Will and Anna are fortunate enough to have two immediate families and four sets of extended families to celebrate with each holiday season. That’s a lot of Christmas fun for kids…and for us parents to orchestrate.
Part of the coordination is out of our hands. Joe Daddy and I share the holiday break. One parent gets the kids from the last day of school until the 26th and then the other has them from the 26th until the end of the break per our agreement. It works fairly well but it also means that every other year, we don’t have Will and Anna with us for actual Christmas Eve and Day.
Here’s how it works for us:
- Plan in advance what dates the kids are going to be where. This allows us to plan our extended family gatherings as soon as we can. We did Christmas for the kids with Grandad and the Odoms and then with Garen’s family the second week of December. And we are at Garen’s mom’s with the little girls for Christmas. We will be going to my parents’ on the night of the 28th and celebrate New Years Eve there. That’s a lot to plan for and takes multiples rounds of packing and travel for a family of six!
- Do as many family traditions as you can before the school holiday starts. We’ve started a family tradition of going to Holiday in the Park and to Santa’s Adventure. We also make a “thing” out of decorating the tree, complete with homemade chicken and dumplings. There are other traditions but that’s not the point of this post. The point here is to make sure you do them. And to do them, they have to be planned if you share weekends with the kids’ other families. The few weekends between Thanksgiving and Christmas fly by before you know it!
- It’s important to be encouraging and inclusive of the kids’ other family traditions. When you have multiple families celebrating, there are always going to be different ways of doing things and that’s a good thing. Your kids will be well-rounded and open to new ideas as they grow.
- Use technology to your advantage. Skype and FaceTime allow you to still see the kids when they are with their other families. It is also special to do this with grandparents to keep them involved.
- We coordinate what is being given to the kids with various family members in an attempt to not get multiples of the same thing. Sometimes this works better than others. In the case that the kids get multiples, they can leave one at the other family’s house or maybe a grandparent’s house. It’s really not a big deal.
- Santa comes on Christmas morning, no matter where the kids are or who they’re with. This is less confusing for everyone. Again, coordinating this with the other parent is important for a good co-parenting relationship.
- We open the kids’ other presents on a day that we can be at home the majority of the day. This gives us plenty of time to play with any new toys and have a big, special Christmas breakfast, which was a big deal in my family growing up.
- Help the kids to pick out or make Christmas presents for their other family, especially their siblings. This year the kids picked out a fun toy purse with keys and phone for Madalyn and made yarn ornaments for the rest of the family.
- If your kids are away at their other family’s house for the holiday and you’re sad, remember that they are very fortunate to have more than one set of people to love them. More love. What’s better than that? With that said, it’s ok to miss them and be bummed a bit…especially if this is your first round. Stay busy with other family and/or friends or volunteer somewhere to keep yourself occupied. It doesn’t necessarily get easier but you do learn to adjust over the years.
- Remember that Christmas is really a season and not just one day. And it’s not just about the gifts. It’s about celebrating your beliefs, spending time with family and friends, and enjoying traditions- old or new. It should be celebrated whenever you and your family can be together. This could be before or after Christmas and still be just as special if you let it be.
I hope these tips from our experiences can be helpful. It can be hard to share, even as adults who know it’s best for the kids but this is how we make our holidays special for everyone in our family. It takes planning and coordination but it is well worth it!