Grandparents Can Help Blended Families Create A Good Mix During The Holidays

mothers day

“You can’t tell me what to do,” Josh smugly announced. “You are not my real grandfather.” Art, his step grandfather, was hurt and shocked and furious. But he kept his cool. He thought he and his wife got along well with his daughter-in-law’s children from a previous marriage.” But he didn’t. He nearly bit his tongue in two to keep from saying what he wanted to say. Instead, he suggested to his daughter-in-law that Josh and he have a talk about grand children and grandparents and what the entire situation meant for all of them.

Family life for many has been altered by divorce, interfaith marriage and separation by distance. Get togethers and holidays rarely prove joyful times as depicted by the Brady’s on T.V. More often, as families blend, it produces stress all around. It can be difficult for children in a new family especially when they have been comfortable with rituals and customs that were repeated year after year in their in their former home.

Stepbrothers and stepsisters are strangers, at the beginning. It takes time for them to get to know each other, and everyone is touchy. Rivalry between children of the two families is always either open or lurking below the surface. everyone keeps score, and some feel they are losing.

The very rituals that each family brings along with them can become an exciting experience. Here’s where grandparents can come in, big time. Grandparents, obviously aren’t the parents, so they have a different status, a different aura. They can help in the melding process by exploring the different family traditions and pointing out how great they are and by exploring the different family traditions and pointing out how great they are by having two different sets it enhances the holiday experience for everybody.

When there are two different religious cultures involved clearly this can be a minefield, but grandparents can, if they are of a mind to, help the kids see the good points of each faith and that the religions are not adversaries, but rather complementary.

Clearly, it’s important to learn what the parents feel and how they would prefer to deal with the holiday season. Perhaps they would prefer that gifts for one set of kids be wrapped in Christmas paper and Hanukkah wrappings for the other set.

So, specifically, what can you do as a grandparent? In addition to being caring and insightful, here are a few thought–small things, perhaps, but very useful to start building new traditions for the blended family:

1. Bake Christmas and Hanukkah cookies, decorating them colored sugars and candies

2. Begin a scrapbook for the new blended family with baby pictures of each child and keep it updated with added snapshots.

3. Each child shares a favorite recipe and provide copies for everyone

4. Sing holiday songs that are special to each family can become an annual tradition

5. Playing games can be a fun and bonding experience

6. Making holiday decorations that can be put up in the house or on the tree

7. Be extremely mindful of equity in giving gifts for children: believe me they notice

8. Have them join in gathering toys and food to help families in need

Grandparents usually are especially good at story telling. of story telling. Share what it was like at holiday time when you were young. Encourage each child to share a story of what they enjoyed most for holidays. You don’t have to do things a certain way although it should be some combination of old traditions with new. Be particularly sensitive to anyone for whom this may be their first holiday together. Be patient. It takes time for the new blended situation to have the feel of one single family. Grandparents can be extremely helpful in the process, but they need to be mindful of the sensitivities of the situation. With luck, it won’t be all that long before rude Josh starts calling you ‘Gramps.

 

Sunie LevinSunie Levin
holds degrees in psychology and education. She has lectured and held workshops around the country, appeared on national T.V. and radio.

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