I think one of the hardest parts about ‘blending’ a newly formed family is dealing with ‘traditions’. Family traditions are the backbone of our family culture. They are the routines that children are used to and are usually well loved. Routines are established early on in families and are celebrated year after year. Children look forward to them. With Easter fast approaching, I wanted to talk to you a little about this topic.
What happens when traditions need to be changed to accommodate a blended or step family?? Here are a few tips:
1. It is important to remain flexible in accepting the fact that your children and/or stepchildren may not always be with you, as in previous years, on important holidays. This fact alone can change how the tradition looks and it will take time for a newly formed family to navigate and make it their own. Being flexible in scheduling is an extremely important component of blended families, especially when dealing with Holidays. If you had a tradition of a pancake breakfast on Easter morning and you don’t have your stepkids that morning, you can still make a pancake breakfast on another day. If you get the kids on Monday or Tuesday morning, you can make your pancakes then! Don’t get attached to the actual date. Kids won’t even notice – they just care about the tradition, not the calendar date.
1. Seek to understand the needs of your family members. Have a conversation about the traditions that are important to each family member. While forming new traditions with your blended family, you can maintain some old traditions too! There has to be some give and take between family members. Remember to communicate with each other to find out what is most important for each person.
1. Create something new by drawing on the best parts of the old. If one of the traditions that your husband and his children had before you came along was taking a family photo in front of the Christmas tree on Christmas Day, you can still do that! But make it your own. Take two photos – one with Dad and the kids and then another that includes you. But put your own twist on it. Bring photo props and make it fun – have everyone wear ugly Christmas sweaters and funny glasses or fake mustaches, etc. I promise you that after a few years, they will transition into the new tradition you have formed for your family. It is important to both honour the old and bring in the new.
One of the family traditions that my stepchildren had was that their parents read “The night before Christmas” to them before bed on Christmas Eve. Now, Christmas Eve is rotated each year between their Mom and our house. I can remember the first Christmas Eve that the kids were with us – their Mom bought the book that allows you to record yourself reading the story. So here we were, our first Christmas Eve with the kids and my husband didn’t get to read the book, because his ex-wife recorded it and sent it with the kids so she could be the one to read it to them in her voice. I was so upset that night for my husband – she took that away from him even though they were in our home. And what can you do? I wanted to take the book and hide it so my husband could read to them from our copy. But they knew about Mom’s book and wanted to listen to it before bed. So we let them.
We created some new traditions that night – a hot chocolate bar filled with all kinds of goodies (ie. Whipped cream, sprinkles, etc), Christmas Eve boxes filled with new pajamas, slippers, games and a new personalized ornament and driving around before bed to find the brightest Christmas lights. Since that first Christmas Eve, the kids have transitioned into the traditions that we have created in our own home. They no longer ask for Mom’s version of the story (they do that at her house only) as Dad gets to read to them now. They want to do the things that they are now used to at our home. It took some time, but it can happen. Just remember, don’t take anything personally – you can’t forget the past. But you can form your own future. Just be patient and consider everyone’s feelings in the process!
By: Aimee Allen