Balancing Blended FamiliesThe holiday season is simultaneously the most exciting and most stressful time of year for many American families.

It’s a time when families and friends come together to celebrate the best parts of the year. But it’s also a time when emotions are heightened, stress levels are elevated and anything can happen.

The season is especially important for families with small children because of the important opportunities for parents to create positive lifelong memories for their children.

Despite the cheer and excitement, the holiday season also can be difficult. The challenges can be even more severe among families that have experienced separation, divorce or remarriage. The added multiple layers to the family tree can lead to confusion, frustration, jealousy and uneasiness.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Divorced couples, their new spouses and their families can enjoy the holidays if they all remember to be respectful to everyone, according to Constance Ahrons, author of We’re Still Family and The Good Divorce.

“Divorce is never easy for any family, but it does not have to destroy children’s lives or lead to family breakdown,” Ahrons said.

Divorce and remarriage can be especially difficult during the holidays because extended families tend to spend so much time together. The holidays also are a period when it is most important for exes, in-laws and the other members of the modern American family to put aside their differences and help create lasting, positive memories for the children.

“In the end, if it’s about the children, you do the best you can because all of a sudden, it’s not about you,” said Jann Blackstone-Ford.

Blackstone-Ford and Sharyl Jupe are co-authors of Ex-Etiquette for the Holidays and other Family celebrations.

Their suggestions are far more than theoretical. Jupe is married to Blackston-Ford’s ex-husband. The two also have co-authored Ex-Etiquette for Parents and Ex-Etiquette for Weddings.

Tips for Blended Families

Blackstone-Ford and Jupe have the following advice for the holidays and other occasions:

  • Put the children first.
  • Never badmouth your ex, extended family members, the host or others.
  • Get organized well in advance.
  • Don’t be spiteful.
  • Don’t hold grudges.
  • Be honest and straightforward.
  • Respect each other’s turf, holiday rituals and family traditions.
  • Compromise whenever possible.

Exes and new spouses also should avoid the temptation to compete with each other. Don’t worry about buying a better gift or telling a better story. Instead, keep the focus on the children, and try to make the time together as peaceful and as meaningful as possible.

If you have difficulty talking to a particular person in the family, avoid talking with that person about something that could lead to an argument or a competition.

While Blackstone-Ford and Jupe have managed to integrate their blended family, such an arrangement is not always possible. Even if your family is less comfortable together, try to do your part to get along during the holidays.

Remember the importance of creating positive holiday memories, especially for the children.

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