Everyone said if 2020 would just end things would all be back to normal. Well, here we are nearly a quarter of the way through 2021 and things are not quite what any of us would consider “normal.” If you live in a blended family, chances are that this past year has been difficult in ways you could have never anticipated. But we cannot go another minute without stopping and saying: “YOU DID IT!” Whatever this last year looked like for you as you juggled working from home, home schooling your kids and/or step kids, navigating who-gets-who when they are quarantined-YOU MADE IT. Well done!
While we are hopeful about this pandemic being officially behind us, it is not quite time to burn those masks and gaiters yet, so let’s talk about a few tips to crossing this pandemic finish line strong as a blended family.
Yes, celebrate. Celebrate your successes this past year. Seriously. Sit down as a family and talk about the things each person accomplished, did well or learned. There is not a person on earth who has not accomplished or learned something during this pandemic. Take this time to go around to each person and ask them to name something that they have learned or accomplished and then ask them to share one thing they noticed another person in the family did well or learned. This will give everyone a sense of feeling included and it also gives the opportunity for all of you to think about the good. When you have overcome something together, it is important to recognize all the hard work it took to get there, and so, take the time; recognize yourself and one another. Then cap the night off with a cake, movie night or s’mores by the fire. Goodness knows you all have earned it.
Empathy is often mistaken for sympathy, or feeling sorry for someone. However true empathy is simple putting yourself in their shoes. When your 15-year-old stepdaughter hardly grunts at you when she comes downstairs, try empathy. Stop for just a moment and think about what this year has been like for HER. She has likely missed friends who are doing virtual school. She misses her mom because her mom was quarantined with COVID, which caused a cancelled visit and now she is not sure when she will get to see her again. Her first official high school dance was cancelled. She must wear a mask all day long at school and is getting “mascne,” and she is self-conscious about it. Now how do you feel? Maybe a little less offended? It is not about making excuses for someone, it is just about taking a minute and thinking how you might feel if you were wearing their shoes for the day. It allows us to be less easily offended, to show more patience and grace. Try it, and I promise you will not regret it.
NOVELTY IS LIFE
The movie “Groundhog Day” really should have been dedicated to this year. It is like we have lived the same day 365 times and that makes anyone feel like they are losing their mind. One final tip to surviving the last months (hopefully!) of this pandemic is to find novelty in the day to day. I am not talking about taking a big trip or buying new things. I am talking about seeing the world, your house, your neighborhood, your town, with a fresh set of eyes. Find that random trail you have thought about going to and go! Take the dogs for a walk…in the RAIN! Take your family to the creek down the road that you pass 100 times a day and see what you see. Bring sticks from the outside inside and let your younger step kids make Lincoln Log style houses. Anything out of the ordinary is extraordinary, especially now. When we experience new or “novel” things, our brains give us a reward in the form of dopamine, a hormone associated with happiness. So, get out there. Do something different. Before long, we will be back to “normal,” and we will all be wondering where the time went.