How to integrate step-families at Christmas


christmas family together

Christmas can be a stressful time, especially when you have a whole host of different family commitments to juggle. Jo Middleton has some top tips for bringing step-families together this Christmas

Yep, it’s that time of year again – Christmas!

I’m a massive fan of Christmas, but I appreciate that a lot of people find it stressful. There’s the cost for one thing; the overeating, the waste, the family dynamics…yes, I know, but remember the mince pies! And the mulled wine! And presents!

If you’ll be tackling Christmas with the added complication of bringing together a step-family this year, then I have a few tips for you, to help the festive season go as smoothly as possible:

Talk about it in advance

Okay, so I may have left it a little late in the year for this tip, but even if you talk about your Christmas plans now, it can still have a positive effect. A lot of the stress around integrating step-families at Christmas comes from people being surprised or disappointed about things not happening in quite the way they want them too. Perhaps you’ve always waited until after breakfast to open presents, whereas your step-children are used to rushing in at 5am? By sitting down together well in advance of Christmas Day to talk through the rituals that are important to you, you’ll avoid any nasty surprises on the 25th!

Don’t expect it to be perfect

Much of the stress of Christmas comes from our unrealistically high expectations of the day. We plough so much money and effort into trying to create a perfect day, but the reality is that no one day can be perfect. The same can be said of merging families – we want everyone to get along perfectly straightaway, but the reality is that it takes time for new relationships to build. Things will probably go wrong at Christmas; you’ll forget to buy batteries, the turkey won’t defrost properly and there will almost certainly be fights. But all of these little things are just part of the fun. Embrace them rather than freaking out when something goes wrong.

Create your own traditions

You might be tempted to try and compromise and to incorporate two sets of Christmas traditions into one, but this can be tricky. You can’t go out for a walk on Christmas afternoon as well as watching the Queen’s speech and eating Stilton. It just doesn’t work. Instead, why not start from scratch and start some new traditions together? Some of these will evolve over time, but you could kick start things by spending a cosy evening in together thinking about the things you love most about Christmas. That way you can decide how you can incorporate those things into special step-family rituals.

Keep Christmas with your new family simple. Have reasonable expectations and see it as a chance to find out more about each other and spend time together. And, if all else fails, crack open a bottle of sherry, dive into that box of Roses and watch Home Alone.

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