a special feature from Bonnie Compton, Parent Coach & Child /Adolescent Therapist*

Have you ever watched a holiday family movie, laughed and heard yourself say, “Gosh, I thought my family drama was over the top?”. Hey, we all have our share of family drama, some more than others, and especially when we gather for the holidays. You may have fond memories of when your children were little, yet your now adult children have created a life of their own. Though they may look forward to returning “home”, sometimes their unsettled childhood issues rear their ugly head. Have you ever noticed how your adult children regress when they come back into the family fold? We’re all capable of being triggered by past emotions. You may feel this way when you visit your own family.

And then there is the blended family—with new additions to the group. A blending of families may result from divorce or death of a spouse. The addition of a new spouse, in-laws, children or grandchildren, can be wonderful—yet the family is now different. Changes within a family can also create changes in holidays. Family holidays can be fun or overwhelming—especially if you’re not prepared for or accepting of change.

So how can you gather your blended loved ones together and create a fun and peaceful holiday? By doing so with intention. Before you get overwhelmed with holiday decorating and shopping, take some time to intentionally plan a holiday that will help to create lifelong positive memories. Here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Ask family members how they would like to celebrate the holiday. Send out a short family survey or take a vote. When family members feel heard and acknowledged, they are much more apt to help plan the day.
  • Delegate—delegate—delegate! You can’t do it all. If you’re overwhelmed and exhausted by the time the holiday dinner table is set, you won’t be much fun to be around—remember this should be fun and relaxing for all, including you!
  • Keep it simple! Remember you’re creating holiday memories that are far more important than trying to create the perfect holiday.
  • Learn to drop your own agenda (expectations) and go with the flow. You might even enjoy the unexpected holiday happenings.
  • And don’t forget to keep your sense of humor…chances are at some point during the festivities, you’ll need it!
  • Try looking at each relative through a different lens—perhaps your sister’s criticism of others can be seen as her need to make her feel better about herself. Sending her love and compassion (in your mind and heart) might just help her feel better—if nothing else, it will probably help you feel better!
  • Children and grandchildren of divorce often feel torn between families. So although you may wish the child’s holiday visitation schedule was not split with their other family, be respectful of their time. Family holiday celebrations may not always coincide with the actual date. It’s easier to shift the celebration date, once you shifted your mindset!
  • Family traditions help to bring families closer—so as your family expands, try blending some new family traditions into the celebration. Engage the whole family in a discussion about their favorite holiday tradition. Incorporate new traditions that the whole family can look forward to each year!

And remember, there is no such thing as a perfect holiday, so drop your big holiday expectations and go with the flow and have FUN!

*Bonnie Compton, APRN, BC, CPNP
Child & Adolescent Therapist
Parent Coach Parenting Partners, LLC
Host of Wholehearted Parenting Radio