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How to Have Happy Holidays With A Busy Blended Family

Posted: 12/13/11 11:45 AM ET

The holidays offer many opportunities for wonderful family celebrations, but they can also present a dizzying array of demands on your time, wallet and emotions.

For blended families this can present even greater challenges. As Garter Bride Tish says, "The hardest thing about the holidays for me is getting the eight of us in the same room at the same time!" But the good news is you know that these are special times to create memories for you, your husband, your kids and step kids. Here are a few tips on how to make things work for everyone.

Create Your Own Traditions
Don't try to recreate past holidays; celebrate in new ways. If the children have a favorite dish, include that in your menu plan, but also try something different. You might want to take a look at Food Network's Holiday Central for some recipe ideas.

If the children are old enough, include them in planning and creating new traditions, but make sure you do this well in advance. You don't want to hear "But I don't want to do that" on the day you are embarking on some new holiday plan.

If you have an interfaith marriage, the most important thing to remember is to show respect for the many religious traditions and also have a little fun! Garter Bride Pat says, "My husband and I refer to our home as the House of Holidays -- He is Jewish and I am Catholic. We respect each other's traditions and have created some new ones. Last year I found a reindeer lawn ornament with eight antlers -- a menorah! I wrapped the antlers in blue lights and lit one each evening for the eight nights of Chanukah. Our Hana-moose is the talk of the neighborhood."

Garter Bride Ann has a large Chinese family by marriage. "I used to have everyone at our home for Christmas lunch. Then when the family got too large to manage it in our house, we decided to hold a banquet at a Chinese restaurant. It's great fun. Food is delicious, we have a great time, and there are no dishes to wash!" Feel free to think "out of the box" about what would be fun for everyone.

Be Flexible with Scheduling
If you or your husband has been married before, it may be challenging for the kids to divide their time between holiday celebrations with both parents. Try and be sure to work out schedules in advance. Check your husband's custody agreements -- many spell out holiday schedules. For instance, one Garter Bride has Thanksgiving one year with her step kids and Christmas the next. We have learned, too, that celebrations don't necessarily have to happen on the day of the event. Many brides celebrate birthdays the weekend before or after to make things easier for everyone.

Look at the Holidays as a Great Opportunity for More Parties!
The most important thing about the holidays is sharing it with those you love. As one bride told us, "It's not about what's under the Christmas tree; it's about who's around it." So enjoy holidays all through the year, and remember that special days provide wonderful opportunities to embrace the new people in your life.

Ann Blumenthal Jacobs, Patricia Lampl and Tish Rabe are the authors of Love for Grown-ups: The Garter Brides' Guide to Marrying for Life When You've Already Got a Life, a relationship guide for women over 35 on how to find Mr. Right, marry and find life-long happiness. The Garter Brides are a sisterhood of women who got married later in life and wore the same garter at their weddings! They offer tried and true advice on how to have the love and life you want.