Are your midlife stepsiblings or half siblings going to be at the coming Hanukkah or Christmas ? Maybe you expect acid reflux from the hot sauce that parental divorce dribbles on family celebrations.
Rituals like Hanukkah or Christmas events are the glue that bond family life. They patch up family and sibling disputes and give us the architecture of a year full of celebrations marking family history. Rituals are the touchstones for rites and family passages and keep us gathering over and over again to celebrate and observe those landmarks. Rituals also give form to every day we spend and are the counterpoints of the turning clock when the family can gather and talk, share and gossip.
But the tidal wave of divorce among baby boomers and Generation X brought step siblings with old grudges, half siblings who lost family love, ½ their rooms, and gained a shredded family nest. Now the family does not know who it’s members really are and rituals like Hanukkah or Christmas – can turn into a nightmare.
This is true especially for aging parents, who may be at the Hanukkah or Christmas event, don’t need the drama and will need all of you to be a family team when they need care as they decline.
Here are some tips to include everyone including step siblings and half siblings
- Call everyone ahead of time. Invite them and ask everyone to bring a dish. That is the beginning of building a family team- sharing
- Don’t make this a family meeting where old sibling grudges get hashed out. Celebrations are just that. If someone pushes you button, keep that angry response to yourself and maybe arrange a future family meeting.
- Schedule a Family meetings can be planned post Hanukkah or Christmas with a Aging Life Care Manager or a mediator’s help.
- Reinvent your Hanukkah or Christmas get-together through a new twist that really makes an effort to includes step and half siblings and glue that jagged bond. Create activities that everyone can join -– blood, step, or half siblings.
- Check ahead and find out what everyone likes to do. If they are step kids or stepsiblings make sure you have fun things to do ahead of time that they enjoy. Make sure everyone is an included, especially new member of the family like young stepsiblings who may feel like third wheels in your clan. If they have a difficult time blending (most do) – reach out to make them part of the group. Understand their reluctance to join an existing blood family where they have bloody history or a nasty Cinderella nightmare tale. Bring them up to the top floor of the castle.
Gathering for ritual occasions like Hanukkah or Christmas or any holidays, allows you to spend time together as a family and gives kids their siblings the tools to solve problems, negotiate and compromise and learn the skills of working together as a group.
Ritual gatherings with step half and blood siblings can build those bonds, so future sibling, ” I Hate You stories”, are not created in the here and now whether siblings are is half, blood, or step.
Check out my book Mom Loves You Best for more tips on sibling inclusion.