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Blending Traditions During the Holiday Season

LenDog64This year my husband and I are incredibly excited for the holiday season. We have a new little one to celebrate with, we have plans nailed down and we know that while the upcoming weeks will be busy – they will hold so much joy.

How are we able to go into the craziness of the holiday season with a smile on our faces? This isn’t our first rodeo. We’ve now spent enough holidays together that we’ve created our own traditions, we know what to expect and we know the ins and outs of each other’s family.

In the beginning, it’s not always so easy. When we are newly married and when you are combining families, there can be a lot of uncertainty and stress when planning for big events. Everyone may have a different idea of how things will go, expectations can be placed too high and it’s easy to put too much on our shoulders.

Here are a few things to try in order to help you prepare for the upcoming holiday season and maintain a lower level of stress.

Talk Early and Often.

Don’t assume that your spouse will want to open gifts on Christmas Eve or that your kids will know where you are celebrating Thanksgiving. Talk with your spouse about your expectations and plan out the days. Maybe you will choose to switch off where you go each year, or perhaps you will decided to follow your traditions for Thanksgiving and your spouse’s for Christmas. Do whatever works best for your family. Once you both are on the same page, talk to your kids about any changes they may see compared to their normal yearly routine. Help them to prepare for any new celebrations before the day arrives.

When in Doubt, Compromise.

If you find that you both are struggling with the proposed changes or swifts in your plan, you will need to find a way to compromise. In all give and take situations it’s important that both people feel heard and that both are able to communicate their needs and desires. Finding a way to meet the needs of each person is the key to all healthy relationships. You may not both get exactly what you’d like, but the goal is for you both to walk away from the discussion feeling validated and with a plan that you can be get on board with.

Enlist the Kids.

Get the kids to join in planning and preparing whenever you can. In most situations it’s possible to find age appropriate tasks for everyone to contribute. It’s also helpful to ask them what they’d like to have in the new traditions you will be planning. The things that kids hold on to from year to year are usually items that you can easily incorporate into your plans. For example, they may want to continue watch a certain movie on Christmas Eve or play football in the yard after Thanksgiving dinner. Keeping these things alive for them will help them to adjust with all of the other changes that are occurring.


Easy to say, isn’t it? It’s easy to get wrapped up in ‘super parent’ mode. You want everyone to get along, have a great time and to enjoy each minute that you are all together. It is especially easy to put too much stress on one day when you only have your kids every other year or if it’s the first time you are all coming together as one family. Just remember that at the end of the day,what will be remembered is the time spent together. Not the place card settings, the size of the Christmas tree, the music playing in the background or the way the mantel was decorated. Give yourself a break. Being in a new family can be a difficult and foreign place. Try your hardest to focus on what is important. Look around your dinner table this Thanksgiving and soak in what is truly amazing – that all of the crazy events in your past have brought you to this place. With this family. You are blessed and that can be overlooked when you are rushing around. So smile at the faces looking up to you, laugh at the mishaps that will happen, and steal a quiet moment to soak in your new role and your amazing (even if at times they are nuts) family.

Blending Traditions During the Holiday Season

Amy Bellows, PhD

Amy Bellows holds a PhD in Psychology and has had the opportunity to work in various settings including leading adolescent group therapy sessions, working with victims of sexual assault, helping woman inmates adjust to post-prison life, conducting parenting education classes and assisting with drug and alcohol dependency treatment plans. The unique challenges and opportunities that come along with being a part of a step-family is a special interest of hers. Amy is currently working in the corporate environment with a interest in group dynamics and change management. You can find her on her website, or on Twitter @AmyBellowsPhD.

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APA Reference
Bellows, A. (2015). Blending Traditions During the Holiday Season. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 26, 2020, from


Last updated: 17 Nov 2015
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