November 30, 2019
By Kelly Arant, M.Ed., NCC, LPC
Pathways Professional Counseling
The holidays are my favorite time of the year, but the season is also a stressful time.
All families, whether traditional, blended, single parent, empty nest, newlyweds or any variation between, experience stress around the holidays. It is a universal experience.
When conflict arises around the holidays the root cause typically is either unmet or unexpressed expectations.
The holiday stress of blended families can be compounded by all the schedules that have to be juggled. There are two of everything. Stepparenting coach and author Gayla Grace provides some practical steps for making the holidays enjoyable:
- Put the children first.
- Be proactive — it’s never too early to start planning.
- Put aside unrealistic expectations — there will be some unhappy moments during the holidays. Grief is a real part of the holidays, especially if a family has changed due to death or divorce.
- Be flexible and agreeable with other family members if possible. It’s important to remember that Christmas can be celebrated on any day other than December 25 and still be special and enjoyable.
- Start new traditions and continue enjoying old traditions that fit. Traditions are a great way for stepfamilies to create bonds with one another that are strengthened every year as you come together for an established purpose.
Newlyweds face similar struggles.
I will never forget the first Christmas my husband and I celebrated together.
I come from a large, blended family and my husband is the second oldest of five children. His tradition was to meet at his widowed father’s house for breakfast with his siblings on Christmas morning.
My tradition was to have Christmas lunch at my mom’s house with the large blended family that included myself, my six siblings and their families, and then have an evening meal with my dad that just included him and my two older brothers.
As the day approached not having planned ahead, my husband and I decided to just carry on the old traditions. What this looked like in reality was us getting up at 3 a.m. to celebrate our time together, breakfast with his dad at 6 a.m., lunch with my mom at noon and dinner with my dad at 6 p.m.
We arrived home at 11 p.m. exhausted and then had to go to work the next day.
It had not been a day of celebration for us, but one of endurance.
Newlyweds need to know it’s ok to set boundaries in a loving way, according to psychologist Nikki Martinez.
In her article “Tips for Newlyweds, On Navigating the Holidays,” Martinez reminds couples, “The important thing is that you are together, that you are creating new traditions as a couple, and that you are doing the best that you can to be involved with your families and let them know that you love them and that you want to be with them as much as you can this holiday season.”
This is exactly what my husband and I did over the next few years. We had conversations early with each other and our families, we moved some holiday celebrations to other days and times and we built in new traditions just for our family.
The holidays became so much more enjoyable when we did.
EDITOR’S NOTE — Faith & Family is a monthly look at important spiritual, cultural and relational issues facing today’s families. For more articles on contemporary topics like these, go to PathwaysProfessional.org/blog.
Kelly Arant is a mom of two grown children and a nationally certified licensed professional counselor serving in central and north Alabama with Pathways Professional Counseling, a sister ministry of Alabama Baptist Children’s Homes & Family Ministries.