When you think of nontraditional families and the holidays, what comes to mind for you?

A divorced mom and dad arguing in front of the kids about who gets the kids for Christmas morning? A single mom too depressed and overworked to muster enough holiday cheer to convince the kids that Christmas is actually a special time of year? Or maybe what pops into your head is the vision of a blended family with both “his” and “hers” kids not getting along?


5 Tips (2)


Actually, a lot of MODERN FAMILIES have fulfilling, joyful holiday celebrations year after year. Many divorced families are able to work out custody schedules where both the parents AND the kids benefit. Households headed up by single parents, gay and lesbian parents, and other kinds of MODERN FAMILIES are able to recreate the definition of FAMILY TRADITIONS in order to provide a special, meaningful holiday for their families.

My own MODERN FAMILY enjoyed an awesome family Thanksgiving this year. If you are not aware of my family’s long story, you can read about it HERE. Our family is a divorced family with a straight mom, a gay dad and his partner, and 2 OUTSTANDING teenagers.

As a divorced family, the kids don’t see their dad on a daily basis (he and his partner, Keith live about an hour and a half away from us), so we make a purposeful effort to see each other as much as possible. What works for our family (remember – do what works for your family) is that Jeff & Keith visit the kids about once a week when their jobs bring them to our town. The kids also stay with Jeff & Keith on some weekends (but now that they are teenagers it seems like they prefer to stay with me where they are closer to their friends).

Another way my MODERN FAMILY stays close is by vacationing together several times a year.



My MODERN FAMILY in San Felipe, Mexico

Vacationing together has been a great way for my MODERN FAMILY to maintain a strong family bond. It definitely helps that Jeff, Keith, and I are friends as well as co-parents, so vacationing as a family is something that we all look forward to.

This Thanksgiving, we traveled to Keith’s family’s vacation house located in San Felipe in the Mexican State of Baja California. We were able to connect as a family through laughing together, having long conversations, and just hanging out playing games or watching the sun set over the desert landscape. You can read more about this trip HERE.

We smiled, we laughed, and….we got on each other’s nerves sometimes! It’s inevitable, right? YOU KNOW YOU ARE A FAMILY WHEN YOU CAN ANNOY YOUR FAMILY MEMBER ONE MINUTE BUT THEN LAUGH WITH THEM OVER A STUPID JOKE THE NEXT MINUTE! No family is perfect, but great families know how to use certain skills to keep little annoyances from turning into a big deal during the holidays.

[tweetthis]Smart families prevent little annoyances from turning into a big deal during the holidays.[/tweetthis]


5 Tips For Surviving the Holidays

If your MODERN FAMILY has a history of too many holiday celebrations ruined by fighting, hurt feelings, or intrusive extended family members, resolve to make things different THIS YEAR. How? Use the tips outlined below.

  1. Make sure your expectations for the holiday are realistic. Before getting together for the holidays, think about which family member (or members!) bother you the most. What about your interactions with them annoys you? Is it because you are expecting them to act a certain way and they never meet this expectation? Maybe it’s time to just adjust your expectations regarding this person (or persons).
  1. Don’t let teasing or criticisms bother you. People tease or passive aggressively criticize for a variety of reasons. It is generally because the person doing the teasing or criticizing is uncomfortable, threatened, or is awkwardly trying to connect with you; as such, try to brush off what the person said and not blow it out of proportion.
  1. Focus on what you like about your family. There has to be one or two family members you like, or some activities that you find fulfilling. Make sure you balance tolerating unpleasant family members with spending time with the family members that bring you enjoyment. You WILL feel better about the holidays if you focus on the positive parts of your family and deemphasize the negative parts.
  1. Take time out to recharge. If you find that you are starting to feel overwhelmed or annoyed by family members, then be sure to take a “time out” to recharge your batteries. Examples of “time outs” include taking a walk by yourself or with someone you enjoy, volunteering for a task that gives you an excuse to be by yourself (such as cooking or playing with the kids), or watching a movie.
  1. Remember that holidays don’t last forever! When the old feelings start creeping back, try to remind yourself that the holidays won’t last forever and that pretty soon life will be back to normal.

Resolve to Make a Difference THIS Holiday

The only way to reduce the fighting, stress, and/or hurt feelings this Christmas is to resolve to do things differently.

Take the time to review the 5 tips outlined above BEFORE the hustle and bustle of the holidays are underway. Identify the SPECIFICS of what bothers you about the holidays and PLAN AHEAD so you know in advance how you are going to do things differently.

Most importantly, DON’T GIVE UP TRYING!! When most people implement a new change in their life, it rarely goes perfectly the first time. Remember that it takes 3-4 “practice tries” before a new routine works. In addition, be prepared to FEEL UNCOMFORTABLE when behaving in a new way. Habits are hard to break – and they don’t feel comfortable until you have had some practice.

[tweetthis]Remember that it takes 3-4 “practice tries” before a new behavior works. Don’t give up![/tweetthis]

If you are really invested in changing your behavior this holiday season, try INVOLVING AN ACCOUTABILITY PARTNER. Tell your accountability partner (maybe a supportive family member who will also be attending the holiday festivities) what you plan on changing in advance. An accountability partner is helpful because:

  • They can help remind you of your new goals for the holiday when you feel like giving up,
  • They can help you refine or “tweak” your new behavior if it is not quite working,
  • They can compliment your efforts when they notice your new behavior working.

Finally, I would love to hear from you! Do you have a behavior that YOU want to change this holiday season? Did you do this in the past? Did it work? I would love to hear your story. You can either tell me in the comment section below or comment on Facebook.

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