Congratulations! You’re about to experience your first Christmas with your new in-laws. I say congratulations because good luck doesn’t seem as cheery. Just kidding, it won’t be that bad, especially if you arrive prepared. In the coming weeks, determine what you can do to make the season brighter now that you have a blended family to think about.
Lower Your Expectations
First of all, there is no such thing as a perfect holiday celebration, even for couples who aren’t trying to merge their lives later in life. The best thing you can do to prepare for a happy Christmas is to lower your expectations, for yourself and for those you’ll be with. Allow room for a learning curve. Especially if celebrating with her family this year, let it be about them. Show your new family how flexible you can be. A willingness to adopt new traditions shows you care more about being a part of the family than having to do things your way.
Control What You Can Control
That’s another way of saying don’t sweat the small stuff. But it’s also sound advice: take control of the things you can control. For example, you may not be able to help the fact that your new mother-in-law hates your beard, but you can surprise her with a bouquet of holiday flowers when you first walk in the door. You may not be able to convince your wife’s teenage children that you are there for them, but you can make yourself available by not watching TV in the other room or sitting on the couch glued to your phone.
Don’t Try Too Hard
Easier said than done, right? Just remember; stress makes you seem uptight, unhappy and anything other than the great person you are. Trying too hard actually allows more opportunities for you to step on toes or get your feelings hurt. Instead, constantly remind yourself to relax. Go with the flow. Allow them to see the real you—even the parts that are less than perfect. A little bit of vulnerability can go a long way in strengthen your relationship.
Keep this in mind when giving gifts, too. Don’t go down the lavish gift lane in hopes of impressing your in-laws with flashy gifts. Instead, opt for thoughtful gifts such as a coupon for a holiday family photo session or a signed copy of their favorite book.
Teamwork is Key
You don’t have to agree with everything your father-in-law says or love that your sister-in-law talks too much. You do, on the other hand, need to be on the same page as your spouse. You’re a team. Stick together. Avoid disagreements in front of the family. Don’t nitpick the details. Big families can be stressful during the holidays. Respect each other’s extended family, even if you seemingly have the right to because her Aunt Martha is crazy or her little brother is a jerk.This is especially important for the kids. Show everyone that you put each other first.
Create New Traditions
Especially when combining families, it’s hard to create the picture perfect holiday you each had in mind. Maybe you are used to celebrating Christmas Eve different different than one another. Bind together your traditions and choose the most important traditions you want to carry on. Then you can brainstorm and develop new traditions. Allow yourselves to smile at the past, but leave room for growth and give your new family the opportunity to move forward into the future.