Excited…but also a little apprehensive about spending your first Thanksgiving with your new blended family? Holiday meals can be awkward for any family, but they can also be warm, welcoming and funny! In the age of blended families, remarriages and step-kids, no two Thanksgiving celebrations look the same. How can you manage a relaxed Thanksgiving with your new step-children?
For starters, if you are feeling apprehensive as a newly minted step-parent, you are not alone. In a FirstWivesClub.com article by Jill Brooks, she states, “Even after all these years, it surprises me how powerless one can feel as a stepparent and how important it is to manage expectations. This crystallizes often over the holidays when I ask my stepchildren to help me with the holiday cards and have to negotiate their schedules as though I’m a United Nations diplomat.”
Brooks continues, “At the same time, if you ask step kids how they feel after their parents’ divorce, they will say they feel powerless, with no say in anything, that they have to juggle between two families while negotiating roles, rules, and status in both households.” So how do you make it all work with your step-kids? Here are some tips and tricks for having a wonderful Turkey Day with them:
Make your own traditions: Avoid trying to copy what the children have done in the past, before their biological parents separated. It is impossible to recreate and recapture those times and memories and attempting to can lead to feelings of resentment, anger and disappointment. Instead, create your own new traditions such as watching a new movie together after Thanksgiving dinner or trying a new recipe every year in which everyone can participate.
Avoid speaking negatively: Do not negatively discuss your step-children’s biological parent or their parents’ past relationship, even if you and your spouse’s ex do not have a warm relationship. Bringing conflict into any situation is never a good idea, and it is especially harmful when done during a holiday. Remember these former spouses are now co-parents. Do you best to only speak highly of their biological parent and put firmly into place the rule, “If you don’t have anything nice to day, do not say anything at all.”
Roll with awkward comments from extended family: Your new spouse’s extended family (or yours) might be new to this blended family thing, so be prepared for possibly an odd question or two, or the dreaded name mix up if someone calls you by the name of your spouse’s ex-wife or ex-husband. It happens, and 99% of the time, the person who makes the mix up is horrified and embarrassed once they realize the error. Get ready to be gracious, especially if these comments are made in front of the kids.
Think about an alternate holiday or celebration: Jill Brooks indicates that “Because I want everyone to be around me on this holiday weekend, I have created a Friday Thanksgiving celebration. I hate it when family members are straddling different homes, and I want my stepchildren and son to be united. This has turned out to be a wonderful new tradition. On Thursday night, my immediate family celebrates Thanksgiving. On Friday night, we get everyone.”
Put kids first: Your concern should always be the children, first, especially if they are still young and your marriage to their biological parent is still new. Transitions and change are rarely easy for kids and they are more than likely still adjusting to their new blended families. They may be hearing negativity from several angles and are learning how to deal with that. Always be a listener if needed and a shoulder to cry on. Be patient and you will build relationships with your step-kids that are special and wonderful in their own right.
If you have questions regarding holiday parenting time or your custody or parenting time arrangements with your ex, please contact us to schedule your initial consultation with one of our experienced family law attorneys.