A Road Map for Holiday Times With Blended Families
Hello out there all you blended family parents and steps, and those going through a divorce. No fun, especially during spring holiday season, when all of so many friends are telling you the fun they are having with their sweet and happy and conflict free kids getting rid of the bread, buying (and sometimes baking!) the matzoh, and getting the lovely eggs and chocolate bunnies artfully arranged.
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I have been through it, and I have survived, and I promise you that you can too, if you keep focused and keep your head on straight. I want to give you some “tough love” tips in the “wish I had known” department to help you through it.
In the step parent department:
1. If the blood parent is available and loves his or her kids responsibly, stay out of the way, and take a supporting role. Never compete, trying to be THE mom or dad. (This is good practice for a wedding when if you are smart, you will take a very back seat.)
2. If the blood parent is unavailable or irresponsible, things get more complicated. Do all in your power to treat your stepchildren and those you gave birth to in the same way. All kids act out; it is part of growing up, and learning to stand tall. But rejected step children have enormous pain and anger (understandably!). It will be directed to you a great deal, for you are a safe target. Insist on manners; but also, try to understand that by enduring their anger, you are helping them to survive.
3. Take time and plan with your partner how you hope the holiday can evolve. Discuss all who will be with you, and what approach each needs. I call this an “emotional time line.” You will have jolts and surprises galore, even with this planning; but the planning and discussions will help.
4. All children try to “divide and conquer” their parents in a way to get what they want and to vent. They also will use this manipulation to play you against the other parent or parents. Never let them cause the two of you to argue while with them during these attempts. If there is not a united front, and something cannot be discussed and resolved immediately, but should be, excuse yourselves; go to another room, close the door, and hug each other tightly. Then decide what to do.
5. If possible, discuss strategies with the other parents; but this is not always possible. If one or both of the other parents involved are unreliable, your job will be harder. Accept that they will do all possible to pit the kids against you. Hug your partner, and endure.
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6. Do not expect gratitude from any of your children as they are growing up. They are going through so much! They need you to love them with compassion, stating that respect is necessary, but also with understanding for all they are going through -- even when they are completely unlovable. If love comes, wonderful. If not, understand that you are not doing what you are doing for thanks or appreciation. Most of all, hug your partner. And more!
7. Do not exhaust yourself. Nothing you do for the holiday has to be perfect. Get help in the cooking and chore department from all present.
8. Find new family rituals to enjoy as a blended family, ones not part of the original family.