For adults and children in re-coupled families, the holidays can be particularly challenging. In addition to the stress and pressure of the season, these families juggle the calendars of at least two different homes. Both the children and the adults in these families whisper their dread of “the most wonderful time of the year.” It can often feel like we collectively hold our breath from mid-November until January. What if it were possible to breathe and breathe deeply during this season?

Here are a few strategies to help you find space to breathe this holiday season.

  1. Create a schedule and stick to it. Times of change and loss can lead to feelings of anxiety and confusion. One of the ways to help calm this anxiety is to know who’s going where when and for how long. Creating a schedule and posting it for young children to see can help everyone take a deep breath. For families with teens or young adults, include them in the scheduling process. Use technology like a shared Google calendar to be clear with the who, what, when, and where.

  2. Welcome “all the feels.” When splitting holidays, feelings of loss, anger, sadness, and hurt are to be expected. Create space and time for yourself and those in your family to express and share these feelings. Simply giving one another permission to be less than “Hallmark Happy” can be a release valve. In addition, make room for your own grief at having time during the holiday without your children.

  3. Share favorite memories and traditions and incorporate them. One of the challenging as well as exciting realities of being a re-coupled family is the multitude of previous traditions. Rather than ignoring this history, invite everyone to reminisce about their favorites. What are similarities and differences exist? What traditions do you choose to keep? Including and inviting all of the voices into this conversation can both build trust and space for exhaling.

  4. Take breaks as needed. This season can be go-go-go! For re-coupled families remembering to take time-outs, pauses, and breaks can be vital. In fact, stepfamily therapy expert Patricia Papernow often writes about the importance of one-on-one time and breaks for family members. Rather than having large group gatherings, could the holiday be a time to be intentional about having time to build relationships one-on-one?

  5. Create a new tradition. Although it may not be obvious at first, you have the opportunity to create new and different traditions. Sometimes the challenge of schedules means not being able to have the traditional turkey dinner or Christmas morning. These changes can also invite you to get creative. I know a re-coupled family that said good-bye to traditional Christmas in favor of a family night at the movies. Splurging on popcorn and soda, they enjoy sitting in the reclining seats in a virtually empty theatre enjoying the big screen.

These are a few strategies to help you cope with the holidays in your blended family or step family. If you would like support this holiday season for your re-coupled family, call me at 717-966-1210 for a free 15 minute phone consultation or sign-up for a session.