A friendly, fun event is a perfect choice for including step-children.
Successfully blending families, especially when there are young children involved, is no simple task. Start with a smaller, non-threatening event, then gradually add the step-children in to larger family gatherings, so they have time to get used to their new "relatives." Perhaps a kindly aunt or grandma can take shy little ones under her wing to help them feel like a part of the group. Or maybe a same-age cousin can pair up with a young step-child. Treat the step-kids like your own children in terms of letting them help with the planning and preparation, so they have some ownership of the gathering. Above all, keep your expectations realistic and be patient. There will be bumps along the way, but keep trying.
1Reach out to your step-children personally to assure them they are an important part of the family and you want them at the family gathering. Make the youngsters feel special by calling them personally on the telephone or sending them a cute, hand-printed note inviting them to the gathering. Little kids love to get mail or phone calls of their own, and this will make them feel singled out personally in a positive way. Or take them out one-on-one for ice cream or a walk a few weeks before the event and tell them how much it would mean to you to have them come.
2Ask step-children if there is something they would like as part of the family event that would make them feel more welcome. Add their favorite side dish to the family Thanksgiving meal, for example, or let them hang their own ornaments on the family Christmas tree.
3Create new rituals that blend the step-children's traditions with your own. Maybe your family never went caroling before, but if it's important to your step-children, make it a family group outing so they feel their traditions are valued. If they're used to opening their gifts on Christmas Eve and your family does it on Christmas, compromise and let each child open one or two items on Christmas Eve. Start a completely new tradition that includes everyone, such as serving meals at a soup kitchen as a family on Thanksgiving Day, or having a family game night where each child gets to bring a favorite game.
4Start small. Throwing new step-children into the family at a huge event such as a wedding or family reunion can be overwhelming and they can easily become overlooked in the shuffle. Have a family dinner or celebrate an older family member's birthday and invite them to attend. Give them the option to help with the preparations so they feel more a part of the family. Find small ways to eliminate the "us vs. them" lines. If your kids have personalized mugs for Christmas Eve hot cocoa, get some for the step-children as well.