To give or not to give… that is surely the question facing many blended families each holiday season!

It’s hard to miss the fact that the holiday season is darn near on top of us. No, nobody has yet donned their Halloween costume or consumed a pumpkin bucket overflowing with sugar, but that hasn’t stopped the retailers from shoving free shipping, holiday decorations and, of course, the big man in red himself in our faces for the past month!When your family is blended, especially when it’s newly blended, the gift giving season can feel like very treacherous water to traverse. If you make a wrong move, you may unknowingly slip into cold waters with fast moving undercurrents and no life preservers in sight. Water analogies aside, blended families are full of pitfalls, but the holiday season brings many of them to light. I learned the hard way that asking my husband to help clean up dishes following the Thanksgiving meal violated my mother-in-law’s core belief that men should never, ever have to perform a single domestic duty. Never mind that I got up at 5 am to put the turkey in, peeled 10 lbs. of potatoes myself, made 4 pies, got the children washed & dressed, cleaned the house, set the table for thirteen guests, etc. all while he was sleeping in, enjoying the ‘holiday’. She didn’t speak to me for a month. Looking back, that should probably have been a good thing, but being new to the family, it hurt my feelings to have her so irate over something I felt was a no-brainer. Moving on to Christmas…many blended families have “his”, “mine” and “ours” in the way of children and this presents a whole new level of trouble. When his and mine go with their bio parents or their bio grandparents, they are often overloaded with loot and often experience 2 or 3 (sometimes more) “Christmases”. For the kids bouncing from mom’s house to dad’s house to grandparents, the Christmas season is a time of GREAT reward. But the “ours” kids only get Christmas with us. One Christmas. So, do we buy more for the “ours”, making the “his” and “mine” kids feel like we are showing favorites or do we buy evenly although we know that the “his” and “mine” kids will get 10 x’s the amount of gifts when they head out the door to their respective other parents’ homes? I’ve found there is no easy answer. Instead, I’ve started making more of an effort to take the focus off of the gifts (they get great stockings, though!) and put it on the family. Did you know that most movie theatres are open on Christmas day? That’s what we’ll be doing with ALL of the kids this year rather than spending hundreds or thousands on gifts we cannot afford, do not need and that will never compare to what they get from their *other* family members.However you shake it, being blended is tough. The holidays add new dimensions that most people can never imagine. Remember that each year you can survive it will become easier if you focus on building relationships rather than providing material items. And, if not, remember that blessed relief awaits you in the holiday-free zone of January through Easter! :)