Q: I married my husband two years ago. He had two children from a previous marriage. I had one, and now we have one together. Some of the kids have two families, and we switch the major holidays every year. How can we create holiday family traditions that we can all look forward to even though some of the kids may not be with us each year?
A: Part of what makes family traditions special is who participates in them — perhaps Dad carves the turkey at the table at Thanksgiving dinner or Mom decorates the house in a certain way. Family members come to depend on those traditions during the holidays. If the participants change — say Dad and Mom divorce — family members may lose their enthusiasm for celebrating. That's when you hear things like, "It's just not the same." Or, "I miss Daddy." Those two statements pierce the heart of divorced or separated mothers, because the last thing they ever wanted to do was hurt their children.
But all is not lost. There are definitely some things you can do to ease holiday divorce tension and set the stage for successfully combining yours, mine and ours.
Interact with the ex
Begin by checking your attitude. If you dread dealing with your ex or come out with guns blazing each time you talk, interaction on any level will be difficult. Good communication with your ex is essential. If you can't talk to each other, then bitterness and chaos will prevail. There's no way the holidays will be merry if you can't discuss a compromise to make a possible change. Begin by adopting an attitude of "peace on earth and good will toward everyone... including my ex." When you find you're losing your temper, remind yourself that it's for the kids — and stop the drama in its tracks.