The post-holiday blues in stepfamilies - parenting
In stepfamilies, big celebration expectations can lead to big disappointment--and post-holiday blues, says Susan Wisdom, a licensed expert psychotherapist and co-author of "Stepcoupling. "
As a stepmom, I know about expectations. Every year, just before the holidays, I start assessment about how to remake Christmas Eve at my grandmother's house. In her big two-story home, my category and I crowded into her dining room and kitchen with about two dozen relatives. We munched on turkey, cranberries and dressing, then topped off the meal with my grandma's home-made cookies. With my 14 siblings and cousins, I played board games while my dad and uncles stomped about on the roof, yelling "Santa's coming!" much to our delight.
With these memories, it's easy to begin the holidays with huge expectations about what I want for my stepfamily. And it's easy to end the holidays with some dejection over how difficult it was to re-create the magic of my childhood.
"There are so many expectations and the hype is so big," says Wisdom. "It can be a real setup. In reality, Christmas is not achieve in accepted families. There's a lot of stress. "
If your category is like ours, you may spend a lot of time negotiating with ex-spouses over who gets which kids--and when-- at some point in the holidays. And if you category is like ours, you may be disappointed when kids broadcast they've by now decorated two Christmas trees at their step-relatives' and refuse to do one more. Or they may appear at your house exhausted from their "first" Christmas at the "other" house and may fancy dead to the world to break gifts.
In addition, a stepchild may deny a stepparent, Wisdom says. Adults may drink too much and perform in ways they later regret. A child's biological father may carp that a stepparent has more money to spend on gifts, creating tension among a child's two homes.
As Shauna Haley, a stepmom in Portland, Oregon, says, "The holidays this year were such a agonizing reminder of our stepfamily situation-and how hardly control I have on my stepdaughter's life. " Her stepdaughter lives in a different state, and only visited for a few days after Christmas this year. Haley had big dreams over how she would spend those few days with her stepdaughter, then was crushed when her dreams weren't realized and her stepdaughter was homesick.
To help stepfamilies cope with such disappointment, Wisdom recommends that parents begin by doing some "patch up work" after the anniversary season. Talk to your spouse, ex-spouse and children about the issues that came up at some stage in the holidays.
"Reach out to your own kids and each other's children. Understand what they were production with. Forgive them for fights or bad attitudes or moments of sibling enmity that happen at some point in the holidays under stress," Wisdom says. "Stepcouples need to be free to each other and to the children more than ever. This can be a hard time. Make amends, make apologies. "
If parents find it challenging to talk with ex-spouses, this may be a good time to go to psychoanalysis with ex-spouses about the many issues that come up at some point in the holidays, she says.
After difficult to argue the holidays with all and sundry involved, parents in stepfamilies must analyze their expectations and care about harmonizing them down next year. Wisdom recommends:
In an energy to admire the above advice, I try to joke about the fact that my 16-year-old prefers his stepmom's cooking at some point in the holidays. "She bakes pies and lets me eat milk products," he likes to tell me, with a smile in his eyes. Considerably than donning an apron and gorging my son with sweets and allergy-producing foods, I prompt him of the time my celebration squash cannon-balled out of the oven! That recollection always makes us laugh, which is definitely a great antidote to the post-holiday blues.
Writer Lisa Cohn is co-author of "One Family, Two Family, New Family: Stories and Assistance For Stepfamilies," which is a 2004 Gold Inhabitant Parenting Publications Award winner. For more information, visit her at http://www. stepfamilyadvice. com.
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