The possibilities are endless"your mother and father might live in separate home, your partner’s family lives in a different state, you are divorced from your children’s other parent and you have to learn to share your children on the holidays. In previous times, families often stayed within the same area. Sharing time on Christmas was as easy as traveling from one side of town to the other. But today’s families are spread out around the country or maybe around the world. And families have grown"to include stepparents, half-siblings and more. You try to make everyone happy but somehow, every holiday season, one arm of the family ends up feeling hurt and left out.
What can you do? How can you manage to keep your sanity, enjoy your holiday and still make everyone else happy? The answer is that it isn’t always possible to do that. Planning can help but can’t guarantee that everyone will get what they want. The following are tips on managing the holidays when you have multiple families.
Sit down with your partner as soon as possible to discuss how you are going to handle family visits for the holiday. Discuss travel arrangement, if needed, and who you will be spending the holiday with this year. You both may need to compromise, especially if both families are in different areas.
Consider all options, one year at his family, the next year at yours. This becomes more complicated if either family is divorced and you have multiple families to visit. You might need to alternate every three or four years instead of every two.
Find out what is most important about the holiday for your partner and share what is most important to you. No matter what you decide to do, make sure that those two things are paramount during the planning.
Think about alternatives. You might want to host both families at your house to avoid traveling from one house to another. You might want to have a holiday open house the day before or the day after the holiday and invite siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents. You might want to have breakfast with one family, dinner with the other.
Divide relatives into "must see" and "want to see" categories. Create a schedule for the must see relatives and then incorporate others in the days right before and right after the holiday.
If your children are going to "the other parent’s house" for the holiday, send them off with your blessing. Don’t let your animosity interfere with their enjoyment of the holiday. Give them a kiss, a hug and reassure them that you will do something special together when they return.
Keep in mind compromise is important. While everyone tends to want to be with their own family for the holiday, sometimes you need to forego that plan to spend time with your partner’s family. Make sure, however, that you aren’t pushing your family aside year after year. Find ways to spend time with both families.
Let go of the actual "day" and celebrate being together before or after the holiday. Some families choose to celebrate Christmas together on Christmas Eve, freeing children to spend time with other parts of their family on Christmas Day.
Write down your schedule so everyone knows where you are going and when. If you are visiting multiple families in one day, write down the time you expect to arrive and the time you plan to depart to head to the next family. This will alleviate any disagreements or misunderstandings on the holiday.
Communicate with all of the multiple families about your plans as soon as possible. While you might want to put off telling your family that you won’t be there, it is better to let them know ahead of time so they can adjust their holiday plans.
No matter what you decide to do, remember, you now have your "own" family and their needs and wants must take precedence. Together you can create your own traditions and develop your own way of celebrating the holiday. If you keep in mind what is most important to you and to your partner and incorporate those into your plans, you can keep the holiday festive.
Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now, Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love, and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.