How to have a harmonious Christmas with a blended family

Having a blended family can create unique challenges at Christmas time, but you can create a joyous occasion for everyone with our tips.

There really is no such thing as a ‘normal’ family any more. And an increasing number of us live in a blended family of some sort. Step-parents, partner’s families, step-siblings, half siblings, cousins…you name it. Finding balance and ensuring everyone feels equally included can be tricky enough during the year, but Christmas time is when emotions can get high and feelings can be fragile. 

I am the child of divorced parents, and am a divorced parent myself, along with a new husband with two more kids. I’ve been doing complicated Christmases my whole life. I’ve seen them done well, and I’ve seen them turn into unmitigated disasters. 

But Christmas doesn’t need to be all about stress. Here are 10 tips I’ve learned that can help blended families bring peace and joy back into their celebrations:

1. Create new traditions that include everyone. If some of your family won’t be over until lunchtime, can you put off the gift giving until then? Just because you’ve always done something one way, doesn’t mean you can’t adapt to include everyone.

2. Ask everyone to contribute something to the celebration. There is nothing like feeling included to fill everyone with Christmas spirit. It’s best to ask what everyone would like to contribute though, rather than handing out tasks. That will ensure everyone is willing and excited.

3. Make it okay to spread the celebration out over several days. In my family we have Christmas Eve with one branch, Christmas Day with another, and Boxing Day with another. In amongst that, my eldest daughter spends some time with me and some time with her dad. We used to take turns having her with us on Christmas Day but the celebration has spread so well for me now that I don’t remember which year is which. As long as we get to spend time together, who cares?

4. Have a Secret Santa for your extended family if it’s large. Buying cheap gifts for step-cousins you haven’t seen since last Christmas is such a waste. Instead, choose one person each to buy for and send them something awesome instead. 

5. Help your kids to buy gifts or make cards for their step-parents and other relatives. They don’t need to know about any adult issues among the family, they just want everyone to be happy and to get along.

Girl with a present

6. Ensure that each of your kids gets equal gifts, whether they live with you full-time, or visit occasionally.

7. Reassure your kids that you’re happy for them to go and spend time with their other family, if that happens in your home. It’s nice for them to know you’ll miss them, but don’t allow them to feel guilty for leaving you behind.

8. If your kids live between two homes, have a conversation about who is buying what gifts for Christmas. And don’t try to outdo each other. Kids may be temporarily wowed by large, expensive presents, but the best gift you can give them is a unified approach to their upbringing. 

9. In the name of Christmas, let comments and actions that would otherwise irk you just wash over you. This is not the time to take anyone on or seethe with old resentments. Smile and make small talk with people you might otherwise try to avoid. There is plenty of time for all that later.

10. Let go of expectations. What will be will be, and having high expectations can only invite those expectations to be dashed. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself or others to create the perfect day.

Remember, Christmas is just another day. Enjoy it for what it is, and allow all of your family to do the same. That’s the best gift you can give them this Christmas.

Bupa Team Family
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