Blended Families…Making it Work for the Holidays

Over the river and through the woods seems mild compared to getting to Grandma’s house these days. All you want is to get your 2.5 children (  and their families together to enjoy a nice quiet holiday meal without the frenzied rush to get everyone to the next place.

Sadly, family breakup is something most of us have experienced. Since the national average for divorce is near 50% for first marriages, your family probably resembles the Brady Bunch, with the yours, mine and ours thing going on—the blended family. These stepfamilies usually have many hurdles to overcome.

This time of year can be especially trying with so many loved ones vying for what precious time there is.


Let’s do the math. Story problem: Your son was married and had two children. He was then divorced and married a woman with two children of her own. They then had one child together. You want them all at your house at 3:00 pm for Thanksgiving, Christmas (you fill in the blank), dinner.

As you can see by the (slightly exaggerated) illustration below, there are 24 people involved in this decision–juggling times, fixing calendars, etc.

And that is just one of your 2.5 children.

Assuming (and don’t laugh when I say it) everyone gets along, the problem becomes easier to solve. But, if there is any derision in the family, the problem is compounded.


First and foremost, consider the children. This is not the time for emotional blackmail, demands of loyalty, or manipulation. Holidays should be a fun and memorable time for the children. Don’t allow their memories to be those of family squabbles. Include all those relations who are important to the children, including step-siblings.

Be considerate. Schedule your time around other family traditions. You can’t expect your ex-daughter-in-law to be happy about you scheduling a dinner at the same time as a long-standing family tradition of dinner at her mother’s house.

Advanced planning. Ask well in advance to have your date put on everyone’s holiday schedule. If one or more of your children lives out of town, make travel arrangements well in advance, and plan accordingly.

Eliminate the Competition. Who says that Thanksgiving, or any other holiday needs to be celebrated on the day it’s posted on the calendar? Go ahead and make your own holiday when you can have your entire family to yourself.

My friend Morrena has her Thanksgiving on Wednesday evening rather than the traditional Thursday. All the kids are available and she never has to worry about “whose turn it is”. Everyone shows up, they have a nice quite, unhurried dinner. According to Morrena, the best part is that she is able to get up on Thanksgiving, and spend her day reading the paper and planning her Black Friday while eating leftovers.

Manage your Expectations. You have it pictured in your mind—all of the family sitting around the table—with impeccable manners and grand sophistication. Then your dream turns to nightmare when you recall Uncle Fred asking one of your kids to “pull his finger”.

If you have images in your mind of the perfect get together, you might be setting yourself up for failure. Don’t expect everything to go well all the time. When so many people are involved, there will be personality clashes.

Take the High Road. When dealing with “steps” expect to hear comments like, “My other grandma doesn’t do it like that” or “you’re not my mother”. Some of these comments might make you bristle, but let them slide. This is difficult for them too.

Incorporate Other’s Traditions. All families are different. For example, in some families it’s not only okay to have the football game playing during dinner, it’s tradition. Find a happy medium that will incorporate other’s tradition without jeopardizing your own. If you respect theirs, they will respect yours.

This is the perfect time to bone up on the Color Code. Use the tools Color Code provides to help you understand those around you. Remember that we are all different, and that is what makes the world go ‘round.

From everyone at Color Code, have a wonderful holiday season!

Teresa Glenn has been working with the Color Code since 2006, where her main focus is product development. She has been in the publishing and product development field for over 20 years. Teresa is a core Red with a strong Yellow secondary.