Blended families come in all shapes and sizes and because Christmas is a time to celebrate with family, it can lead to tension if things aren’t planned properly.
If you and your partner or spouse are separated you can’t assume that you will have the children with you all day on December 25th.
Similarly, if you are in a relationship with someone who has children from a previous relationship, you have to factor in what time they will get over the holidays to spend with their children.
It can be complicated and stressful. But it doesn’t have to be. By acknowledging the potential pitfalls, you can make a plan that will hopefully suit everyone.
1. Discuss what you’re going to buy and put a spending limit on presents
If you’re lucky, you and your partner will be on the same page when it comes to spending money on presents for your children. It’s important to put your differences aside and come together when it comes to celebrating Christmas with them.
Parental guilt is common – especially after a divorce – but while the urge to spend a lot is understandable, try to pare back what you spend and shower your children with love, affection and quality time instead.
2. Keep the children occupied
Children have less structure over the holidays and if they are spending time with other children that they’re not used to (particularly in their own home) things can be come fraught. Depending on their ages, set various things for them to do each day so they’re don’t have time to bicker or argue among themselves.
You could have a Monopoly tournament, a treasure hunt, a nature walk, a Harry Potter movie marathon or an afternoon of baking where they get to eat the treats they’ve made afterwards!
3. Decide in advance when and where presents will be opened
Every parent wants to see their child or children opening their Santa presents and it can be difficult when the parents don’t live in the same house.
Talk to each other and decide together what the best thing is for your children. Could the other parent stay in the spare room on Christmas Eve? Or perhaps you agree to wait until after lunch to open presents? Be mindful that it’s an emotional time for everyone and to be as inclusive as possible.
4. Make allowances for new spouses and partners
If you’re someone who likes things to be a certain way, you may have to let go a little to accommodate your new blended family. Apart from any extra children in the mix from your new partner and their previous partner, you also have to consider your ex’s new spouse who may also have children.
Compromises will have to be made but as long as you all keep the lines of communication open, things have a much better chance of running smoothly.
5. Don’t speak badly of any family member in front of your children
No matter how much they annoy or frustrate you, do not speak negatively about your former partner in front of your children. Not only will it cause them sadness and tension, it will also lead to rows with you and your partner if they’re informed of what you’ve said.
If you find yourself reaching boiling point with your ex, remove yourself from the situation and go for a walk with a friend or your current partner where you can have a rant without the danger of being overheard by curious little ears!
6. Plan a break for yourself afterwards
Don’t beat yourself up if everything doesn’t go exactly according to plan. If you get through it and you’re still talking to everyone on January 1st, take it as a win!
In the meantime, plan a little treat for yourself for when Christmas is over and your regular schedule resumes. It could be a spa day, a night out with your friends, a meditation class, a meal with your other half or just a duvet day where you curl up with a hot chocolate, your favourite film and the last of the Christmas sweet tins.
Do what makes you happy and enjoy it. You’ve earned it!