I recently posted on Facebook how I was working on MannerMonday topics and asked if anyone had a topic they would like to see included in a newsletter. One of my friends who is recently divorced asked for tips on how to handle sharing her kiddos and maneuvering the new family dynamics of two homes over the Holidays. My immediate thought was to reach out to a dear friend of mine Amy Urbach who does an AMAZING job handling ex-etiqeutte and blended families. Amy is so passionate about the topic, she has even started a non-profit called ‘Blended and Bonded‘. She is a true blessing and I know you will love reading her guest post. If you have a friend who is in this same situation, please pass along this post Amy has some great advice that will hopefully help to make their situation the best in can be this Holiday season.
“Where do you think you’re going? Nobody’s leaving. Nobody’s walking out on this fun, old-fashioned family Christmas. No, no. We’re all in this together. This is a full-blown, four-alarm holiday emergency here. We’re gonna press on, and we’re gonna have the hap, hap, happiest Christmas.” ~ Clark Griswold, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.
If you’ve seen the movie, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, you know that Clark is responding to a holiday gathering gone horribly wrong, with his guests headed for the door. Ever feel like this yourself? If you’re in a blended family, I know you’ve had a holiday like this at some point. If you haven’t, you will.
With the holiday season comes so much fun, excitement, joy, magic and STRESS! Often times, the stress can quickly and easily overtake the fun, excitement, joy and magic of the season. I usually start the season with such excitement and a mental list of all the things I want to do to make this year’s holiday season extra special for my family. All it takes is one trip to the mall as soon as the season starts and I’m out of fun, joy and excitement.
Divorce, co-parenting and blended families only compound the stress. Who gets the kids when? Let’s try to have all the kids at the same time. Will the ex be flexible with the schedule? Can we even communicate?
According to Ron Deal, a blended family expert, it can take up to 7 years for a blended family to “blend”, or come together and settle in to a family unit. With that in mind, if you can keep your expectations in check during the holiday season, you are less likely to set yourself and your family up for disappointment.
Here are some pointers to keep in mind during the holiday season:
- Plan ahead! Most co-parents have custody and visitation plans in place. If your ex is not willing to be flexible I highly recommend to sticking with what’s in writing. If you are able to be flexible with one another, by all means do what works best for your kids. Make sure you have everything in writing and agreed on ahead of time to reduce stress. Stick to the plan.
- Don’t try to control everything. When you are no longer with the father/mother of your children, you no longer have control, influence or a say in what happens in their household. Aside from abuse or serious neglect (and I don’t mean the kids are brushing their teeth), you have to let go of what happens and how it happens in the kids’ other home. You will only add stress to the holiday season for yourself and most importantly, your kids if you try to control their environment from a distance.
- Give your ex and kids the gift of uninterrupted time. It is normal and expected to be sad the kids are not with you during the holidays. Just because they aren’t with you, resist the urge to interrupt the time they have with the other parent/family. It’s a tempting thing to text, call and/or Facebook them to get updates on what they are doing. While it may be with good intentions, it can communicate you NEED the kids to stay connected to you and that may put pressure on them to report back to you. Be willing to treat the other household how you would want to be treated while you are having your holiday time with the kids. Once a day check-in is plenty. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.
- Be sensitive to the fact that kids are typically a few years behind us in terms of change to family dynamics. Holidays will likely never be the same for them. Give them space to process what things are going to look like for them. Kids at any age, including adult kids of divorce, can struggle with this. Depending on their age, they may be able and willing to communicate what their expectations are for the holiday season. If they aren’t comfortable just telling you, listen in other ways. They will communicate it their wants in one way or another.
- Don’t get hung up on celebrating on the exact day of the holiday. Whatever day you have with your kids, make THAT day your day to celebrate. If you have your kids on the actual holiday, enjoy. If you don’t, take that time to focus on you and other family members. Don’t get hung up on shuffling them around for the sake of being with them on the actual holiday. Give them time to relax and enjoy the season as well. Give your kids your blessing to completely enjoy their holiday with their other parent/family with no guilt.
- Don’t try to be a “Disney parent.” It’s not a competition to see who can get the most and best gifts for the kids. When my kids were younger, my ex, his wife and I were actually able to communicate about what we were getting the kids as to not duplicate. I know this can’t always be the case, but at least be open to the idea. If we over compensate we create entitled kids.
- Create new traditions with your kids. Ron Deal suggests it take several times to create a tradition. One time doesn’t mean it’s a tradition but over a few Christmases, you have created an expectation and anticipation of something to come. My kids and I have always made Christmas cookies. When I remarried we still do that, but we have added making gingerbread houses every Christmas with my kids and my step-kids.
- Be the example. You may have an ex that is just not willing to be respectful of any or all of the things mentioned above. This is the time for you to rise above that disrespectful behavior and show your kids an example of grace, flexibility and love. This doesn’t mean you let the ex walk all over you, but it does mean you set some boundaries, read the situation and adjust accordingly.
Go into the holiday season with an open mind, hopeful heart and be willing to be fun and flexible. Experts suggest kids fair better when at least one parent is reasonable and consistent, so even if your ex isn’t, you can be.
Give the best gift of all to your kids this holiday season: Your blessing to LOVE all that surround them. The payoff is down the road when your kids thank you for allowing them to do so. My kids have thanked their Dad and me often and that has been more satisfying than always getting my way at my kids’ expense.
– Amy Urbach
Passport (9th-12th Grades) Program
We need a few more young men!!!
If you know of any young men in the 9th-12th grades, please send them our way!
We officially have a waiting list for young ladies.
If you have yet to register for the Passport (9-12th grade) Program, please do so soon!
We will be attending the Civic Center to see Beauty and the Beast and we will also be visiting the Oklahoma City Museum of Art to learn ‘museum manners’ and put them into practice as we get a behind the scenes tour of some of the exhibits.
Click here to view the schedule and to register for the Passport Program.
Thanks for reading!
– Carey Sue