STEPparenting through the Holidays with a Song in Our Heart
Sleigh bells ring are YOU listening? In the lane snow is glistening. A beautiful sight, we're happy tonight...WALKING IN A BLENDED FAMILY LANE.
Are Blended Families Livin On A Prayer?
You might want to start singing Bon Jovi's greatest hit Living on a Prayer circa 1986 as it sure seems like the perfect blended family theme song especially during the holidays. According to The Stepfamily Foundation, Inc, one out of two marriages end in divorce. The foundation goes on to report that 75% of divorcees remarry with 66% of those who live together or remarry... break up...when children are involved. Clearly, navigating through the blended family challenges are difficult not only for biological parents and stepparents but the children, too.
Now insert the holiday...the covid holidays... and take my hand, we'll make it I swear...woah... livin on a prayer.
But don't worry, oh by golly you can have a Holly Jolly Christmas this year.
There's No Need for a Blue Christmas.
And when those blue heartaches start hurting, you will be doing alright if you remember that it is reasonable for children whose parents are in new relationships to feel insecure about the new traditions and experiences over the holidays. They might wonder where they fit in and how their old family traditions will be honored. Children often report inner conflict with sharing attention and love with the new parent and might even experience feelings of disloyalty for the other parent. It's most likely going to be weird...embrace it but ditch the guilt...it's the biggest Grinch of all. Just remember just because its a holiday doesn't un-complicate the complicated situation you live in 364 days a year. Don't take the resistance or harsh words to heart, it's just their way of communicating hurt, sadness or confusion over things they have no control over.
Rocking Around the Blended Christmas Tree
You will certainly get a sentimental feeling IF you hear little voices singing "Let's be jolly" while watching everyone dancing merrily and rocking around your Christmas tree. Just keep in mind that change is difficult for EVERYONE. Here are a few tips that might help get you there:
Take it slow and think about it as holiday(s) not holiday. There will be years of holidays to celebrate so lower the expectation on having the perfect one...perfection is an illusion anyway.
Plan ahead and start the holiday conversations early with the other house.
Be basic and keep things simple. Now is not the time to try things that you aren't comfortable with...you don't need the extra stress.
Get 'em involved! Include everyone in family discussions and hear concerns and ideas with an open mind.
Don't be afraid to ask questions, you don't know unless you know.
Prepare to compromise and be flexible.
Don't forget the holidays are about the kids.
Santa comes with magic which means there are no limits and rules for his arrival or arrival(s).
Deck Your Halls
'Tis the season to be jolly so follow me in merry measure by starting new family traditions. Let go of the "should" when planning new traditions. Creating new traditions gives new families something that is uniquely theirs and a great way to began building the foundation needed for family connectedness. Think outside of the cookie cutter box, these new traditions don't have to be passed down through generations, they can be whatever your family wants them to be- it just needs to be consistent togetherness that counts.
Don't get run over by that reindeer.
Walking into your blended house Christmas Eve, you can say there is no such thing as Santa but as for me and Grandpa we believe that there are two things you should keep in mind.
1- You are not their parent or their peer.
2- It's important, no matter how much you disagree with the biological parents, bad mouthing that parent does not benefit the relationship...ever.
You better watch out, you better not cry, you better not pout I'm telling you...stepparent boundaries will help you. Why?
Make a list, check it twice and find out if you're naughty or nice. Even with the best intentions, you might step out of line unintentionally if you are not aware of the unspoken and necessary stepparenting boundaries. Here are a few good ones to keep in mind:
It's never a good idea to talk negatively about the ex-spouse. (Yep, I mentioned it already but this one is a biggie)
Disciplining stepchildren can easily invite intense arguments that end in hurt feelings. It is best to let the biological parent set the rules and consequences for their children... even though it feels unfair. Rules should be in writing for transparency on all sides.
Avoid taking the place of the biological parent. Remember your role will be different and can result in a wonderful and meaningful relationship when you acknowledge that you are not replacing anyone.
Refrain from overriding or ignoring the other parent's wishes. Don't put yourself in the middle of the parent and child, it just might result in a high-conflict situation that will compromise all of the good you worked hard to achieve.
Your job is to support your partner which means you are not responsible for managing the post-divorce conflicts between the houses.
If you want to voice your opinion, then those discussions should be done in private away from listening ears.
Don't be a doormat. Saying NO is totally cool and it demonstrates stability, structure and places the responsible parent in the driver seat.
Be like the Drummer Boy
You can play your best for them, pa rum, pum pum rum pum pum and they will smile at you pa rum pum pum pum. Just like drumming, timing is everything. So, give yourself, your partner, ex spouses and children the time to build and develop relationships for unique rhythms and beats that will surely be music to the heart.
If you need a counselor or like what you read, check out Galloway Counseling Services at www.galloway-counseling.com