn how to be together and start to feel like a close-knit family. The photos you take and the stories you create at the holidays, will help you all to feel closer and more connected.
Do what’s best for your current family situation, there’s no one “right way” to handle the holidays as a blended family. Keep trying new things, if it doesn’t work out this year, you can always try something different next time. The main thing is that the kids get to spend time with those they love and have their favorite holiday traditions continue as well as create new meaningful memories with the new blended family.