According to the Pew Research Center, around 15% of children live in blended families with step-parents and step or half siblings. Only about 46% of families include two parents in their first marriage. In contrast, 40% of new marriages include at least one person who was previously married and 20% feature two people who have been previously married. Although blended families are becoming more common, it can still take a couple years for them to get used to the changes. The holiday season can be particularly stressful for blended families as they try to determine where to celebrate and which traditions they will be able to integrate.
Is it possible to make the holidays work for everyone?
Older children have a particularly hard time trying to adjust to new traditions, especially if they feel disconnected from newer family members. In residential treatment, girls and assigned female at birth have the chance to participate in family therapy and work on improving the family dynamic, but the holiday season can bring up old fears and resentments. As girls and assigned female at birth make plans to visit home for the holidays from transitional living programs, they may need additional support to make sure that things go smoothly.
Some issues that may arise include:
- Comparing themselves to siblings
- Problems trusting stepparent
- Difficulty following new rules
- Feeling out of control of plans
- Trying to integrate both sides of the family
- Isolating and feeling lonely
- Not feeling good enough
Step Into the Holiday Season Slowly
- Put children first. Get the whole family together and talk about what everyone wants and expects from the holidays. If your child has been living away from home, they may feel excluded in the planning process and may struggle to feel emotionally prepared. Including everyone in the planning process will help them feel like their voice is heard and that their opinion matters.
- Plan ahead and communicate clearly. Having open conversations about potential issues that may arise can help you brainstorm solutions together. While you can’t control for the unexpected, it helps to make a plan and stick to it to avoid later arguments or negative feelings.
- Respect traditions…Most families have unique traditions that may go against the way other families do things. To almost everyone, the way they grew up doing it feels like the right way to do it. When planning details, try to find a balance between keeping as many traditions as possible and encouraging others to join in. This may involve compromising on some things kids have outgrown or don’t appreciate as much anymore or deciding to switch timing of meals or where the celebration is hosted every other year.
- …But be flexible about new ones. It may be impossible to stick to the same traditions with a new family unit. Sometimes making things work means compromising and giving up something that might feel important in order to keep everyone happy. Coming up with new creative traditions that everyone can agree on may end up being more fun!
- Come up with a backup plan for if your child is feeling overwhelmed. Spending time with family can be overwhelming for anyone, especially after some distance. Coming from a treatment environment, it may be hard for your child to express their needs and reach out for help if they doesn’t want to “cause problems” or doesn’t want to miss out on celebrations. Make yourself available to check in or help their come up with a list of things that have worked for their when they feels overwhelmed.
Journey Home Can Help
Journey Home is a small residential treatment program for girls and assigned female at birth 16 – 21 years old that is specifically designed for residents who have successfully completed a therapeutic treatment program but may need more help in transitioning back home. Journey Home West focuses on healthy living, education, responsibilities, and social integration as key components of the program. Young people leave this program feeling empowered, happy, and healthy.
Contact us at (801) 444-0794 to learn more. We can help your family today!