Members of newly blended families spend a fair amount of time deciding when to stay out of each other’s way. That’s tough to do during the holidays.
“The early years of being a stepfamily are the toughest,” says Maggie Scarf, author of “The Remarriage Blueprint: How Remarried Couples and Their Families Succeed or Fail” (Scribner). “You’re still getting to know each other.”
Getting to know each other, of course, requires devoting some time to each other’s interests and pursuits. Which can leave parents wondering: Do we insist the stepsiblings attend each other’s holiday recitals? How about the Christmas open house at Aunt Millie’s, who wasn’t, technically, their aunt last Christmas? Is it antisocial to let half of the gang skip that ice skating social?
“Now, biological siblings aren’t always excited about attending one another’s events,” says family therapist Ron Deal, author of “The Smart Stepfamily: Seven Steps to a Healthy Family” (Bethany House Publishers). “A lot of older brothers don’t want to go to their younger sister’s Thanksgiving production. That’s an important perspective to keep.”
And just as individual nuclear families have to decide how and when to enforce dutiful attendance (excitement optional), blended families have to negotiate and create their own rituals and requirements. We gathered some advice from the experts:
Choose your battles. “Seek balance when you’re insisting that kids be involved in activities they’re not really excited about,” Deal says. “If there are five activities on the calendar, it’s perfectly OK to insist everyone goes to three and cut them a break on the other two. There’s nothing wrong with compartmentalizing family members.”
Family unity is one thing. Family unity at all costs is quite another.