Combining Traditions in Stepfamilies
Every family develops their own traditions over time and when two families blend into one, the customs of each can sometimes be in conflict with one another.In stepfamilies, parents often strive to combine their existing traditions so that their children can not only enjoy the comfort of the familiar, but also feel connected to members of their stepfamily by being welcomed to participate in their special events, too.
One Big, Happy FamilyThe goal of stepparents is to create a household in which the children develop close bonds with one another and with both of the adults in the home. Ideally, the kids are also encouraged to form connections with their stepparent’s extended family members, as well, helping them to feel that they are true a part of their stepparent’s life.
The Pleasures of Everyday TraditionsNot all family traditions pertain to well-known holidays; many simply evolve over time because parents find that they and their children enjoy an activity so much that they want to do it again and again. These “everyday traditions” can become an important part of a family’s history, creating happy memories for the kids that they may one day pass along to their own families.
Fortunately, the everyday traditions are often the easiest to share with new members because they typically don’t require the participation of extended family members, which can sometimes create scheduling or other conflicts. Family customs such as making ice cream sundaes to kick-off summer, meeting for a special lunch in the middle of a day of back-to-school shopping, taking an annual family photo, or volunteering together to serve food at a homeless shelter can all be expanded to include the members of a blended household.
When families combine, both sides are likely to have a history rich with everyday traditions. By inviting stepfamily members to learn about and participate in each other’s customs, families can grow closer to one another and create new traditions, unique to their particular group.
The Importance of Flexibility and CompromiseWhen parents remarry, the circle of people that are significant in the lives of the children grows, so it becomes especially important for everyone involved to make an effort to be flexible and cooperative. Special get-togethers that were once celebrated in a specific way or on a set date may now coincide with similar observances that the other half of the family has always enjoyed, but since it is impossible to be in two places at the same time, some accommodations must be made on both sides.
In some families, planning larger events that include all family members from both sides is a workable solution, but that isn’t always possible. Space limitations, geographical distance, or objections from extended family may make it difficult for stepfamilies to revamp their holiday plans to include both extended families in one large celebration. In these cases, partners may need to adjust their own expectations in order to do what works best for the members of their household.Many choose to celebrate with one side of their family on every other occasion, some may split their time between two events in one day, while yet others may be able to convince extended family to choose an alternate date to celebrate together, close to, but not on a traditional gathering date.
In the end, the specifics of how a family chooses to celebrate their special occasions matters less than the fact that they care enough about one another to work toward a solution that best accommodates everyone’s needs.