Holiday Tips For Stepfamilies: Let Go Of The “Brady Bunch” Fantasy!

By: Lisa Cohn

When Bill and I first formed our stepfamily, I had many fantasies about how our family would behave like the "Brady Bunch" over the holidays -- a happy, harmonious unit. Then reality struck, and we couldn't even agree on how to decorate the Christmas tree! Ultimately, we created a "his" side with multi-colored, blinking lights and tinsel-and a "hers" side with hand-painted eggs and popcorn strings. Seven years later, I can tell you that trying to create a "Brady Bunch" holiday sets stepfamilies up for failure. Instead, I suggest you follow these tips:

  1. Examine and try to let go of your "Brady Bunch" fantasies.

  2. Continue "old" holiday traditions with your biological kids while creating new ones for the stepfamily.

  3. If the kids don't buy into your fantasy holiday, try to see the world from their point of view.

  4. Practice the fine art of silence when your stepfamily is stressed by the holidays. You don't have to share all your negative feelings.

  5. Don't compete with your children's "other" parents by showering kids with expensive gifts.

  6. Stepmoms, reach out to your stepkids' mother. Buy her a gift. Tell her you appreciate her children.

  7. Don't fight with ex-spouses about how much time you will spend with children over the holidays. It only hurts the children

  8. Invite your ex-spouses over for a holiday party. Brace for surprises.

  9. Join a stepparent support group to share the many feelings about "family" that come up during the holiday season.

Lisa Cohn is co-author of One Family, Two Family, New Family: Stories And Advice For Stepfamilies, a 2004 Gold National Parenting Publications Award winner. For more information, visit

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