Judy Graybill was on the show this past Wednesday to discuss holidays, blended families, and step-parent roles. Judy is a world renowned StepParent Coach and a former step-parent herself. Holidays can be stressful enough before blended family challenges present themselves because there are many family members coming together with their own agendas for how they would like to celebrate, where to celebrate, and what to eat, along with the purchasing of presents. But when there is a blended family to consider the stress can be daunting.
Christmas and Hanukkah, two of the December holidays that we celebrate, can be less stress if we focus on how to make the holiday great for the children. Being child-focused, instead of parent-focused might change the dynamic enough to turn this sleigh full of fun around. StepParents often times need help bonding with their step-children.
Graybill has 7 Tips for StepParent Holiday Bonding:
- Discuss gift ideas with them
- Go holiday shopping together
- Wrap gifts together
- Decorate the house together
- Bake cookies or treats together
- Create new family traditions (as your new identity)
- Engage in holiday conversation with your step-children
The key is to honor the role of the biological parent while establishing a close relationship with the children. Be careful about stepping on toes and dramatically changing traditions in the lead-up to the holiday and during the holiday. But everyone has to recognize that this is a different family dynamic with new people involved, and everyone is important. The transition from one set of biological parents, to bio-parents and step-parents, takes time. If all adults involved have the best interests of the children forefront, the transition is easier.
“You’re not the same family you used to be, ” says Graybill. “That is to say that your identity as a family has changed. At the same time, the previous version of your family is still a part of who you are now. A good rule of thumb for stepfamilies is to sprinkle in a couple new traditions while keeping a few of the old ones. The ones to keep are any that hold a strong emotional attachment to any family member. If nobody was big on tradition before, now’s the perfect time to create something new.”
Judy also suggests taking holiday pictures that document your time with your stepchildren. Pictures tell a story, and with blended families the storyline has evolved to include new family members. From me, Judith Weigle, share those pictures with the other biological parent if appropriate. BioParents can feel included in this way.
Everyone does their best at any time, and sometimes our best is a little unsure and volatile. Be patient, compassionate and understanding of each other because at the end of the holiday, daily life takes over. Wouldn’t it be great if the good spirit and intentions with the holidays continue when the sleigh departs your house.