Summer can be a complicated time for blended families. For starters, school-age kids are off on vacation, which makes for a lot of time spent together around the house. (Which equates to potential friction, no matter how much you all love each other.) At the same time, families have a whole slew of summer holidays and activities to face together.
As you likely know from experience, one of the biggest hiccups of keeping a blended family cohesive is reconciling the different rituals kids were raised with before the family blended. There’s nothing like holidays for bringing these differences to the forefront, which makes the Fourth of July, graduations, family trips, and summer camp plans especially fraught. Add in the fact that summer is framed as an idyllic, happy-go-lucky time, and any experience that differs from that can make it feel like every other family has it more together than yours.
All kinds of baggage can come up in the summer—but as a blended family member, you’re probably already all too familiar with potential landmines, so let’s focus on the positive.Let’s consider ways to have an imperfectly perfect, peaceful summer holiday experience.Here we go, how to keep summer holidays as stress-free as possible:
Acknowledge the different roles of parental figures.
In some families, a stepmother or stepfather might have a full-on parental role in their stepkids’lives. In other families, stepparents have a distinctly different role than biological parents, albeit a special one that deserves recognition. And of course, there might be other close adult figures in kids’lives as well, like aunts and uncles. All this is to say that kids might be feeling sensitive about all this during this time of year, especially if your blended family is new. After all, the season kicks off with Father’s Day, which brings parental roles starkly into focus, and ends with Labor Day Weekend, another time of year known for family traditions.
One way to keep this going smoothly is to be careful not to use language kids aren’t comfortable with. (For example, don’t refer to their stepfathers as their dads unless that’s something everyone is okay with.)If your idea of family summer fun is different than the kids’biological parents’usual summer activities, acknowledge that it’s okay to participate in both, and that the kids aren’t being asked to choose a “favorite”way of doing things.
Don’t talk bad about anyone’s parent.
This might sound like a given, but it can be sotough sometimes, especially if you all need to be in the same room together for any summer family events. If your ex-spouse put you through the ringer during your split, it can be hard to talk about them positively in front of your kids, particularly at gatherings that prompt everyone to put on a happy face. This can be equally tough for stepsiblings who don’t agree with the way their stepswere raised.
As hard as it is, in most cases (unless their parent is a danger to them), the best case scenario for kids is to avoid talking badly about their mom or dad. You don’t need to spew out fake positive platitudes—just do your best to avoid getting negative.
Create summer rituals that are unique to your blended family.
Somekids might struggle with whether they’re being “loyal” enough to their other parent when they’re having a good time with their stepfamily. A fun way to ease some of this stress is to create special summer holiday rituals that are unique to your blended family—and that still make room for whatever existing traditions each kid had before your blended family came together. This could meanan annual barbecue at a favorite park, a group outing to the local Fourth of July parade,or working on a special craft project together. It really doesn’t matter whatthe tradition is, so long as there isone. Keep a focus on honoring what this new family represents without any notion of “replacing” any summer traditions that are already in place.
It’s okay for summer to feel a little bumpy.
Blended families are all about taking the unique pieces of a household and bonding them together into something that both creates a shared experience andacknowledges differences. Nothing is ever perfect. Of course, non-blended families are perfectly imperfect too, but blended families are more likely to be realistic about this fact, and that’s to our advantage. Creating your own holiday rituals together might feel tense at first, and that’s okay. Each year, things will get a bit easier. Blended families are a perpetual learning experience—and that’s totally fine!