Stepfamilies and The Holidays
The holidays are coming! The holidays are coming! Let the message ring out throughout the land. For most stepfamilies, the thought of the holidays gives rise to fear in our hearts. The holidays are stressful without any additional layers of complications. Cooking, shopping, travelling, and budgeting your dollars are enough for any family.
Stepfamilies create and enforce a joint calendar that determines how the children’s time is split between their parents. In most cases, this calendar is determined by the divorce agreement, but emotions flow anyway. If you find yourself in a situation where you have to ask the other parent for a change in the schedule, look out! Someone is going to get roasted!
In an effort to overcome the human roasting process, there are three ingredients you can bring to the table that will GUARANTEE that the turkey is perfectly cooked!
- Baste the Bird with the True Meaning of the Holidays
Do we equate the time that the children spend with us to the love they feel for us? Be honest. Do you want to win? Do you define “winning” as getting the more with your children over the holidays? It is normal for the ego and fear to overtake our brains when we feel the holidays approaching. After all, we have been trained to attach great emotion to the holidays.
Your childhood memories come rushing into your head. In every mental picture of your life, you would never have envisioned spending a holiday without your children. Yet, here you are. Spending the holidays without your children is lonely and painful. It is normal to want to avoid that pain.
During these painful moments, we coat our children with our unconditional love. We smile when they leave to visit their other parent. We wish the other parent well. We say it is “okay” if they run late. We grin and bear it when our insides are churning. We put them first. Long term, we will not be judged by the number of presents the children receive, but how we sacrifice for them so they have a smooth and memorable holiday. Let the children know exactly where they will be and when, so there are no surprises. Honor this schedule.
If it is reasonable for one parent to not see the kids for the exact time frame that you hoped, be the bigger parent and concede. I know it is hard, but it is worth minimizing the pain in your children’s eyes. Have faith that the children will thank you for your sacrifice years later when they have lovely memories that they replicate for their families.
2. Combine the Bird with Compassion
Stepparents should not be involved in negotiating the children’s holiday schedules. Stay out of it. By becoming a watcher, or an objective third party, you become the compassionate observer. Your brain and your soul marinate and produce a parent that can distance themselves from the ego-related emotions attached to the day.
The Buddhist tradition champions this practice of compassion. They believe that the most effective way to offer yourself and others compassion is to do so with objectivity. At times when you feel panicked, exhausted, angry or frustrated, continue to wish everyone well. Shifting to a positive attitude will change your world. According to the National Academy of Science, it can also change your brain. A study of Tibetan monks who practice this compassionate state shows that they have increased activity in the left prefrontal cortex, often associated with happiness.
When all else fails, take a small drink and call a good friend or your life coach
3. Sprinkle Silence
No one wants a stepparent’s opinion. Sounds harsh, but it is true. Stay silent, especially during the holidays. No eye rolling or negative facial expressions. No sighing. Be supportive and easy-going. If you feel as if you need to flip out, call a good friend or your life coach.
The above advice may sound like you have been whipped, chopped and pureed. Actually, it is a recipe for generosity and selflessness. So, turn on those ovens, get out the mixing bowls and focus on roasting your bird and not the members of your family.