Three Keys to Managing Life and Family during the Holidays

Chores. School. Homework. Extra-curricular activities. Friends. Church. Whew! And what about noncustodial kids who come every other weekend, on holidays, or only in the summer? A newly remarried couple with a child or two can find their daily life very complicated, and it can wear you out in a hurry. What do you do?  Below are some ideas from three couples who share their insights and stories:

Brice & Alyson
“Before we married, we talked a lot about how we were going to parent,” Brice says, “but you never really know until you’re in the middle of it. Parenting takes a lot of communicating, being patient and compassionate, and dealing with things as a team. Even making decisions about chores, school, consequences, and all those sorts of things takes a lot of work.”

“I’m so thankful that Brice has stepped up and been the dad that Robbie never would have had,” Alyson says. “With Robbie’s attachment disorder, it’s hard for him to connect. He struggles with denial, lying, and not being sorry for the wrong things he does, so daily life is a challenge.”

“Robbie calls me ‘Dad,’ and I love that,” Brice says. “For all we face with Robbie, one day he’ll look back and realize that I didn’t have to be involved, I wanted to be involved.”

“Parenting Robbie has definitely been the toughest part of our marriage,” Alyson says, “and though it’s not an easy journey, I’m glad we’re doing it together.”

KEY: Alyson is right—more often than not, parenting and step-parenting in a blending family can be the toughest part of your marriage. But it can also be a place where God can work on healing broken hearts and lives, growing children who will become healthy and productive adults, and guiding you together as a couple to make your daily life one of peace and harmony. Projecting a united front is key. Setting boundaries is often critical. And balancing each other is important.

Zach & Sharon
“Just before we got married, I overheard my stepdaughter, Rachel, say ‘Oh good, now I have someone to do my laundry,’” Sharon says. “She expected me to take over and do everything for her.”

“Sometimes it’s hard for me to see the bigger picture,” Zach says. “I see the smaller issue of the moment, but Sharon helps me see how that issue can affect Rachel’s future.”

“We try to balance each other, but sometimes it’s not easy,” Sharon says.

KEY: Balancing custodial and noncustodial kids and all their roles, responsibilities, and schedules can also be daunting. It is important to communicate clearly and often.

Nick & Jill
“We coordinate our kids’ schedules so that we have time alone as a couple,” Jill says. “Especially in those first few years, it’s critical to have time together without the stress of the kids. If we need to, we’ll utilize family and friends so we can keep our marriage strong.”

“When my sons are with us, they’re expected to abide by the household rules and be part of the family routine,” Nick says. “So they go to the soccer games to support their brother and sister, or whatever. And in the summer, they have their own chores and are a part of the regular family routine.”

“When there are different rules in the other home, it can be tough for kids,” Jill says. “But it’s amazing how quickly they adjust, so we don’t worry about it so much anymore.”

KEY: When the holidays hit, blending families are often faced with more challenges. Making a plan, sometimes a multiple-year plan, is a good way to go.

Some couples develop a three to five year plan, depending on their circumstances.

“Holidays are difficult with all the multiple extended family commitments,” Zach says. “All the expectations of everyone are nerve-wracking.”

“We figure it out a year at a time,” Sharon says. “We try different things every year, and every year, family members have new and different expectations for us. With my newly married daughter and her husband, we’ve chosen to back off and let them do whatever they need to do. We told them that we’ll fit into their holiday plans whenever it works best for them. We just didn’t want to put any added pressure on them.”

Managing blending family daily life can be overwhelming, but with patience and lots of communication, it can be done.

Take one day at a time and enjoy every moment with your spouse and kids,” Jill says. “It goes by so fast.”

*Adapted from The ReMarriage Adventure: Preparing for a Lifetime of Love & Happiness, by Susan and Dale Mathis. Copyright © 2012, all rights reserved. Visit for more on this book.


Susan and Dale Mathis are passionate about helping couples prepare for marriage and for remarriage, since they are a remarried couple themselves. Dale has two master's degrees in counseling and has worked in counseling and human resources for over 30 years. Susan, the founding editor of Thriving Family magazine, has written prolifically for magazines and newspapers and continues to serve as a consultant, freelance editor and writer, and speaker. As a couple they enjoy camping, hiking, biking, and visiting family and friends around the world. Their blended family includes five adult children and three granddaughters. For more information about Susan or Dale, visit their website.

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