The actress shares how to make the holidays special for a blended family, get through travel woes, and catch a break during the turn of the New Year.

By Emily Elveru
December 22, 2016
Gabrielle Union
Credit: Courtesy of Gabrielle Union

Gabrielle Union stepped into our screens with flick favorites like Bring it On, She’s All That, and 10 Things I Hate About You, but this holiday season she’s putting work aside to cherish memories and create new traditions with her husband, professional basketball player Dwyane Wade, and four boys. “There are so many families like ours that are non-traditional but still valuable and worth while and deserving of celebration,” says Union in a video honoring modern families like her own and encouraging others to share #HowWeFamily. had the chance to ask the busy actress how she makes the holidays special, gets through travel woes, and catches a break during the turn of the New Year. Similar to your own family, many families today are blended and trying to establish their own holiday traditions. How are you trying to instill new experiences with your family of five, and why do you feel this is so important?

Gabrielle Union: From having a blended family, I’ve learned to let go of thinking that I can shove holiday traditions down someone else's throat. What worked for me growing up may not work for you or be enjoyed by everyone. It’s best to allow new traditions to come about organically and let everyone feel like their needs and wants are respected. That's why #HowWeFamily is such an important campaign as it celebrates creating a space and place for all types of families and reminds us that there's no one way to family or celebrate the holidays. Every tradition new and old is welcomed.

Between last-minute holiday shopping and traveling to see relatives, the holidays can be a crazy time for families. How have you learned to take the stress out of the season and just enjoy this time together?

We constantly remind ourselves not to stress about things that are out of our control, like the weather or a sour attitude. We focus on what we can control, like how we respond to adversity. My husband and I lead by example and figure out the bright side of every situation—even when the bright side doesn't look bright to the outside world.

You recently moved to Chicago this year. How has your family embraced this change and what advice would you give to other families who are trying to adjust to a new home during this time of year?

The change has been pretty remarkable and we've all adjusted differently and at our own pace. Allowing for each of us to find our place and comfort has been key. Just remember that we each process change very differently and that your time frame may not be the same as the next person’s, so allow for that difference. We remind each other that we are together and we support each other. That's the key. This move allowed us all to get closer.

Speaking of a busy schedule, you and your husband are juggling big careers while raising four active boys. What are some organizational hacks your family uses to handle these challenges?

Raising three sons and our nephew is a massive challenge for everyone involved, and having a blended family means scheduling and effective communication is important. We print out schedules every few days and post them in common areas. We make sure everyone knows what we are doing, where it's at, and how we are getting there. We also rely on our large extended family to pitch in, and it's been a massive help. Emailing and texting all the grown-ups really helps keep us all in step and where everyone needs to be at the right time.

This packed schedule also must come with quite a bit of traveling. What’s your best tested advice you’d give to any parents trying to get through an airport or road trip without a headache?

Our kids are seasoned travelers who have each come up with their own travel survival packs and hacks. While some bring iPads, others bring books and snacks or listen to music. We make sure we have backup chargers and headphones. Those two things have been lifesavers when there are delays at the airport! Plus, it keeps everyone happy and connected to their favorite devices.

Emily Elveru is an editorial assistant at Parents.