So here we are, the week before Christmas already! I don’t know about you but what with illness, studying, family and a whole bunch of other things it’s all going to be a bit last minute for me this year!
My final blog in this series is going to discuss Christmas for blended families.
Divorce, separation, and new relationships can all have a massive impact whatever the time of year, however Christmas is one of those times where that impact seems even more acute.
As someone who has personal experience of this scenario, I am very grateful to say that my parents, right from when they separated decided that Christmas day would be spent with my Mum and her new partner and Boxing day would be spent at my Dad’s. This agreement made the whole process of Christmas so much easier for us as children and for my parents too.
Here are some tips to help navigate these types of situations in order to make the whole thing less stressful for everyone involved:
- Communicate! No matter what the circumstances, communication is key! Sitting down with the people who you need to plan with is extremely important in order to make sure that everyone involved has had a chance to state how they feel, what they want, and listen to any proposals. This communication should be done with an open mind (I grant you it is not always an easy task, but still very achievable) and without the ‘need’ to make a point or get your own way. We often enter these types of conversations with the need to make sure we ‘win’, however compromise is sometimes the easier and less stressful option in the long run.
- Employ your adult ego state. An ego state is the behavioural state that dictates how you interact with others and your environment. According to Eric Berne, M.D., we have three of these states, Parent, Adult, Child. All of these ego states are important but when negotiating in a possibly emotive situation your Adult Ego State is the one you really want to employ. If you are a Star Trek fan you will recognise Spock as someone who is always in an Adult Ego State, logical, good decision maker, not stimulated by emotion and level headed in challenging situations. All these attributes are important in any negotiation.
- Focus on the children. This probably goes without saying, but it is all too easy to get swept up in our own emotional ‘stuff’ and forget that Christmas is about joy, fun and magic. Christmas is a time of celebration and to spend time with the people we love and care about, and this means for your children to be able to spend time with all the people they love too. When planning and negotiating, keep this in mind. I would also go as far as to say, don’t involve young children in those discussions. Asking children who they want to spend Christmas with can be very difficult for them since they don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings and will feel like they are having to choose, and in the long term this can be damaging.
N.B. If the separation is due to violence and/or abuse and your children need to be protected this is obviously a priority. Please see the numbers below and reach out for help if you haven’t already done so.
- Have fun! This may be a new situation for you, but have fun with it! Build new traditions and make new memories. There are some things that may need to change because you are living somewhere different or because some traditions involve items that may have had to stay in the partner’s home. Be creative! You now have the freedom to create new traditions with your new family or one of your own and this could be a blessing! You may want to think back to traditions you had as a child that maybe your previous partner didn’t want to continue with that you can now start to enjoy again. Change can be a good thing for so many reasons, embrace it.
- Find common ground. If you find yourself in a situation where you have a new partner and you have family members that don’t know each other very well yet, or children who are still trying to negotiate the fact that their parent has a new family, look for common ground when you are all together. As mentioned above, new traditions are fun and children and other family members can all be involved in what those traditions may look like. Alternatively, find a game that you think everyone will enjoy and bring them together that way. These situations are challenging for everyone involved so keep your expectations to an achievable level and set yourself up for success.
You can always refer to my previous blogs in this series about how to navigate tension and stress at this time of year or get in touch for a chat, the answers are there, you may just need someone else to help you find them, book a free session here
Remember I am discussing general tensions, raised frustrations and anger at a low level. If you are experiencing any kind of physical, mental, sexual, financial or other type of abuse, I have included contact numbers below, please reach out for help if it is safe to do so.
In the meantime keep in touch!
You can do that here:-
HERE ARE SOME NUMBERS OF CHARITIES THAT CAN HELP IF YOU NEED THEM
Men’s Advice Line: 0808 801 0327 (Mon-Fri 10am-1pm and 2pm to 5pm)
SAMARITANS: 116 123 (freephone 24 HRS)
Victim Support: 0808 168 9111
National Centre for Domestic Violence (NCDV): 0800 970 2070 OR Text “NCDV” to 60777 and they’ll call you back
National Domestic Violence helpline: 0808 200 0247 (24hours)
Refuge: 0808 200 0247 (24hours)
Women’s Aid: 0808 200 0247 (24 hours)