Surefire Ways Stepfamilies Can Navigate Holiday Stress

By Rosalind Sedacca, CDC

It’s no secret that the holiday season can be difficult for families following a divorce. However, this stress is readily compounded when divorced parents decide to blend families through a new marriage. Stepfamilies are particularly prone to emotional turmoil at this time of year, especially due to the unrealistic expectations that too often get in the way.

Even though stepfamilies now outnumber first families in the United States, equilibrium can easily be upset by past memories or former traditions that are no longer part of the plan. This leads to feelings of being second best or not a “real” family. Accusations, guilt, blame and a sense of inadequacy easily fuels conflict that will undermine even the most festive occasions or well-meant plans.

Step Out Of The Past

In most cases, family members set themselves up for disappointment by making comparisons with the past. Stepparents and stepchildren can erroneously expect the newly formed stepfamily to replicate the close bonds and sense of security within their original family.

It’s important to talk to one another. Own and address your new realities. Share your expectations and understanding that this new family dynamic is unique and different from the original family. Be receptive to questions and suggestions about how to move ahead. Candid communication releases a lot of pressure within both parents and children. It can also open the door to new traditions, new activities and new ways to spend time together as a blended family.

Expect And Accept Tension

Tensions within a blended family are normal. They’re a natural part of exploring boundaries and interacting closely with new personalities. For this reason, it’s wise to plan holiday activities in advance — with a strategy. Limit everyone-together time for those who don’t get along. Plan lots of alone time with your own children as well as with your stepchildren. Remember stepchildren value time with their biological parents above all else, and can jealously make comparisons when you give attention to others.

Don’t forget to include special parent-only alone time during your holiday plans. If you let go of the Norman Rockwell images of Christmas past it will be easier to design a new present with reasonable schedules and realistic expectations as you move into the New Year!
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Rosalind Sedacca, CDC is the founder of the Child-Centered Divorce Network, a Divorce & Co-Parenting Coach and author of numerous books and e-courses on divorcing with children and co-parenting successfully. For instant download of her FREE EBOOK on Doing Co-Parenting Right: Success Strategies For Avoiding Painful Mistakes! go to:

© Rosalind Sedacca All rights reserved.