Christmas tips for step families

Already feeling ‘step-stress’ at the prospect of Christmas? Wondering how much to spend on your stepchildren’s gifts?  Feeling overwhelmed by who’s going where and when?    

Christmas Day for many families is an exercise in controlled chaos, for stepfamilies take the demands of the holiday season and compound it - times two. Add to the mix two sets of parents, step-siblings, half-siblings, all the grandparents, visiting family and friends, as well as an assortment of races, cultures and religions and it can be a recipe for stepfamily disaster.

Stepfamilies deal with a number of holiday factors that traditional families never do. For example who gets to have the children on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day itself, or which family is going to buy the bicycle and where the new bike will reside. Each family has its traditions, customs and expectations of Christmas.

“There is hope, however,” says Steve Martin, Executive Officer of Stepfamilies Australia.  “With plenty of planning ahead, successful stepfamily holidays can be achieved.”

Consider these steps to avoid additional stress this holiday season:

- Have realistic expectations and avoid over-commitment. Whilst that can be hard to do with parents, stepparents and grandparents all in the picture - do children really need three servings of Christmas dinner?
- Be willing to compromise and have a contingency plan in case things go wrong. If a lunch runs late or traffic is terrible can you have a back up arrangement that won't cause undue stress?
- Write things down. It doesn't do any good to have a schedule if no one remembers it. And having everything recorded helps keep the children informed.
- Don't go overboard on gift-giving. Some divorced parents may feel guilty and try to compensate by burying their kids in gifts. Others may find themselves competing to provide the best gift. It is a good idea to communicate about what you plan on buying if possible.
- Amid the turmoil of the holidays, be sure to spend one-on-one time with each child.
- Work together as a team with your partner to create a shared vision of the holidays with your family.
-  Don't expect perfection. No family is completely immune from holiday conflicts, divided loyalties and competition. This holds just as true for traditional families as it does for step families.

Do you have any further tips or questions? Discuss blended and step-families with Essential Baby members.