Written by David Wisdom

“I thought I said, no damn tinsel on the tree.”
“We gotta have roast beef and Yorkshire pudding.”
“Why do I have to sit at the card table with her kids?”
“Do you really have to put all those lights on the house?”
“We absolutely have to cut back on the gifts this year.”

Sound familiar? Stepfamilies have the potential for real strife during the holidays. Two families coming together to form a stepfamily often have widely divergent expectations. These are emotionally loaded events. Often, at such times, the stepfamily seems to sink into pettiness and bickering. Some will inevitably end up feeling slighted or had their wishes ignored. There will likely be accusations of favoritism by the kids. How does the family deal with the limited time that Christmas affords while considering the needs of the kids, ex-spouses and several sets of grandparents? It can all be very confusing and exasperating. Hey, talk about needing a ‘bail out’, what can help this family?

Your stepcouple is your resource. You both have the ability to come together as a team and make order out of chaos. And I know that you both have the desire to make it work. You obviously love each other, so listen to each other. What were the traditions that each family treasured? Compromise. Consider starting new traditions. That’s easy. A new tradition is just one that you have done more than two times in a row. Put out the model trains or cook aunt Rachael’s spinach casserole, say grace or give a toast at dinner. Involve the whole family in cleaning up and make it fun.

Together, work out a budget for your time as well as your gifts. Designate separate areas of responsibility for each spouse in the stepcouple and include the kids. They will begin to feel a bigger part in their family. Do a gift lottery or draw straws for gift giving if finances are tight. If you have a talent, make something or put together a basket of goodies. It doesn’t have to be costly. The gifts I remember most were drawn, carved, assembled or recorded by the kids. Then again, there was that torque wrench … but I guess I picked that tool out myself. Time commitments are the biggest drain on your energy. Don’t take on more than you can handle. Talk to your spouse and set limits that are doable. Delegate. Women don’t always have to be in charge of everything.

David Wisdom, Susan’s husband
December 2010

We both wish you a happy and peaceful holiday season.
Susan and David

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