As a blended or divorced family, holidays can be tricky because it always feels a bit of a Cha-Cha as we all try to find the rhythm. Unfortunately, the kids end up paying the price if parents have a difficult time putting their feelings for each other in a box and leaving it by the door.

Maybe I was a bit naïve when I got divorced. I was completely open to celebrating holidays together so that we could both be with Mina. We celebrated one Christmas together and that was about it. One day, Mina’s dad asked me why it was so important to me that we come together even though we weren’t a “family” anymore. The question was not asked in a negative way, but with actual curiosity. In his world, no one did that and it just seemed weird.

My goal in the divorce was for all of us to have the opportunity to find happiness since it wasn’t happening together. Mina shouldn’t be short-changed from seeing both her parents on important days such as holidays or her birthday. If her father and I have moved beyond anger and have new partners, in my mind, couldn’t we come together for a couple of hours for the benefit of Mina? She deserves the opportunity to see her parents at the same time celebrating her.

This concept of inclusion folds into our new blended family lifestyle as well. Both my partner Alex and I are in agreement that the kids should be able to celebrate with parents, grandparents, whomever at the same time and not be put into the position to have to choose whose house to go to for which holiday. This is where it gets tricky.

There is the original family unit and the new blended family. Again, egos need to be set aside for the betterment of the children. There have been times that family occasions meant just Alex, his girls, and their mother celebrating a holiday or occasion. Then there would be a separate celebration that included me and Mina at another time. There are a lot of ego-based feelings that come up, but it’s important to maintain perspective and remember what’s important. What was important in those cases was Allegra and Zola being with their parents, even if their parents were no longer together.

As the years have progressed, we have become very adept at creating balanced boundaries within holidays and celebrations. All the family members are invited to participate. This includes ex’s, ex In-laws, friends, etc. By creating this open structure, it is up to the individual to join in depending on his/her own comfort level. Alex and I want to always have an open door to anyone who loves and cares for all the girls to be part of the important moments in their lives. For example, last Mother’s Day weekend, Alex’s ex In-laws came and spent time with me, Alex, and all the girls while they were visiting from California.

Mina’s father has had to find his own comfort level as we build our family tribe. There are times in which he participates more and there are months in which he chooses not to be part of it at all. I am very clear with Mina that I have an open invitation for her dad to be part of whatever we do. He needs to work within his own comfort level and that’s OK. Would I like for us to get to a point where we develop a friendship of sorts that supports Mina and fulfills her need to be with both of her parents? Yes, very much.

Divorce and blending families creates an opportunity for growth at different times and in different ways. Mina, Allegra, and Zola are being exposed to how we, as parents, interact, communicate, and honor each parent’s position in their lives. They are always watching, listening, and making observations.

When it comes to any successful holiday gathering, the keys to success are:

  • Communicate your needs and what’s important for you and your child.
  • Set your comfort boundaries and express them honestly. Hiding your feelings creates resentment and will affect the family flow.
  • In what ways can you compromise? What is important to hold on to and what can you let go of?
  • Demonstrate compassion. Each of us holds different insecurities in this new family structure.
  • Planning ahead of time is extremely important because there are so many schedules to juggle. Having open conversations during the planning process communicates expectations and needs between all the adults, creating a smoother holiday.

How we interact with each other teaches the girl’s life skills to bring forward in their own lives. It is not easy and each day is different. While it is a dance, there isn’t a predetermined set of moves that will prevent you from stepping on someone else’s toes. Just do the best you can and eventually, a rhythm will develop.

“Holidays, families, divorce ” can seem like words that create angst in a parent as to what to do. It doesn’t have to be if the holiday is child centric rather than parent ego-centric. It’s time to put the children first because they need to still believe in magic, love, and Santa Claus.

Photo Cred: unsplash-logo__ drz __

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