November 18, 2012

Ex-Etiquette: Flexibility key to keeping holiday gatherings fun


Q: With all the "yours, mine and ours" family juggling, I'm having trouble organizing Thanksgiving. I am divorced now, but was married for 25 years. That family has married children (some are and some are not biologically mine) that have to divide their time among spouses' families, some of which include divorced parents who have remarried and that adds to the places everyone must visit.

What suggestions do you have for families who want to celebrate together but face divorced mothers and fathers, plus divorced mothers-in-law and fathers-in-law?

A: You can only be at one place at one time and it can get very stressful if mom is here and dad is there -- plus now there are divorced in-laws as well. Add to that attachments to former stepparents and half siblings and you have quite a mess trying to get all the players in one place at one time.

That's why I try to remind everyone that "the holidays" are not necessarily just one day, but an entire holiday season. Between mid-November and Jan. 1 there are quite a few days to celebrate with loved ones. It doesn't necessarily have to be on THE designated day.

You're looking for the family feeling of celebrating together. Who said that the only day everyone can create that feeling is on the fourth Thursday in November?

For example, although I have always celebrated Thanksgiving with my husband's ex because the collective kids prefer to be together, this year our adult children have other commitments with extended family and new in-laws and I'm opting to cook on Saturday instead.

And, from now on, I told the kids, go where you need to go on Thanksgiving, but plan the Saturday after Thanksgiving to be at my house.

They were elated. It took all the pressure off trying to get to three or four Thanksgiving dinners -- and Saturday will be the bonus Thanksgiving with yours, mine and ours at the table.

The key to having successful holiday get-togethers after a break-up is to be flexible and compromise whenever possible (Good ex-etiquette rule No. 10). Modifying, rather than abandoning, old traditions can certainly help.

In my case, I'm not abandoning my family Thanksgiving celebration, I'm modifying our old tradition to work with the new family configuration.

I'm still cooking and making everyone's favorites and looking forward to family time, I'm just cooking for the season, instead of the day, and I will have my family around me, relaxed and invested in our time together rather than being stressed while trying to juggle one more Thanksgiving meal.

I'd love to hear how some of you have altered your family traditions as your family evolves.

Write me at so I can share your ideas with my readers as this holiday season gets under way.

Dr. Jann Blackstone is the author of "Ex-etiquette for Parents: Good Behavior After Divorce or Separation." Reach her at:


Were you interviewed for this story? If so, please fill out our accuracy form

Send question/comment to the editors

Further Discussion

Here at we value our readers and are committed to growing our community by encouraging you to add to the discussion. To ensure conscientious dialogue we have implemented a strict no-bullying policy. To participate, you must follow our Terms of Use.

Questions about the article? Add them below and we’ll try to answer them or do a follow-up post as soon as we can. Technical problems? Email them to us with an exact description of the problem. Make sure to include:
  • Type of computer or mobile device your are using
  • Exact operating system and browser you are viewing the site on (TIP: You can easily determine your operating system here.)