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The holidays can be not only one of the best times of the year for stepfamilies but can almost certainly be fraught with anxiety and false expectations. Travels plans are often up in the air. Parents must switch their custodial patterns. Financial obligations (child support?) curtail gift giving . There is never enough time. The list goes on and on. But certainly one of the cures for what ails us this holiday season may be the ability of each and every one of us to create traditions in our new bonus/ step families.

Researchers suggest that creating a holiday tradition as a stepfamily is one way to draw people together and build a shared history. If we share a tradition, we share an experience. Those with shared experiences have a bond. However, if we want to have a tradition, we need to plan for it.

When my stepfamily was created a number of years ago, I wanted to establish new traditions for our family while recognizing that my stepchildren had traditions of their own that they wanted to continue. We celebrate Christmas, so I first determined that I would hang their childhood stockings on our new mantle in our new home. I still do that to this day, despite the ages of my stepchildren! However, some of our initial “traditions” have been cast aside for various reasons, but mostly because they didn’t work for us. The 20 ft. artificial tree is now packed in a box in storage space in our basement. Instead, we determined that we would rather shop for a real tree together as Christmas drew nearer, complete with a tree decorating party at home afterwards.

That said, there is a need for planning involved in establishing traditions. Often custodial arrangements during the holiday season don’t allow stepparents to spend time with their stepchildren on the specific holiday. However, that need not render us unable to celebrate. My stepchildren need to spend some time with their maternal side of the family. We understand that is important for their holiday to be complete. Therefore, every year we work out a schedule that enables them to spend time with both families. It can be difficult since our younger two are in college and are only in town for a set number of days. It does take some planning, but it can work.

This year, take the time to establish your own holiday traditions. I know of a number of families who use the “Elf on a Shelf” to encourage the Christmas spirit. Maybe your church or synagogue offers a special religious service that your family could attend. Perhaps baking holiday cookies is up your alley. Whatever you choose, make certain that it fits your families needs. By establishing these new traditions, you provide something to look forward to despite the frenzied holiday season.

Happy Holidays!


Ornament making party

Tree decorating party

Make a gingerbread house

Create a family newsletter

Christmas Eve candlelight service

Play dreidel games

Holiday movie night

Special holiday dinner/favorite dish

Wrapping party

Adopt an “angel” from a local charity


Hang the mistletoe

Make reindeer food

Advent calendar

Decorate stockings

Christmas pancakes

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