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Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Holiday Stress Starts Early in Step Families

Christmas is nine weeks from today - nine!  Already, our calendar is filling up so quickly and it feels like a snowball gaining momentum right through New Year's Day.  I was commenting to a friend recently that October feels like the new December!


To make the most of this holiday, I am deciding right now what is most important, before it gets crazy.  Every family feels the mounting of activity as Thanksgiving and Christmas approach.  The demand on time, energy and finances grows rapidly during this season, leaving room for tension when we long for peace even more than during other seasons.  Expectations can leave us feeling as if we will never measure up to the commercialized standard.


Making cookies is a family tradition so
I put it on the calendar!
Among blended families, the stress starts early.  We have multiple calendars to coordinate, trade-offs of time and and special days without the people most precious to us.  There is grief woven through the losses that take place when your own child leaves your home to go to another during a season where time is already so limited.

When your time with family is in short supply, you must make the most of every minute and for that, you must plan ahead.  Start now.

First, make a list of all the things you want to do with your family.  Decide when everyone will be together and when it will work for only certain the members of the family  to participate.  Now, put a star next to the items that are priorities.  The truth is that you will not have time for all that you wish to do.  Be wise about what is important.

Then establish the day-to-day schedule with the other home or homes.  We have two other homes that affect our blended family and had the first discussion regarding holiday schedules in September.  Overlap this with college calendars and school vacation calendar.  This way, you know what kind of time will be available.

Next, block out travel days where you will be traveling.  Are you visiting family?  Taking a quick trip while on school holiday? 

Now, fill in established church, school and club party or volunteer dates.

Finally, you can see the times where you will actually be able to plan activities and events together.  I know it feels small, and it's okay at this point if you need to go back and set some boundaries around those squares on your calendar. 

I like to have a one-on-one date with each
child during the season. This guy usually
loves to go ice skating.
Make sure you get the greatest return for your time: Is your daughter going to value your presence at her class Christmas party or a one-on-one mani/pedi date?  Will your son remember the money spent on another lego set or a wonder-filled train ride?  We must budget our time in the same way that we balance our money.

Keep in mind, kids and teens want a voice in their own calendar.  Be wary of over-scheduling and build margin into your season.  Don't allow every night to be a late night, or the mood of the season will deteriorate.  You can't control what happens in the other home, but you can provide structure and calm in your environment that will support the best holiday season yet.

Set your season for success and lower the stress with thoughtful planning, early communication, and intentional practices.  I'm walking through this myself and working to have balance while making meaningful memories.  How are you approaching the holidays?  I'd love to hear from you!

Related: When You Are Apart From Your Children at Christmas