The holiday season is chaotic enough. Add in the drama of co-parenting (or in our case, NON co-parenting) and you have a ripe atmosphere for conflict.
Then there’s the custody agreement. The custody agreement should make holidays with your kids and stepkids a little easier, right? The tension can be just as bad as if there weren’t time parameters at all. Having to drop off your child by midnight on Christmas Eve, by noon on Christmas Day, or ANY time during the festivities can make the time together feel truncated and more like an appointment than quality time together.
Who struggles the most during this time? Our children. Imagine you are a six-year-old with divorced parents and essentially two homes. You love both of your parents and your stepparents. You want to be able to actually SAY how you love everyone in the stepfamily. That brings up some important Do’s and Don’ts for the holiday season.
DO for the sake of the kids:
- Help your kids pick out a present for other members of the stepfamily. Young children who can’t drive or make their own money cannot buy presents on their own for mom, dad, stepmom, or stepdad. Use common sense and help them buy a present for other family members. Put your ego and any negative feelings aside. This isn’t about YOU. The big plus? The kids will remember you being the bigger person at Christmas, and they will be very grateful adults.
- Show appreciation and gratitude when your child comes home with extra gifts. Don’t unleash drama in front of the children when the stepmom, stepdad, mom, dad, cat, dog, etc. buys your child a gift. Again, this isn’t about you. Be an adult. Be happy that someone loves your child and took the time to buy them a present. Children can’t have too much love.
- Be flexible (if possible) with drop-off and pick-up times. Yes, the times stated in the divorce/custody decree should be adhered to. However, life happens. If your co-parenter is running a bit behind and makes the effort to tell you that, be kind. YOU might need the extra time in the future as well.
- Speak to the co-parenter with civility. Your kids are observing how conflict is handled. Be a good example.
DON’T for the sake of the kids:
- Please don’t ever, under circumstances, EVER bad mouth the co-parenter in front of the children. When you bad mouth the other parent you also are badmouthing one half of your child. At one time you thought enough of your ex to have offspring with them. Don’t throw shade in front of the kids. It’s just plain hateful.
- Don’t make your kids open presents from the other co-parenters alone, in a different room, outside, etc. Be mature and be happy for the love expressed. Again, be grateful that your child is loved!
- Don’t buy gifts for your child that are passive-aggressively sending a message of spite to the other household. Kids are smart, and they see right thru it.
- Please allow your child uninterrupted time with the co-parenter. There’s no need to call and/or text unnecessarily. Your child will remain happy and balanced when they don’t feel like they have to “report” back to you while they are spending time at the other household.
Thankfully, Santa understands that many children in the world do not live in “traditional” families and households. He loves all the kids regardless of where (or who) they live with.
And most importantly, Jesus loves all of us while knowing the shortcomings of our minds and hearts. He also knows we are capable of incredible love, forgiveness and acceptance. Let’s show that love, forgiveness, and acceptance to EVERYONE. Do it for the kids. 🙂
- We have a tribe.
- We model the mate we want our child to have and to be.
- We exemplify forgiveness
- We speak words of life
- We let our stepchildren catch us reading the Bible
- We never say disparaging words to them about their biological parent
- We take good care of ourselves
I believe all of these are important habits, but I have to categorize my own list somehow. I will end my list with the habit I think is most important, but none of them are truly “least”. The order is truly a matter of opinion.
7 We need to find our “tribe”! I have a network in the community and online of about 50 stepmoms. If I count all of the social media followers, church friends, family, and co-workers who support my effort as a stepmom, the number would in the thousands. But there are only so many hours in the day and I only have time for so many quality relationships. There are about 40-50 of us who stay in regular touch with each other, comment on each others pleas for advice, and share recommended books and ideas. I have been building this wonderful network of stepmoms for about 11 years.
6 We take care of our minds and bodies in addition to our souls. It is so important that we fill our own buckets. We spend so much time filling the emotional buckets of others that we sometimes forget our own bucket is dry. This is a common theme with stepparents. Whether it’s taking even 15 minutes a day to read, a warm shower or soothing bubble bath, a trip to the salon or a walk while listening to our favorite music, we need to nourish our own hearts with joyful things.
5 We don’t hide our spirituality from our stepchildren. I remember seeing my grandmother read the Bible each morning. I knew it made me feel good to see her immersed in God’s Word, but I didn’t know why it made feel good. As an adult I understand now. Seeing her filling her “spiritual” bucket each morning made me feel loved, protected, and peaceful. She was equipping herself with God’s armor of perseverance and mercy. This not only affected her life but it encouraged generations after her to follow her gentle example of grace.
4 We exemplify forgiveness. Oh my sisters and brothers of Step, we collectively have SO VERY MUCH in common. The struggles seem to come in roaring, crashing waves. We are treated “less than” by many in society and even by well-meaning people. Our motives often times are questioned by a high-conflict biological parent (if that’s what you deal with like we do). Our spouses sometimes expect us to react to trying situations with perfect grace. We know the painful depths of all these emotions, yet we FORGIVE. Successful stepparents know that forgiving is as good for the giver as the receiver. We leave all of the bitterness at the foot of the cross. When forgiving is especially hard, we know that it might be necessary for some quality time reading the Word, taking care of ourselves with some time alone, or telling our frustrations to a Christian confidant.
3 We don’t speak unkind words about the biological mom or dad to the step-kids. Ever. If you want to ostracize the young minds in your blended family and create a distance for days or decades, badmouth their Momma. However if you want to create an accepting and peaceful environment, allow them to talk about their other home and share the other half of their lives as well. Be their safe zone. Don’t cringe at names. Don’t roll your eyes when they bring up “Mom”. Don’t snicker under your breath when they bring up “Dad”. My stepson recently informed me he never was allowed to mention my name to his Mom. He had to refer to me as “her”. We never imposed such Godless, silly rules. He felt free to mention his mother and places they went, shows they watched, etc. The end result? He is appreciative that we respected his Mom and we have a deep level of trust and respect as a stepfamily. Nobody can take that away from us!
2 We speak words of encouragement and love. Hate and bitterness has no place in my home. I’m going to be blunt here. If your step-kids hear you being hateful about their Mom, their Dad, their dog, etc. you will face some hardships with them. Vitriolic words don’t accomplish anything but confusion. If you are a bio mom or dad reading this and you speak ill of the stepmom or stedad to the child, see No. 3 again and seek some counseling.
1 We exemplify a loving and Godly wife. I speak words of life to my stepson, treat him with respect, and gently correct him when he needs it because that’s what he deserves. He deserves kindness, warmth, and understanding. Hopefully he will seek out a spouse who treats him the same. His life has meaning and value, and I want him to seek out a LADY who loves the Lord first and him next as her partner for all of life.
God Bless You all today! I hope this list is helpful. Please feel free to send me YOUR list as well. I love new ideas and perspectives.
Much love –