Whether this is your first year as a blended family or you have been together for some time now, you can likely expect unique challenges in celebrating the season together. The logistics of coming together (time, travel, scheduling), coping with loss, and getting acquainted with new family members are all factors that must be nurtured and respected for each individual. Respect and communication are key to healing and strengthening blended family relationships.
The holidays are naturally filled with deadlines, to do lists, and other obligations that make for a stressful time of year. Making a conscious effort to cut back on any unnecessary stresses in your external world will allow you the emotional availability to attend to your family’s needs. Try to depersonalize the fact that you might not be at the top of a loved one’s priority list as everyone is struggling to balance their time and responsibilities.
When communicating about the upcoming plans for the holidays, asking open ended questions may be
just the invitation a child or spouse needs to express what is on their mind. All blended families are a
result of some type of loss whether it be from divorce or death. It is important to be respectful of the
fact that everyone in the family will grieve in different ways and at a different pace. When healthy
expression of thoughts and feelings are encouraged it allows everyone increased awareness of each
other’s emotional states.
Consider allowing each family to introduce some old traditions to the new system while also coming up
with new and unique traditions to start with your blended family. Be empathetic to individuals in the
family that choose not to participate. They might not be ready to accept a “new normal” and by
respecting their internal struggle will allow them room to lean into the family when they are
psychologically ready to do so.
In summary, be prepared to be flexible. Things will not all go as planned. Your ability to adjust
physically, mentally, and emotionally as needed will increase your ability to have peace of mind
throughout the season as your family continues to evolve and strengthen over time.
Written By: Kristin Woodling, LMHC