Is it your first season as a blended family? Now's the time to honor traditions both new and old. Even if there are cultural or religious differences, this season can become a bonding experience and a teachable moment for everyone involved.

By Caroline Biggs
December 04, 2020
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Credit: Klaus Vedfelt / Getty Images

'Tis the season for celebrating with loved ones, and whether it's in the kitchen or around the dinner table, this often involves honoring old family traditions and rituals. "Family traditions are important because they help create new holiday memories with family members, while giving you ones to look forward to next year," says Michigan-based child therapist, Alison Neihardt, author of Counseling Activities for Children on a Shoestring Budget. However, for those of us with blended families, practicing old traditions while forming new ones can be tricky. "The first year of being a blended family is always the hardest, because you're still figuring things out," Neihardt explains. "Building new traditions can provide both a bonding experience and a teachable moment for everyone involved."

Interested in learning more about how you can create new traditions this holiday season to honor each family member? We asked Neihardt to share her advice and this is what she had to say.

Share old family traditions.

Just because you're celebrating the holidays with new family members doesn't mean you can't practice old traditions with them. "Take the time to teach family members that are unfamiliar with your family's rituals about your unique traditions, and include them going forward." Neihardt says. "Also, encourage them to teach you about their favorite family traditions, so everyone learns something new about each other."

Personalize holiday décor.

Neihardt says something as simple as making personalized holiday décor can be a meaningful way to bond as a blended family. "Setting aside time for everyone to decorate their own handmade stockings or tree ornaments allows family members to bond over a fun activity, while ensuring that no one is left out of your home's holiday décor displays," she says. If not everyone can find the time to sit down for an arts and crafts session this season, consider personalizing the items for each family member ahead of time so everybody feels included.

Play a get-to-know-you game.

Neihardt says to never underestimate the power of a good party game when forming new family traditions over the holidays. "Silly group games that involve the whole family, like charades, board games, talent shows, or sing-along sessions help break down barriers so that everyone can get to know each other better," she explains. "If you all have fun, you can turn it into an annual tradition."

Bake treats. 

Since so many holiday traditions are centered around food, Neihardt recommends creating a new family tradition in the kitchen. "Baking cookies or treats is an easy way to include everyone in a new holiday tradition," she explains. "You can divide tasks among family members, or simply take a family poll to decide what treat you'll be baking."

Pick a day to celebrate, even if it isn't the actual holiday.

If you're struggling to put together a new family tradition on a tight holiday schedule, Neihardt suggests waiting for a more opportune time. "Remember the holiday is just a date; it can be celebrated when you are best able as a family," she says. "Try not to push the kids and have the holidays be a rushed thing. It is okay to spread it out. It is more fun that way!"

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