Holiday Tips For Step-families: Let Go Of The “Brady Bunch” Fantasy!

When Bill and I first formed our step-family, I had many fantasies about how our family would behave like the “Brady Bunch” over the holidays– a happy, harmonious unit. Then reality struck, and we couldn’t even agree on how to decorate the Christmas tree! Ultimately, we created a “his” side-with multi-colored, blinking lights and tinsel-and a “hers” side-with hand-painted eggs and popcorn strings.

Seven years later, I can tell you that trying to create a “Brady Bunch” holiday sets stepfamilies up for failure. Instead, I suggest you follow these tips:

  • Examine and try to let go of your “Brady Bunch” fantasies.
  • Continue “old” holiday traditions with your biological kids while creating new ones for the step-family.
  • If the kids don’t buy into your fantasy holiday, try to see the world from their point of view.
  • Practice the fine art of silence when your step-family is stressed by the holidays. You don’t have to share all your negative feelings.
  • Don’t compete with your children’s “other” parents by showering kids with expensive gifts.
  • Stepmoms, reach out to your step-kids’ mother. Buy her a gift. Tell her you appreciate her children.
  • Don’t fight with ex-spouses about how much time you will spend with children over the holidays. It only hurts the children.
  • Invite your ex-spouses over for a holiday party. Brace for surprises.
  • Join a stepparent support group to share the many feelings about “family” that come up during the holiday season. 


    Lisa Cohn is co-author of “One Family, Two Family, New Family: Stories And Advice For Stepfamilies,” a 2004 Gold National Parenting Publications Award winner. For more information, visit

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