5 Tips for Planning Big Events as A Blended Family
Blended family dynamics aren’t particularly easy in the simplest of situations, but throw in a big event like a wedding, anniversary, graduation, major holiday, special birthday, or summer vacation, and you better strap in for a bumpy ride. These events are often ripe with emotion anyway, and with all the additional considerations for a blended family, the stress can really add up for everyone. I can safely say that in my over 20 years of experience as a family lawyer, I have seen it all. That’s how I know that it’s possible for big events with blended families to be successful too. These tips can help.
What Is a Blended Family?
By definition, a blended family is a family unit where one or both parents have children from a previous relationship, but they have combined to form a new family. The parents may be in a same-sex or heterosexual relationship, may be married or cohabitating, and may not have children with each other.
Blended families are becoming more and more common. In fact, one in six children is living in a blended family. While there are certain challenges common to blended families in general, like different parenting styles, competition for attention, conflicts between children, and the effects of grief and loss, adding in big events tends to amplify them even more.
Event Planning for Blended Families
In a blended family, what also comes with those step-children are the co-parents and extended families, which, let’s be honest, tend to be where the biggest challenges can lie when it comes to planning events, big or small. There’s so much to consider, but these tips can get you started in the right direction.
- Include Everyone – Of course, you want to focus the event around the family member(s) it’s in honor of, but it’s important to include everyone in some way. For example, if the big event is a wedding, make sure to include the children involved in the marriage. Assign a role that helps the child connect to the event in a significant way, like having a younger child as the flower girl or ring bearer or having an older child do a reading.
- Be Flexible – Different families have different traditions for events; if you’re blending families together, you need to be cognizant of that. For example, maybe you always go to a certain restaurant for birthdays while your step-children are used to celebrating at home. It doesn’t mean you have to change what you do entirely; instead, find a way to incorporate some of their traditions into yours so they will feel more comfortable and connected.
- Plan Ahead – This goes without saying, really, but for blended families, it’s even more important to plan ahead. But it’s more than just giving a date and time in advance for some events. You may need to include some family members in the planning or want others to participate. At the very least, you’ll likely want to check schedules ahead of time, and by communicating in a transparent way ahead of time about what you’d like to do, there won’t be any surprises or false assumptions to derail things. Or at least it will be less likely, and/or more manageable ahead of time if you do get pushback.
- Don’t Compete – This comes into play, especially around the holidays. If you’re a newly blended family, it’s natural to want to go big to ensure the children have a good experience. But, you must avoid the trap of competition over who gives the best gifts or does the most fun activities. It could backfire and cause more tension because older children will likely see through what you’re doing, as will co-parents and extended family. What’s more, you’ll be setting expectations that you likely won’t be able to (or want to) keep up every year from now on.
- Keep It Real – Blended family or not, some relatives are just a pain! So, it’s important to be realistic with your expectations. The event doesn’t have to be perfect (don’t put that pressure on yourself on top of everything else), but it can still be special and wonderful in its own way. At the same time, keep it real from a communication perspective as well. It’s ok for everyone to express themselves, in a healthy, non-blaming way, of course. Otherwise, the resentment will build and likely blow at the worst possible time⎯during the big event!
If Planning for a Blended Family Event Stalls
Sometimes, despite your best efforts, we just can’t all get along. So instead of letting it ruin your big event, you might consider mediation in which a neutral third party helps your blended family (and/or co-parents, extended family) work together, whether in the planning, at the event or both. In fact, our mediation services are 100 percent virtual for added flexibility and convenience. For additional information on how our online mediation services can help your blended family, contact Meditated Online Solutions today to learn more.