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6 Stepparent Survival Tips for the Holiday Season

Because being a stepparent around the holidays isn't easy.

More than fifty percent of children in the U.S. are raised in single-parent families. This can cause tension and stress during the holidays because kids may join their other biological parent — the one they don't live with — to celebrate. Often, this parent has another family.

Blending families is never easy. In fact, the leading cause of divorce among second marriages is due to the child relationships involved. But blending families doesn't have to be a nightmare; it can be an opportunity to show a child that love extends beyond problems between their mom and dad. Stepparents play an integral role in a child's life and can provide insight into the depth of a healthy, loving relationship.

If you are a stepparent or entering a relationship where blending with the kids is important, there are important things to remember. These suggestions may help you build a bridge of peace with the kids this holiday season:

  1. As much as possible, follow daily routines the child has from the home in which they live in most of the time. Kids draw stability from routines; when their routine is not followed, they may experience increased anxiety and act out.

  2. Never force your stepchild to bond with you. Bonding takes a long time, and it requires time, not money or gifts. You cannot buy a child's love.

  3. Never talk badly about the child's biological parent.

  4. Don't try to discipline your stepchild; this is the biological parent's job. It is wise to talk to the child's parent in private and come up with a plan together that will work for both of you. As a family, you should talk directly with your child the next day.

  5. When you talk with your stepchild, be sure to listen to them and encourage open, honest communication. Lecturing never works with biological kids or stepchildren.

  6. Gift giving should be discussed prior to the child joining your family. This is not a time to "win the child over." This is a time to show grace and love and demonstrate that small things matter most. Trying to outdo the other parent usually backfires and hurts the child.

You can help create special memories that will last forever this holiday season. If you are a stepparent, your stepchild will appreciate you most if you understand and accept where they came from. You establish this by listening rather than trying to change them. Help them bridge the gap of emotion they may feel but be unable to express. –Mary Jo Rapini


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