Today is 12-12-12 and I’m here to share with you the top 12 gifts you can give your stepkids. They may not be what you are expecting.
While Christmas is a time of joy, children who live between two homes can find celebrating the holidays stressful. Where will I wake up Christmas morning? Will mom or dad be mad if I’m not with them? Why can’t we celebrate our traditions as a family like we used to? are just some of the questions that run through the hearts and minds of children whose parents are no longer together.
This year, keep in mind the pain and frustration that Christmas can trigger for your stepchild. Holidays can be even tougher if their other home isn’t cooperating with you and your spouse in sharing time and celebrations. You can’t control what your husband’s ex does but you can control how you allow it to impact you and your home. Give your stepkids the priceless gift of making their holiday as stress free as possible.
Consider these top twelve gifts for your stepchildren:
- The gift of positive co-parenting and a peaceful holiday schedule. Work out a schedule between the two homes in a peaceful and positive manner without the involvement of the kids. If you have to acquiesce on having the kids Christmas morning so they don’t have to choose or be shuffled between two homes, do so gracefully. While it will be a painful decision, your children will appreciate and benefit from it. Remember, the holidays are when you are all together. We may have to celebrate on a different date but we can still celebrate and make memories.
- The gift of patience, grace and mercy. Hurting people hurt others and often the holidays can trigger the worst in a child who is still dealing with the pain of their parents’ divorce or the death of a parent. In addition, if the mom of your stepchild is causing issues for you and your husband… your stepchild feels it and can turn and take it out on you and dad. Extend patience, grace and mercy to your stepchild and extend it to your spouse and yourself as well. Holiday time can be stressful.
- The gift of humor. Have a sense of humor. If schedules change or things don’t go as planned, try your best to look at the bright side and find humor. Watch funny movies as a family and watch some with just your sweetheart. Make time to laugh.
- The gift of self-care. Remember that self-care isn’t selfish, it’s survival. You can’t take care of others if you are not taking care of yourself. Take a few minutes every day to do something that refreshes you. Devotions, reading a book, going for a walk, having a cup of coffee in peace are all ways to re-energize your body and soul. When you take care of yourself, you are better equiped to take care of others.
- The gift of respecting their traditions. When two families come together they bring two sets of family cultures and traditions to the marriage. Communicate with your spouse how you celebrate Christmas and understand how they and their kids have celebrated. Work to respect everyone’s traditions. Children don’t have to participate in the “other” family’s traditions but they need to respect them.
- The gift of creating new family traditions. Traditions create memories and can serve to bond a family together and create your own unique identity. Think of some new traditions that you can do as a stepfamily.
- The gift of respecting the role of their parents. Yes! Obviously, you love your spouse and it’s important for the security of the marriage that you continue to nurture your spouse and your relationship. You also love and adore your stepkids and as hard as it may be to do, you also need to respect the role of their other parent. You may not like this person. They may say toxic things about you that come from a place of pain and bitterness inside of them but you need to respect their position in your stepchild’s life and not ever bad mouth them to the child. God commands us to “love thy mother and father.” He does not say love your honorable mother and honorable father. Children are wired to love their parents regardless of who they are. You will be seen in a positive light by your stepchildren if you accept and respect their role. (Note, you don’t need to respect them as a person but you do need to respect that they are your stepchild’s parent and not talk harshly about them to the kids.)
- The gift of no expectations. This is a gift you give both your stepchild and yourself. Don’t create unrealistic expectations for the holidays that stepfamily life simply can’t live up to. And don’t do things for your stepkids with an expectation in mind. If you buy all their gifts expecting a thank you and you don’t get one, you will be devastated. Buy them gifts because YOU WANT TO not because you want to get thanked or hope it will bring you closer.
- The gift of unconditional love and acceptance. Love and accept your stepchildren as is. You didn’t raise them from birth, you can’t control who they are or what they become. Love them for being your spouse’s child and accept them without condition.
- The gift of faith. The greatest gift you can give them is the gift of faith. Teach them that their self-worth is not of our culture but in God’s love for us. Children are more likely to follow what we do than what we say. Live your life the way you want your children and stepchildren to live. When a problem arises, take time to pray about it. Practice family devotions at the dinner table. And teach them God’s rules for living. That way no matter whose home they are in this holiday season, they can live and behave according to God’s commandments.
- The gift of time. Give your stepkids your time and attention. Give them time with dad. Give them time to adjust. We call the day that my kids come back from dad’s “detox day” where the kids have to acclimate to our rules and way of doing things. Their dad and I do things somewhat differently (neither right nor wrong – just different) and it can be hard for the kids to go between the two sets of rules. We give them time to settle back in and we give ourselves that same gift of time and grace.
- The gift of a strong marriage. A strong, connected marriage blesses the children. While kids may try and push you apart…. they are seeking stability and they find that in a positive and solid marriage.
Wishing you all a wonderful Christmas. Know and accept the fact that the holidays can be a time of joy and a time of stress for stepfamilies. The reality is that life is hard and sometimes the holidays can accentuate it. Hold on to hope and press on without letting any potential toxic situations define you or your mood. You can do it and your stepchildren will be thankful for it.
What are your thoughts on this gift list? Stay tuned for my next post where I’ll share actual gift ideas that you can physically give your stepkids.
If you are looking for more practical tools and tips on thriving at the holidays, check out my book with Gayla Grace: Unwrapping the Gift of Stepfamily Peace. Available at amazon, itunes, kobo and all major e-retailers.