The holidays can be particularly difficult for divorced or stepfamilies. Jeannette Lofas, founder of Stepfamily Foundation, Inc. in NYC, offers these tips for helping the holidays go smoothly:
1. Plan, plan, and plan. Start planning Christmas and Hanukkah now. As a couple, map out procedures for arrivals, expected behavior, dress, manners, chores, seating at dinner and departure times. Go over plans with the other biological parent (ex spouse), stepparent and grandparents, as needed.
2. Build couple strength. Remember, the couples in the house are the "pillars" who hold up the family. No commitment should be made to any family member before the couple has agreed. Discussion, compromise and respect are crucial. Good partnering skills and couple strength equal functioning holiday events.
3. Honor each other's differences. Often couples have different customs and religions. Talk with the child about your different religious and/or cultural history. It is important that parents explain the meaning and significance of each person's point of view and/or way of doing things.
4. Movement between homes is just part of the divorce and step situation. For families of divorce and step, there just is more movement and less peace. Let your child know that the good news about the holiday is that they get more people in their life! The bad news is that they get less time to spend with the core family.
5. Set precedents. Plan the holiday as if you were the director of a movie. Apply the five Ws: who, what, where, why and when. Think about all contingencies "the what-ifs".
6. Exs: be civil! There are ex-spouses, but no ex-parents. Holidays are times for forgiveness and new beginnings. Mind your manners, and speak and act respectfully to each other for the well being of the children.
7. Time, energy, and money. The amount spent on gifts can become a bone of contention for step. Expected energy and time contributions can also become confusing for the stepparent and child alike. If grandparents want to spend more on their blood grandchildren, it hurts the stepchildren.
8. "Ritual Arrivals" make things smoother. Create a ritual around the arrival of the children, such as milk and cookies after theyâ??ve put their bags away. Talk to the kids about activities planned for your time together. "Ritual Arrival" time diminishes the uncertainty of not having been with each other for a while, and creates a procedure for visitation.
9. Get close; create an atmosphere. Bake pies and cookies, or have eggnog and popcorn by the fire. Do not let the TV be the only warm glow in the room!
10. Keep your Sense of Humor and your vision of the spirit of the holiday. Remember, we can create what we envision!
The Stepfamily Foundation, Inc. is not for profit founded in 1975 by Jeannette Lofas. The Stepfamily Foundation Inc. provides counseling via telephone, in person, and house call, generating an 84% success rate of clients counseled.
Visit www.stepfamily.org for enriching articles and information on how to successfully live in step.
After an exciting career in broadcast news, Jeannette Lofas CSW, Ph.D., married a man with four girls. She moved herself and her 10 year old son to Aspen Colorado, where she founded the Stepfamily Foundation in 1975. Ms. Lofas is recognized as a pioneer in the field of the stepfamily, and a leading authority on divorce and remarriage. The author of 5 books, Ms. Lofas now resides in New York City.
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