Center for Stepfamily Development
Center for Stepfamily Development

136 So. Academy Way
 Eagle, Idaho, 83616



The holiday season is a magical time of year for all kinds of families. The music, shopping, decorations, food, parties, and the exciting anticipation of family togetherness bring on visions of sugarplum happy Christmases past and present. For many stepfamilies, the holiday season brings on additional anxiety and stress. Unrealistic expectations get in the way of a family jolly, holly Christmas celebration.

Consider Santa's burden as he has to keep yearly track of where kids will be each year. "Rudolph, find out where Amber, A'Leah and Jake Summers will be spending Christmas this year. I don't want to leave their toys at the wrong house!"

Stepfamilies have to not only deal with the logistics of who spends Christmas Eve and Day at which home, changing family traditions, financial considerations for gift giving, but with the emotional upheaval of everyone in the family.

Here are some suggestions to help your stepfamily combat the stress and anxiety through the holidays this year.

First of all, adjust your own expectations of what is feasible and possible in your stepfamily. If you aren't able to have all the children together on Christmas Day, plan a celebration ahead of time. Have a family meeting where the children help with the planning.

Secondly, simplify the holiday season. Have the children help decorate instead of doing it all yourself. Don't try to keep up with what you hear your former spouse is doing. Have the children help with baking. This is a great tradition that children love.

Thirdly, set standards for gift giving. Have a family meeting and discuss what this means for everyone. If you have a friendly relationship with your former spouse, discuss what each family will give the children. If not, don't worry about it. Remember that giving your children time, attention, love, nurturing, laughter and a strong sense of family values are the kinds of "gifts" that create lasting memories.

Fourth, plan ahead. Discuss with your former spouse all the upcoming activities. From school and religious programs, to family celebrations, outline a detailed plan as to which family is shuttling kids to what program. Put all this information on a calendar. Send a copy to your former spouse.

Fifth. Plan new traditions. Make decorations together, decorate the house and shop together. Choose a community project for the family to become involved with such as Toys for Tots, providing a holiday dinner and gifts for a needy family, the Salavation Army or a project within your religious community. Take lots of pictures of your holiday activities, and put together a yearly picture album of your family's holiday activities. You will be creating wonderful, long-lasting memories of your stepfamily's sugarplum kind of holiday.

Most of all, be flexible during the holidays. Remember that even the best made plans are not always written in stone and are subject to last minute changes. Make sure you and your spouse have some quiet time together. Nurturing your marriage relationship is crucial in surviving the holiday season without a lot of stress and anxiety. This is an important part of not getting lost in the hustle and bustle of the holidays.

You don't have to have the perfect, best-ever holiday season. Everyday is an opportunity to create solid family values and traditions that last a lifetime in everyone's memories.