5 Tips for Navigating the Stepfamily Vacation

Friday, July 27, 2012

5 Tips for Navigating the Stepfamily Vacation

You and your partner work hard all year long, and you may “X” off the calendar days until those precious few days of vacation get here.

As a blended family, there may be more than just you and your spouse attending the summertime festivities. 

So, while you may be excited to take a break and enjoy your favorite activities, or simply plan to kick up your feet and do absolutely nothing for a string of days, you may be feeling a little nervous that things won’t go, well… exactly as planned.

This doesn’t mean that just because you’re a blended family, you’re going to have a struggle. Any family can follow these tips, because it takes into consideration everyone’s ideas and feelings.

Here are some tips for navigating your stepfamily vacation—while still banking some relaxation points.

Tip 1: Lower your expectations

When it comes to vacations, it’s easy to let our imaginations—and expectations—get away from us.

For example, it’s going to be a challenge to erase 51 weeks of stress in just one week.

Also, it may be expecting too much to think that all of your blended-family issues are going to disappear for a week. Wherever you and your blended family go, your issues won’t be far behind you.

When you accept this, it won’t come as quite a surprise when a conflict pops up.

Tip 2: Set Guidelines

Everyone has their hot buttons, pet peeves and annoyances, whether they’re adult, teenager or child. Have everyone agree to leave those behind.

Also, be specific.  When you say, “Let’s all just try to have a nice time,” what does that mean?

One idea is to have each family member state what he or she hopes to get out of this vacation, and how he or she defines a “nice time.” The answers may be quite interesting—and not what you would expect!

Tip 3: Involve Everyone in the Planning

To foster good feelings, get some input from each person who is going on the vacation. For example, if they could choose one thing, what would they most like to see or do?

This will help each person personalize the experience to his or her own likes, which can lead to excitement about the vacation rather than a sense of dread.

Also, it sets the stage for thinking positively rather than gearing up for away-from-home disgruntlement.

Tip 4: Let Kids Spend Time Alone with their Biological Parent if Possible

Though you are on a family vacation, it doesn’t mean you can’t split up for part of the time and have some one-on-one activities that give kids, who may or may not normally live with their parent, time alone with that parent.

Or, if you happen to be at a place such as an amusement park, make sure to partner up with your child for a ride. If you are at a beach, consider taking a short bike ride with your child. Maybe your spouse can take his or her children out for an ice cream during this time.

This can give the stepparent some much needed time alone to relax or go do an activity on his or her own that no one else is interested in. And, it fosters good feelings in kids to get a “special” treat of not having to share their parent for a chunk of time or fun activity.

Tip 5: Follow up: Reinforce the Positive Aspects of the Vacation

Your blended family will no doubt have a good time together. One way to end the vacation on a high note is to ask everyone what his or her favorite part of the whole vacation was.

This prompts each person to sift through just his or her positive memories, reinforcing the good that exists in your blended family dynamic. You carry back with you more than just luggage: you have some good memories to share and build from. 

How to be a Stepparent: Plan Some Summer Fun

Friday, July 20, 2012


Many stepparents want to know “how to stepparent,” but there is no one-size-fits-all-blended-families approach to give—though there are plenty of ideas.

However, there is one universal truth all humans share in common: we like to have fun.

Blended families have enough challenges going on, so why not take a break and spend a little time planning some fun activities?

There’s something to be said about the opportunity to laugh together while enjoying positive experiences. It’s the type of bonding opportunity that creates the fabric of good relationships.

And what better time to have fun than during the warm-weather months when there are a variety of activities from which to choose and longer daylight hours within which to enjoy them?

As a stepparent, making the effort and taking the lead in planning fun activities for all to enjoy is a proactive step. It beats being reactive to all of the little blended family crises that can come up over the course of a week. Your spouse will appreciate the effort, and the big payoff is… you get to have fun managing the selection process!

You can pre-select some activities and take a family vote, or plan a surprise for everyone, giving them fun clues such as what they should wear for the day.

Here are some guidelines for how to select fun activities:

1)    Use Hobbies as a Guide

If you know your stepchild or stepchildren have a particular hobby or interest, you can use that as your launch point. For example, maybe she’s interested in dinosaurs. Scout out local museums that offer exhibits, or plan a day with a dinosaur theme that could include movies, a dinosaur-drawing contest and “prehistoric” treats that you create in the kitchen.


2)    Mix it Up

If you normally go to movies for family entertainment, you could try visiting a local park and taking a hike, or renting kayaks for a water-based excursion. Or, vice versa, if you normally go outside for fun, find some indoor activities that would interest kids and adults alike, such as family-themed plays or concerts.

3)    You Don’t Necessarily Need to Spend a Dime

If your budget has been putting a bit of a pinch on your fun, it doesn’t mean you need to entirely nix the idea of fun altogether. Kids have great imaginations: tap them to see what ideas they can come up with. Also, check local magazines that cater to families: they often provide a calendar of events that range from no cost to some cost involved.  You may not even be aware of all of your local resources, so start investigating!

4)    Keep it Light

No matter what you decide to do, make sure everyone knows the object of what you’re trying to accomplish: relaxing and having a good time. Put a moratorium on arguments and frowning for the duration of the activity. And if things don’t work out exactly the way you pictured them in your mind, have patience. The effort was made, and that’s worth a lot in terms of blended family relations.

Let us know how it goes for you and your blended family. We would love to hear your ideas. 

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