Handling the Holidays as a Stepfamily

The holidays are stressful enough, but they can be especially difficult for those of us who live in blended families. Blended families are families that include children from previous marriages. Our families all have one thing in common -- they exist as the result of a loss, whether divorce or death. So blended families and holidays are often a difficult mix during this season when we all take stock of our lives, reflecting on the past year and looking forward to the next. And as we do so, we're constantly bombarded with images of all those perfect families in all those cotton and coffee commercials...and are constantly reminded that we're different from other families.

While this can be hard for everybody, it can be especially hard for stepchildren who may already feel like outsiders when visiting their mom's or dad's house. But no matter what the situation, you can still celebrate the season with the best of them if you keep a few things in mind:

Include stepchildren in as many holiday family activities as possible. Being excluded hurts. If the logistics can't work out, create new family traditions that include everybody, every year.

Include your stepchildren's names when you sign your Christmas or holiday cards -- and never send a card to your young stepchildren. They'll feel more like outsiders.

Treat everybody as equally as possible. Make sure all the children get the same number of gifts and don't give your children more expensive gifts than your stepchildren. Believe me, they'll notice.

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