As joyous and rich in tradition as the upcoming holiday season can be, the six or seven weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day are high times for family stress. However, when you take the normal stress of the season and add divorce stress and all the logistical issues blended families can bring, it’s easy to see why managing numerous households on a single holiday schedule can cause additional complications. In addition to scheduling dilemmas and other timing conflicts, blended families featuring stepchildren may experience numerous challenges in maintaining existing holiday traditions and establishing new ones.

Unfortunately, holiday travel and the observance of many of our most treasured traditions is more difficult than usual during the COVID-19 pandemic—and promises to remain that way for some time. What currently exists as federal, state, and local restrictions on holiday gatherings and holiday travel could extend into upcoming holidays, either within the structure of the current public health guidelines or as altered celebrations moving forward. Until the pandemic recedes to the point where we can resume our regularly scheduled activities, how can your newly blended household incorporate holiday traditions in a way that is satisfying for all involved?

Tips for Celebrating the Holidays as a Blended Family

We’ve compiled an expert-approved list of tips for navigating blended family traditions during the holiday season, especially in the time of COVID-19. Based on the advice of parenting advocates and health professionals, here are our suggestions for handling your blended family’s traditions this holiday season:

  1. Make all decisions with consideration for the health of vulnerable family members. First, it is crucial during these uncertain times to avoid potentially exposing older or otherwise vulnerable family members to COVID-19. When this means canceling visits or avoiding large celebrations, many family members—kids and parents alike—may feel disappointed. However, particularly for blended families, avoiding unnecessary exposure to multiple households is safest for all involved.
    If you determine that your family can get together safely without exposing vulnerable individuals, be sure to adhere to CDC guidelines. Celebrate outdoors, if possible, and maintain social distancing. If the weather moves you indoors, open a window to encourage air circulation and wear masks and wash hands as recommended.
  2. Plan your holiday get together in advance. Planning can allow family members to undergo COVID-19 testing and any necessary quarantine period well in advance of interacting in person. Perhaps just as significantly, planning lets kids know what changes to anticipate ahead of the holiday season itself. In addition, planning will help relieve some of the pressure caused by last-minute decision-making.
  3. Involve kids in your decision. Children from blended families—especially older children—will likely have input regarding their favorite holiday traditions. Do your best to involve kids in your holiday planning to receive suggestions and ensure they feel included. Better yet, involving children of divorce in planning can help re-instill the sentiment that working together as a blended family truly benefits all.
  4. Stay flexible. Depending on the public health situation and family preferences, and the release of new information, circumstances can change quickly. Thus, between COVID-19, regular family holiday schedules, and everything in between, it’s important to stay flexible. Keeping everyone informed and able to pivot to a new plan as needed will help maintain the holiday spirit in all as you navigate these issues together.
  5. Adapt an old tradition to your new situation. While this year may prove different than other years—whether as a result of the virus or your newly blended family dynamics—giving children at least a piece of their favorite family traditions can instill a sense of familiarity and certainty where it has been so scarce. Whether that means watching Christmas movies in your pajamas or driving to see the neighborhood lights, keep a piece of holidays past whenever possible.
  6. Consider starting a new, tech-focused tradition. In the same sense, your family dynamic has changed since last year, particularly after the onset of COVID-19. Establish a new tradition your household can adopt together while leaving room to observe old favorites. This year, opening gifts via Skype, Zoom, or Meet with extended family and loved ones will make its mark as a new tradition celebrated by many blended families.

As you plan to celebrate this year’s holiday season with your newly blended family—and amidst COVID-19—be sure to address your parenting plan. The pandemic has made adhering to many holiday visitation and custody schedules more difficult than in most years, and you may need to revisit yours for the upcoming holiday season. If this is the case, contact the Law Offices of Dorie A. Rogers as soon as possible and request guidance regarding how to amend your parenting plan to ensure your child’s best interests, holiday traditions, and COVID-19 protocols exist in harmony.