Archive for the 'Balance' Category

Celebrating Valentine’s Day as a Stepcouple

Have you made plans for Valentine’s Day yet? If not, please do. As a stepcouple, you deserve a night out to celebrate your marriage and enjoy time as a couple.heartStepfamily life includes too much time trying to cope with the everyday strain of kid issues, or co-parenting with a difficult ex-spouse, or juggling the emotions that crop up constantly surrounding stepfamily challenges.

Valentine’s Day is a day to celebrate the love that brought you and your spouse together. Leave the kids at home and spend the night out. Make plans to do something special. It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money or even involve the entire evening. But it needs to send the message to each of you that your marriage is important.

Make a few rules surrounding the evening. There will be no discussion of children, ex-spouses, financial challenges, or job stress. The evening is to be dedicated to celebrating your love and what brought the two of you together. Make plans for the future. Dream about years to come when the kids will be gone (it really does happen, I promise). Or plan a summer vacation for just the two of you.

But don’t let Valentine’s Day slip by without celebrating your marriage. It only comes once a year. What’s your plan?

How do you celebrate Valentine’s Day? I would love to hear.

Related Posts:

Nurture Your Marriage

The Value of a Supportive Spouse

Make Your Remarriage Work: Separate Marriage and Parenting Issues

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Ten Ways to Strengthen Your Stepfamily Relationships

It’s easy to think we must be perfect in our stepfamily interactions and make huge steps every day to strengthen our relationships. But that isn’t true.

Small steps on a regular basis can result in huge dividends with your stepfamily.

steps

Here are ten easy ways to show every day love and harbor positive relationships in your stepfamily:

1) Offer grace freely and often.

2) Think positive thoughts about your stepchildren; if a negative thought pops up – replace it.

3) Say at least one nice thing to each person in your stepfamily daily or as often as you see them.

4) Live “one day at a time” and enjoy the present moment – don’t project into the future.

5) Take care of yourself: emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually.

6) Strive to keep a thankful spirit.

7) Nurture your marriage with sweet gestures, alone time, and date nights.

8) Send thoughtful text messages when your stepchildren are away.

9) Deal with conflict when it occurs in a healthy context – don’t stuff it, don’t ignore it, don’t exaggerate it.

10) Pray for each member of your family daily.

Other ideas? What suggestions can you give to help strengthen stepfamily relationships?

Related Posts:

Is Your Stepfamily in a Season of Challenge?

Five Ways to Create Stronger Stepfamily Relationships

Lessons Learned About Stepparenting from Tim Tebow

Five Practical Tips for Successful Stepparenting

Resolutions for the Not-So-Perfect Stepparent

When I married my husband,  I set out to be the perfect stepparent. I read all the books, went to the conferences, and worked overtime doing everything right for my stepchildren. But I wasn’t a perfect stepparent. I made a lot of mistakes. Through 17 years of stepparenting, experience has taught me that I don’t have to be a perfect stepparent to have stepchildren grow to love me.

new yearThis year, instead of making resolutions about being a better stepparent, I decided to ponder a few resolutions on how to move past my imperfections and keep going on days I want to quit as a not-so-perfect stepparent.

So, this year I commit to …

 1. Let go of the Stepmom guilt. We all experience it from time to time. We let our mind run away with what we’ve done wrong as a stepparent. Or we compare our stepfamily to our neighbor’s perfectly-blended family and let the criticism begin. Stepmom guilt comes from the expectation that everything in our home should be perfect. But that’s never going to happen. Instead, why not let go of unrealistic expectations that keep us bound to guilt when we don’t measure up?

2. Forgive myself when I fail. A defeated stepparent doesn’t parent effectively. When we barrage ourselves with negative self-talk over a poor parenting choice, we continue down a negative path. Forgiving ourselves for less-than-stellar stepparenting moments allows us to begin again with a renewed mind and fresh perspective for our parenting challenges.

3. Seek out support from other stepmoms on hard days. My neighbor is a single parent with two school-aged children. She recognizes her need for help in juggling her responsibilities and seeks out other moms to assist with car pool or after school care when the demands of her work schedule become overwhelming. As stepmoms, it’s helpful to find fellow stepmoms who can offer encouragement or support on hard days. If you haven’t found local stepmoms, check out the group on Twitter of  #TwitterStepmoms.

4. Listen to my heart on how to parent my stepchild, instead of others’ opinions. It’s easy to run to the phone and ask our best friend what to do when we’re facing a difficult parenting moment, but if we step back and listen to our heart while considering our options, we make better decisions. Considering our stepchild’s personality as part of the parenting equation allows us to tailor our parenting in a healthier light.

5. Nurture my marriage. Stepchildren eventually exit the nest. The goal is for the marriage to outlast the stepparenting years.  Good marriages don’t just happen -they require regular nurturing. I want to continue to reach beyond an ordinary marriage by being my partner’s biggest fan and most loyal friend.

6. Take time to run, or quilt, or whatever activity works for me to re-group when the stepparenting strain takes over.  It’s important to re-group and make time for self-care when we’re about to go off the parenting cliff. Balancing stepparenting demands with activities we can look forward and enjoy by ourselves or with others, creates a well-rounded stepparent who can more effectively handle the strains of stepparenting.

As you start a new year, do you have resolutions to consider as a not-so-perfect stepparent? Do you need a mindset do-over that includes room for imperfection and second chances as a stepparent? Perhaps that’s the ticket to success this year on your not-so-perfect stepparenting journey.

Do you have other resolutions to add? Leave me a comment and let me know.

Related Posts:

The Myth of the Perfect Stepparent

Making it Your Best Year Yet

Five Practical Tips for Successful Stepparenting

New Beginnings

Coping with Entitled Stepchildren at the Holidays

Have you purchased our holiday e-book yet? Here’s a portion from Chapter 2 that I wrote:New Ebook cover

“It’s easy to create narcissistic children who feel entitled to receive every gift they ask for when we give them too much. It’s an unhealthy practice and, as adults, our children will suffer if they’ve never had to experience delayed gratification.

Unfortunately, in many homes, entitlement is encouraged through lavish gift-giving. I know you’re thinking–I can’t control what is happening in their other home. You’re right. But you can discuss it in your own home and seek to contribute to a healthier mindset. Here’s how we seek to change entitled thinking with our kids:

During the month of October each year, we ask our children to make a list of what they want for Christmas and prioritize the gifts most important to them. We let them know that we will try hard to get at least one gift they really want but they will not receive everything on the list. We hope to make Christmas a special holiday that includes more giving than receiving.

During the months of November and December, we take our kids shopping for children who are less privileged than they. Often, we take a name from the Angel Tree at church and buy gifts for children whose parents are in prison. Many years we purchase gifts and pack boxes for Operation Christmas Child, an organization dedicated to helping the poor. Some years we have volunteered for the Salvation Army, ringing bells to collect money for the needy. We want to show our children the joy they feel in giving to others instead of focusing only on what they receive.

I know our efforts won’t change what gifts they receive in the other home or how they’re influenced regarding material possessions there. But we hope to offer another perspective that discourages entitlement. And when giving to others is modeled year after year, our children learn what it feels like to contribute to a smile on another child’s face, bringing a smile to their own face.”

If you want to read other ideas and perspectives on holiday challenges, please purchase our e-book, Unwrapping the Gift of Stepfamily Peace.  Come back and let me know what you think!

How do you cope with entitled stepchildren? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Related Posts:

How to Cope with Holiday Drama in Your Stepfamily

Your Holiday Doesn’t Have to Be Perfect to Be Meaningful

 

Seven Tips for Finding Balance in the Midst of Holiday Chaos

 

 

Back to School – Five Tips for Success with Stepchildren

Our youngest son started middle school last week as a 6th grader and has had some intimidating moments at his new school. He started off in the wrong classroom for homeroom but didn’t discover it until the teacher called roll. He left to go to the correct classroom and finally entered the right room–tardy.

The next day he innocently walked through a circle of 8th graders on his way to class and was belittled by the older kids who insisted he “Go around next time!” And later that day he discovered the bus he rides home includes a few high school students who aren’t always nice to the young ones!

 School is tough for our kids. Their days are stressful and intimidating, especially for those starting new schools. But we can help make their school year a success. Here are a few tips I suggest:

1. Pray regularly for your children and stepchildren. In her book, The Power of a Praying Parent, Stormie Omartian says, “The battle for our children’s lives is waged on our knees. When we don’t pray, it’s like sitting on the sidelines watching our children in a war zone getting shot at from every angle. When we do pray, we’re in the battle alongside them, appropriating God’s power on their behalf.”

2. Evaluate your schedule – have you left room to help with homework? It’s easy to inundate ourselves with too many commitments. I evaluate my schedule regularly to see if I need to change/add/delete anything. Raising children requires time and energy.  Our role as stepparents is even more demanding, mentally and emotionally.  If we give all  our energy to outside commitments and demanding careers, what do we draw from to deal with the inevitable crises and unexpected irritants that will surely come our way?

3. Resolve conflict as it occurs. Our children are impacted every day by what happens in our home. If we refuse to be cooperative with an ex-spouse regarding a new school schedule or negotiating activities, our children suffer. Here’s what Ron Deal says on this issue in The Smart Stepfamily: “An old African proverb says, ‘When two elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers.’ Biological parents who fight and refuse to cooperate are trampling on their most prized possession – their children. Elephants at war are totally unaware of what is happening to the grass, for they are far too consumed with the battle at hand. Little do they know how much damage is being done.” Someone has to be the bigger person and work to resolve conflict – will it be you?

4. Expect the best of your children. And let them know you love them. Our kids will live up to the expectations we set – they’re looking for someone to believe in them. As I drove my son to school this morning, I told him, “I’m proud of you for keeping a good attitude, even though I know your first days of middle school have not been easy.” Our stepchildren need our support. On days they’re not easy to love, ask for God’s help. “I am with you; …I will strengthen you and help you.” (Isaiah 41:10)

5. Get to know their friends. Make your house the hangout.  If we don’t know our children’s friends, we can’t help them in their relationships. Friends can directly influence what kind of school year our stepchildren/children have. If you’re raising teens, keep food around – it always works. And gently talk to your kids about friends you don’t approve of and why. Childhood friendships are a breeding ground for teaching  what healthy relationships look like.

Are you looking forward to a new school year or dreading it? Will you commit to do your part in helping your children/stepchildren have a successful year?

What other tips do you offer? I would love to hear from you.

Related Posts:

Back to School Routines and Your Stepfamily: Peaceful or Chaotic?

The Myth of the Perfect Stepparent

Change: A Friend or a Foe in Your Stepfamily?

Learning to Accept the Things You Cannot Change

Setting Boundaries with Your Stepchildren

My stepson moved from Conway, AR to Austin, TX this past week. After graduating from college, he opted to explore the big-city scene of Austin as a single person. He spent a few days at our house during the transition.

The weeks prior to the move, we were in contact with him almost daily regarding details like renting a U-haul, finding the best apartment, budgeting his finances for the move, etc. A dilemma surfaced regarding how to pull a trailer when his Jeep didn’t have a trailer hitch. Since I drive a car with a trailer hitch, my husband suggested we let him borrow my car and pull the trailer behind it.

I bristled at the suggestion. My stepson has totalled one vehicle and allowed a friend to drive his next vehicle, which the friend totalled. Knowing my stepson has little experience in pulling a trailer made me even more uncomfortable. I pleaded my case for another option and thankfully, my husband agreed.

During the short period my stepson stayed at our house, he asked if I would help with his laundry. It was a small favor I knew would help without a huge sacrifice on my part. Our kids are taught to do their own laundry as teenagers, but saying yes to laundry that day was okay with me.

Boundary setting requires wisdom and sensitivity on our part as stepparents. The boundaries you set in your home will look different than what I set in my home. And boundaries change as our children mature.

Saying no to driving my car was a boundary I felt strongly about it. But doing my stepson’s laundry to help with his move was a gesture of love for me. If we can say yes we need to say yes – that’s part of building a loving relationship with our stepchildren. But when we need to say no, say no.

Our actions or inactions in setting boundaries teach others how to treat us. We can require respect from our stepchildren, even if they don’t like us. Team up with your spouse and set some ground rules (i.e. yelling is not allowed–even when you’re angry), and follow through with consequences if they’re not followed.

I like the way veteran stepmom Sue Thoele discusses boundaries in The Courage to be a Stepmom, “With practice and commitment, taking care of ourselves and setting self-nurturing limits can become second nature. Cultivating the ability to say “no” to unreasonable responsibilities and expectations makes it easier for us to say “yes” to love and laughter.”

As stepparents, we make endless sacrifices for our stepchildren with few rewards, especially in the beginning. It’s our responsibility to determine what boundaries we need to put in place to foster thriving relationships. When we allow disrespect, or behavior that goes against what we can tolerate, we invite resentment into our heart and home.

If you’re struggling with boundaries, I recommend reading Boundaries, When to Say Yes and When to Say No to Take Control of Your Life by Drs. Cloud and Townsend. Healthy boundaries impact all areas of our life and enable us to recognize our limits and seek balance as stepparents.

Are you successful in setting boundaries with your stepchildren? I would love to hear your thoughts.

Related Posts:

The Power of Boundaries as a Stepparent – Part One

The Power of Boundaries as a Stepparent – Part Two

Creating Healthy Boundaries with your Ex-Spouse

Teaching our Daughters to be Healthy, Not Skinny!

If you watched any portion of the Academy Awards Sunday night, you must have noticed the number of women who looked unusually thin. And the media makes it worse by talking about how good these women look!

I love this post  by Christina Katz and am re-posting it with her permission. It’s a great reminder of how we, as parents, are responsible for what we’re teaching our young ladies about their size. Don’t leave it up to the media and expect your daughter to get a healthy message. Take responsbility for teaching your daughter/stepdaughter to be comfortable in her own skin, regardless of her size.

From Christina’s blog:

“In every household over dinner tonight, all over the world, I hope that the conversation will turn to a very serious subject:

Why are so many women in attendance at the Academy Awards last night starving themselves?

Are their families blind to this? Where are the people who love these women?

Because the camera is supposed to add ten-fifteen pounds. If that’s the case, then these women must look like Holocaust survivors in-person.

When my daughter was just seven years old and in second grade, she began noticing that her friends are thinner than she is. And so the conversation began in our house.

It goes something like this.

Mom, how come I’m not as thin as my friends? I’m fat. I don’t want to be fat. I want to be skinny like my friends!

Answer: Some women are lean and some women are curvy, but it’s never healthy to be too thin or to diet just for the sake of becoming skinny.

Answer: It’s never a good idea to try and change your appearance to please others. It doesn’t matter what your friends look like, it’s much more important to love and accept yourself for who you are.

Answer: You and your friends have different body types, and they are going to change even more over the next few years, and none of them are going to look exactly alike, nor do they look alike now.

It’s never a good idea to impress upon a young girl that she is not thin enough to be acceptable or to make her afraid of becoming fat.

The only sensible reason to try and change your body is for health reasons and then the only acceptable approach is to eat better and exercise more in a moderate, gradual way without shaming or pressure.

My daughter is curvy. I am curvy. Maybe you are curvy, too.

I am putting out a call tonight. We all need to have to have conversations with our daughters and tell them that they way those women looked at the Academy Awards is NOT a healthy choice. And we need to pressure the media and the industry authorities and actresses themselves to take responsibility for the horrifying examples that they are setting for the daughters of the world.

It’s up to us to help our daughters understand that the healthy choice is to be more tolerant and accepting of what our bodies want to look like and less tolerant of unacceptable — and unsustainable — images of women.

These women look like they are going to die from starving themselves. I sincerely hope that this does not turn out to be the case.

But those Academy-award nominated actresses are putting our daughters at risk. And it is inexcusable as an example, whether they are sick or not.

And anyone in the industry who is putting pressure on them to starve themselves for success is guilty of injuring the world’s daughters, period.

I hope every mother in America will talk to her daughter tonight. And tell her, you NEVER have to look like that to be loved.

And then hug her and love her exactly the way she is. And ask her to do the same with herself.

And if you have an eating disorder or weight obsession, I hope you will seek help for your sake and for all of our daughters’ sakes.

Please copy and paste this meme into your blog so long as you link here. Or blog a response and link back to this post. And then talk to your daughters and report about the results online. Enough is enough!

We can change our daughters’ futures by raising our own awareness about self-abuse among women and talking openly and honestly about how to love and accept ourselves instead of further dis-empowering and abusing our bodies.”

Do you agree? I would love to hear your comments.

Other Posts You Might Enjoy:

Nuggets of Wisdom from Laura Petherbridge, author of The Smart Stepmom

When Stepfamily Life Gets Messy

 

 


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