From Step Family to Chosen Family Part 2 #1229 

by Sue Hawkes

In yesterday’s blog I shared some of the journey Kevin and I have had as we’ve created our chosen family. The holiday season can be full of challenges and emotions for any family, and stepfamilies can have an especially tough time. Here are more practices our family has used to create joyful memories during the holiday season.  

Be Open About Your Feelings: The holidays can be a hard time emotionally and holding it in and pretending to be fine will not make it easier. Talking openly and sharing your feelings will not only address the awkwardness, but also bring you closer in your relationship. Ask for what you need and encourage children to do so as well. This not only helps manage the holiday but is also a great life-skill to model for them. 

A few years after Kevin and I started dating, I moved into his house. While it seemed a normal progression in the relationship to us, Ali had been away at college the previous year and took it very hard when she returned home for the summer, and I was now living there. Our relationship became strained, and when she returned to college we didn’t speak for a few months. As the holidays came closer, I decided I was not going to go to Christmas celebrations pretending everything was fine. I asked her to come over for a conversation and we had a very open talk about what our relationship would look like and what the underlying problems were. It was tough, but our relationship became much better once we were able to share our feelings and points of view. Happily, we’ve moved on from that period and are now very close. It can be tough to let go of what the past looked like and understand that things will never be exactly the same. The grief associated with this may be especially difficult for children to express. Acknowledge that things are different, and then focus on talking about the new things you can embrace and look forward to. 

Don’t Stick to the Day: It can feel important to celebrate the holidays on their “official” calendar day, but this is just a made-up expectation. It’s who you spend time with that really matters, and that may mean that you celebrate holidays on a different day. For blended families, this is especially common because children may have more than one house to go to on the “official” holiday. Taking the pressure off splitting the day and needing to make the rounds creates a more enjoyable celebration for everyone. We hold our extended family Christmas get-together on the first Sunday in December to ensure our entire family can be there. We also celebrate Christmas as an immediate family on a different day every year. Sometimes it’s December 25, and sometimes it’s December 27. We do this so that the kids don’t feel pressure to cram everything into one day. We find a low-pressure day when we can focus on simply enjoying time together. 

In addition to letting go of the importance of celebrating on the official day, remember that every year is different. As much as we’d like them to be, the holidays won’t look the same every year. Life happens and changes impact how we celebrate. Marriages, breakups, births, and deaths all impact what our celebration consists of. Some years might be different- when you can let it go you’ll embrace the joy of being together. 

Sue HawkesFrom Step Family to Chosen Family Part 2 #1229