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The holidays don't need to be stressful, even with new stepfamilies


  Kailey Foster: Holidays can be hard on all families and today, Sierra hill with Healthy Relationships, Utah joins me to talk about how stepfamilies can navigate this time.

So, holidays can be rough, no matter the dynamic, what are some challenges that families face this time of year?

Sierra Hill: There are so many additional challenges that that families face, especially during the holidays. There's alike an increased need for communication across households, and with ex-partners, which can always be challenging, as well as creating those new traditions and finding a place for the old ones. 

And it can just be difficult to not be together for the whole holiday if you're in a joint custody situation. And it can also be difficult to keep things fair. So just really an added layer of complications for our stepfamilies during the holidays.

KF: So how can we ease some of the stress families are feeling during the holiday season?

SH: You know, if you're in a stepfamily, I would say the number one thing that you can do is focus on the children's view, and their experience. It can be easy to start to make things about you and start to sort of play games, just kind of putting kids in the middle.

I would definitely advise you to avoid that. Avoid putting kids in a situation where they feel like they have to choose one parent to be loyal to. It just has so many negative detrimental effects on kids. 

And also, avoiding talking bad about their biological parent will help you keep them out of the middle. It can be really hard to do this, especially if your ex-partner is pulling out all of these things and playing these games. 

But remember, you can only control your own behavior. So just do your best. Is that a good example? And it might be followed, or it might not. But you can know that you are doing your best to act in the best interest of your child.

KF: Yeah, and for some families, this can be the first holiday that they're spending together in this dynamic, whether it be because of COVID or it's a new dynamic. What are some tips that you have to help with this transition?

SH:  You know, I think the number one tip I would have is, just try to have realistic expectations, and be patient with yourself and with your family. I think the couples when they're recently remarried, they're very excited and hopeful. And sometimes it can be difficult when things aren't meeting their expectations. 

Sometimes we have this idea in our in our head that a stepfamily or a blended family, is just going to blend so quickly and easily just like a smoothie in the blender or something. But a better analogy might be a slow cooker. It takes time for everyone to come together and jazz. 

It actually takes children three years or more after a marital transition to really start to adjust and stabilize. So just you know, having patience giving yourself and your family grace I would definitely say that would be my number one tip.

KF: Thank you Sierra. And for more information on USU Extension's Stepfamily Course head on over to the USU Extensions Stepfamily page

Kailey Foster is a senior at Utah State University studying Agricultural Communications, Broadcast Journalism, and Political Science while also getting a minor in Agribusiness. She was raised in the dairy industry in Rhode Island where she found her passion for the agriculture industry as a whole. Here at USU, she has held various leadership positions in the Dairy Science Club and the local Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow chapter. She also also served as the 2020 Utah Miss Agriculture and is currently the 2021 Utah Ms. Agriculture. Here at UPR, she works on agriculture news stories and she produces agriculture segments such as USU Extension Highlights, the Green Thumb, and Ag Matters.