A Happy Blended Home

Handling the Holidays and More

What's the best way for all of us to handle the holidays?
Between hyped-up expectations, stressful scheduling, and extra communication between frosty exes, the holidays can be anything but happy. Try to focus on what's important to the kids, and find ways to celebrate that are fun for them. "Simplify plans as much as possible, says Wisdom. "You might consider alternating holidays -- one year you get Thanksgiving but not Christmas, and so on -- rather than splitting days, which can increase logistical tension." And if it's not your year to get the kids for Christmas, make sure they know you're fine with them having a great time without you. Comments like "I know your holiday with Mommy will be wonderful" go a long way toward letting your kids know you want the best for them 365 days a year -- not just when they are with you.

My husband thinks that having a baby together will help all of us bond, but I'm afraid that it will just create more pressure.
"A new baby can bring a family closer," says Dr. Bernstein, who is also the author of Yours, Mine, and Ours: How Families Change When Remarried Parents Have a Child Together. If possible, though, it's best to put off expanding the pack until you feel that your kids have gotten used to the new regime, or else they might feel like they've been shoved aside. "The earlier a new baby comes, the more work you'll have to do to make sure all members of the family feel valued," says Dr. Bernstein. But you can count on the new addition creating conflict as well as connection. That's true in all families, of course, but it can be especially challenging in blended ones.

I'm afraid that my stepkids' mother is trying to turn them against us.
Since you can only control your own behavior, your best defense is to support all the kids' relationships -- even the one with a difficult biological parent. You can't change their mom. However, the more she realizes that you're not trying to compete with her, the more relaxed she may become. Regardless of her behavior, Dr. Frieman says, it's important to understand that kids have conflicting loyalties. "Let them off the hook by saying things like, 'I'm so glad that you had such a nice time with your mom this weekend,' " he suggests. "Children have an infinite amount of love," he explains, "and they can never have too many caring adults on their team. In many ways, it helps to think about a stepfamily as being like an extended family. Years ago, there would have been lots of aunts, uncles, and grandparents involved. It's the same with parents and stepparents. More can be better."

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