I love watching Hallmark’s Christmas movies! Relationships don’t seem too messy, the setting is beautiful, and there’s always a predictably happy ending. Christmas in a blended family is never Hallmark-esque. I have six children—three from my husband’s previous marriage, two from mine and one together as a couple. I don’t think we’ve ever had all of them home for Christmas at one time. But that’s okay. They’re all adults except for the youngest who is 16. My two live out of state, and the other three are local so most life events and holidays are spent with our son, my husband’s girls, their husbands and little ones.
The three girls are all different. And as with any child, you have to know their personalities, likes and dislikes in order to relate well. Children want and need the real you, not some figment of your imagination. I try to show them who I really am and that I am willing to make this family union work for them. All children are a blessing. God sees no blood. Jesus called the children to Himself, and He rebuked the disciples for trying to send them away. Ouf family hashad our rough patches along the way, but I’ve learned God is always faithful if you trust Him.
God has a way of redeeming the past and working in blended families. He provides opportunities for us to show Jesus’s love. Last year, my middle stepdaughter had a miscarriage during the pandemic. As anyone can imagine, it was an extremely difficult time for her and her husband. In the end, thankfully, it brought the two of them closer together, and in the process of going through that fire, she came out as a more beautiful, whole person. I don’t know for sure, but I trust that God had a part in using her older sister and cousin to minister to her through the heartache. That’s how I was praying.
Prayer. The cornerstone of how I navigate being in a blended family. It’s no surprise that God instructs us to pray continually in the book of 1 Thessalonians. Prayer for our relationships to be the best they can be and prayer for my own attitudes and my heart. The youngest of my husband’s three girls lived with us for a couple of years recently. It was a challenge. I’m grateful for my friends who prayed with me and for me. God has a way of working in us when we pray for others.
The little ones are the easiest part of a blended family. I think the stepdaughters’ children/our grandchildren are sort of a bridge between stepparents and stepchildren. Little children are cute, innocent and easy to love. It’s especially fun to have them around during the holidays. I love to see the smiles on their faces when we get them a gift that really makes them happy.
Gifts for the adult children can be fun too. One year, I got everyone matching pajamas. For the year the Chicago Cubs won the World Series, everyone received a Cubs jersey. But then there are years where time and pandemics lead to thoughtfully selected gift cards.
One of my favorite things to do with all of the kids at Christmas is to play family games. I’ve heard that laughing together tends to bond people, so I try to incorporate fun into the holiday gatherings. We’ve played the Reindeer Game in which the family split into two teams. The adults blew up balloons and squeezed them into pantyhose legs. Once both legs were full, the smallest grandchildren became the reindeers and sported their new antlers. It was loads of fun.
For another game, I put a varying amount of small bells in shirt boxes. Each person had to shake the box and then stack the boxes based on the number of bells they thought were in each box. We also play games where I hide things for the little ones to find. Fun activities make the time together merrier. I hope they think of me as a fun grandma.
The most important aspect of navigating life in a blended family is keeping your heart open. It’s not always easy. I came into the relationship with my own baggage to unpack too. But the best part is having God as an ally. He will never leave us or forsake us. That’s a promise.
For some practical ways to deal with mental health issues, and stories of others who have been there too, go here for our list of mental health resources.