Put blended family drama on ice this holiday season

Don’t feel crummy! Holidays can be tough for step-families.

The calendar for the holiday season fills up fast, both with festive gatherings and all the preparations for them. It can be challenging to find time for everything — and when you’re dealing with the conflicting demands that come with today’s blended families, those challenges can seem insurmountable.

In order to make sure both you and your ex feel that time is shared fairly, you have to start with figuring out what “fair” means to everyone involved, says Katie Dunleavy, assistant professor of communication at La Salle University.

“Is ‘fairness’ about dividing holiday time equally, or are particular events more important to one parent or the other?” she asks. For instance, if one parent’s family tradition is that Christmas Eve dinner is the highlight of the holiday, he or she might be fine with not seeing the kids at all on Christmas Day. For others, dividing the day in half may feel fair.

Dunleavy stresses the importance of talking honestly with your ex about how you’re feeling. “It is likely that there will be feelings of guilt, loneliness and possibly annoyance when making decisions about spending time with family members on holidays,” she says. “Acknowledging these feelings to others won’t eliminate the problem, but it will alleviate some of the emotions attached.”

What if there is an event that both parents want to attend, like a school play or a religious service? Dunleavy says they should put aside their conflicts for the length of the event. “As the children grow up, there will be future events — graduations, weddings — that require that both parents be in same vicinity and share in the celebration.” 


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