You have re-married! Congratulations! Its incredible to be in love and happy again!! Your love story feels amazing. As a couple you want to celebrate your new life and you can’t wait to share blended family holidays!
Creating Memorable Blended Family Holidays Requires Respect and Empathy
If you are beginning a new marriage with a blended family, use this quick guide to help you host blended family holidays with adult children.
Blended families have the potential to be a wonderful gift. When you marry someone with kids, there is a pre-existing sense of love and affection for their children. It can be so joyful to see the qualities, character traits and quirks displayed in the children of your new partner.
Every Family Has Holiday Challenges
Recently I got married to the most wonderful man, and began a relationship his five children. Add my two adult kids and we are now a blended tribe of 5 adult children, 3 pre-teens and 3 grandchildren.
Breaking it down, we are: Italian, Polish, Midwest, East Coast, West Coast, Democrat, Republican, Queer, Hetro, Cat lovers, Dog lovers and Night Owls/Early Birds.
And bonus round! We are an interfaith blended family, Jewish, Catholic and Evangelical Christian.
Sharing Holidays With Blended Families
Blended families are one of the most challenging and rewarding things about re-marriage. Often, one of the most destructive things to a second marriage is the stepchildren. Loyalties are triggered, birth parents feel defensive or embarrassed by their kid’s behavior, and the non-bio parent feels left out of rituals and the memories of family history.
It can be a real shit show.
And the most frightening result? The newly married couple starts to fracture under the weight of all the divided loyalties.
Blended Family Examples That Are Red Flags
If you are in a relationship with a person who has children with a former partner, pay attention to these potential blended family warning signs:
- Capable adult children who have not financially separated from their parent.
- Adult children who use emotional manipulation to control/influence a parent’s choices.
- Adult children who remind the new partner that they are not their biological parent.
- Adult children who want to force arguments and insist on choosing sides.
Sometimes Blended Families Fail
These behaviors are clear indicators that there is some hostility toward the potential new mate. If the man or woman you are dating is emotionally entangled with their adult children, buckle in for a long bumpy marriage! Before entering wedded bliss, take some time and seek out counseling for your partnership.
Blended Family Holidays Need Boundaries To Keep Things Healthy
The boundaries you draw in your new marriage need to be solid, respectful, and balanced. They need to favor the new partnership, not the old historical allegiances or unhealed emotional family wounds. Blending family with adult children is a complicated and challenging topic, but with some honest conversations, it can be very successful for everyone.
Midlife Is Magical
Hosting blended family holidays is a nuanced blend of flexibility and rigidity. Flex as much as possible, but make sure to set and maintain your boundaries as a couple.
Yes, Joyful and Inclusive Holidays Are Possible!
So, wait… is it possible to blend families and enjoy visits from adult children?
Absolutely! Start early setting your boundaries, be consistent and above all, seek to radiate respectful, healthy emotionally mature love. Holidays with blended families can create meaningful memories, and help build the bonds of acceptance.
As the holidays approach, here are some simple suggestions to help everyone feel at home and respected.
Hosting Suggestions For Holidays With a Blended Family
We recently hosted my adult children and their spouses for a weeklong visit.
It was an incredible time of bonding and creating new memories. My new husband and I had prepared for difficult emotions and potential conflict, but happily there was not even a hint of negativity.
Remember, Family Boundaries Should Help, Not Hurt
Here are the blended family guidelines that we use in our home. We have tried to keep things light and flexible, but with a framework that respects our new partnership.
Everyone is welcome.
Please come and celebrate our holidays with us. If you do not typically celebrate our holidays, we still want you to join us if you would like to. We ask that you are respectful when participating in our holiday traditions. They are important to us just like your traditions are valuable to you. We are doing our best to be inclusive and create new meaningful memories.
We love you, but it is our house.
Parents, ever have an adult child tell you how to live your life? Yea, that is about as welcome as a turd in a punch bowl, am I right? In the spirit of unity and family bonding, please respect that the host has the right to set the household rules. We have tried to think of everything to make your visit amazing, we really do want you here! Please respect our preferences, our beliefs, and our political views.
Look for ways to help.
Please enjoy yourself during your visit, but we ask that you look for small ways to help out with the daily chores. Trying unloading the dishwasher. Offer to cook a meal for the whole house, throw in a load of kitchen towels. Sweep the floor, offer to vacuum the great room. Find something simple and helpful to show us that you are part of the team. Teamwork makes the dreamwork!
We are doing our best to see you as adults.
It can be hard for parents of adult kids to ease back on the parental throttle. We know you are grown, but magically we still see the little boys and girls that we raised. Forgive us if we get stuck in reactive parental behaviors. Take us aside, privately, and let us know if we are treating you like a child instead of an adult. It is important to us that we create a sense of mutual respect in our relationship with you.
Childhood Roles Often Re-Appear During Family Visits
It is quite common for adult children to fall back into childhood roles when visiting their parents. Gently remind them that Mom/Dad is no longer their maid or chef. Be prepared for some push-back when you ask for extra help in the household chores. Stay firm, offer to help them if needed and allow all those years of instructional chores to finally pay off!
Let Your Spouse Handle The Drama
If you are recently re-married, don’t be surprised if you watch your spouse get caught in frustrating/confusing communication cycles with their children. Every family has its own language and legends, and sometimes family members like to create drama as a form of connecting. Unless your spouse indicates that they need you to get involved, take a back seat and trust them to manage the drama.
Blended Families Need To Remember That Each Family Has A Previous Valuable History
Holidays Can Bring A Sense Of Loneliness
Holidays can open the memory vault for parents, and sometimes we get stuck in the past. We want to share memoires, but as a blended family, we don’t have much history yet. It can be very lonely for a parent when they are celebrating holidays apart from their children, it can feel isolating and might bring up a sense of grief.
Be Sensitive To Your Partner During Holidays
It helps when newly married partners acknowledge the grief and sense of loneliness that is happening in their new spouse. Yes, the holidays are an incredible time to create new memoires for a newly blended family, but it is normal for your new spouse to feel a sting of sadness. Your wife might feel excluded from the long list of important family stories, even if she wants to be a good listener, she might feel out of place.
Your Spouse Loves You, But Is Missing Their Kids During The Holidays
Encourage your spouse to take time to connect with their adult kids during the holiday celebrations happening in your home. Stepping into a quiet space to call the other adult kids can be balancing for your husband, helping him to stay connected to his family and their unique history. As blended family partners, it is critical that we remain supportive and tender when our spouse is missing their biological children.
A Blended Family Holiday Pledge
To our adult children: We love you. We want to be in a healthy relationship with you. We respect your adult decisions, and we expect you to respect our decisions. It is our desire to build memories full of joy and laughter with our new partner.
We hope that you can support our blended family partnership. Join us as often as you can, we want you to feel close to us and welcome in our home.
No matter what your role is in a new marriage, you want to have successful and affectionate relationships with your bonus blended family. If you call yourself a stepparent, a bonus mom or you function in the role of family cheerleader, remember that you are a critical part of creating healthy blended family relationships.
I would love to hear from you with other suggestions and ideas to help make blended family holidays special. Please leave a comment!