Written by Craig Morgan, Co-Founder of Blended Together Forever, a ministry to blended families
I was not a huge fan of Christmas before my divorce. The heightened emotions, the stress of unmet expectations, and the need to be celebratory with friends and extended family has always been a challenge for me. Probably like most men, I just wanted to ride the wave and get to the New Year as quickly as possible. But after my divorce, I hated the Christmases when I didn’t have my kids. I knew I would see them at some point throughout the holiday break, but I was angry and sad that I was missing making those Christmas morning memories with MY kids.
After Gina and I were married, the complications seemed to explode. We now had my two children and her four boys, quickly followed by one of our own. There were four homes with different traditions, different values, and different approaches to Christmas to consider. There were also eight sets of grandparents who wanted to spend time with their grandchildren. The complexity of Christmas break was mind-boggling. Gina worked hard to make the holidays special for our blended family. It was hardest during the years when we were missing both Gina’s boys and my kids. The house felt empty. Gina would try to plan a Christmas that was still very special for our son, but we were not able to replace the missing pieces.
We probably made 100 mistakes when celebrating Christmas with our new family. We decorated Christmas trees with family ornaments from the past without recognizing that the tree only represented half the family. We dragged the kids ice skating when only half the kids felt any connection to the tradition. Through lots of years, we struggled to find our way as a new family. Now, we have five suggestions for blended families to make the experience of celebrating holidays and special events go more smoothly and reduce the level of stress for all involved.
- Make plans and then make contingency plans. There is a lot of truth in the proverbial quote from the poem To a Mouse by Robert Burns: “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” Know that things will not go well, and even the best plans can fall apart. Have contingency plans in place so you are not scrambling at the last minute.
- Remember that your children have suffered a loss. It does not matter if they were very young when you divorced, and it does not matter if you have a great relationship with your ex-spouse. Your children will confront the loss of what could have been each year they face the holidays or celebrations. Give yourself and your children permission to grieve and process the loss again. It is normal that old wounds will resurface at this time of year.
- Probably the biggest gift you can give your children at the holidays is the permission to enjoy the holidays at their other parent’s home. Encourage your children to fully participate in the celebration, and be positive when they call, telling them you are happy for them.
- Remember that your role is to encourage the blended family to find their connection as a family. Things will not always go well, as you expected, and there will be unmet expectations, but it is your role to guide the family anyway. Remember that you are not in control, only God is. Commit to giving Him control of the plan and the people involved.
“The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” Proverbs 16:9
- Create new traditions and make a point to create memories that are about the blended family. Blending a family is about blending together families with their own history and experience, and finding new ways to celebrate that newness is important to solidifying those family connections.
We believe it is important to stay hopeful. What is challenging this year might not be next year. God will honor your effort to bring your blended family together. While each year of holidays and special events will bring new challenges, there are opportunities to learn from the past. We encourage you to take time following each holiday and event to talk through what went well, what didn’t, and adjustments to make next time.
“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” Colossians 3:23–24
Craig and Gina Morgan Our story began on July 5, 1993, on a blind date orchestrated by a mutual friend. We both thought our first marriages could weather any storm. Neither one of us thought we would ever love again, much less survive the rejection and hurt from a divorce. We never realized God would change our family legacy forever. He brought us together in marriage on January 13, 1996, and we blended together FOREVER. Now here we are 20+ years later with lots of stories, mistakes, tears, and laughter. Our family is a true miracle of God’s loving grace. Blended families have unique challenges that nuclear marriages and families don’t face, and most local churches are not equipped to meet those needs. But there is hope! Blended Together Forever desires to partner with local churches to provide the resources needed to stabilize blended families and prevent re-divorce.