Archive for the 'character' Category

God Uses Imperfect Stepparents

The early morning text surprised me. I don’t hear from my young adult stepson a lot but sensed he needed to talk based on what I read. I picked up the phone and engaged in a lengthy conversation with him regarding his year-long relationship with his girlfriend.

It was a great time to impart words of encouragement and support for his recent decision to take a step back from the relationship. I heard his feelings of discontent and sound judgment about whether they could make it long term. I heard words of wisdom that I knew were partly due to his upbringing in our home.

I will forever be an imperfect stepparent. I could spend days relaying countless ways that I messed up with my stepchildren. My stepson, Payton, and I had a strained relationship much of the time during his adolescent years. I didn’t know how to raise a son and didn’t spend enough time “studying” Payton so I could parent him better. But God used my imperfect efforts and continues to redeem a less-than-perfect relationship.

If you’re struggling with a stepchild relationship that feels it’s on a downward spiral, don’t give up. God redeems relationships every day. We don’t have to have all the answers. But we do need to do our part in apologizing when we’re wrong and seeking to improve our stepparenting ways to foster a healthy relationship.

The stepparenting journey often includes one step forward and two steps backward, particularly in the early years. But don’t underestimate your value with your stepchildren. Stepparents who choose to stay the course, through the good times and bad, will make a difference in the lives of their stepchildren.

Do you agree? How is God using you as an imperfect stepparent?

Related Posts:

Learning How to Love My Stepchildren

Seeing God’s Mercy on Difficult Days

Finding Success Through the Bumps on Your Stepparenting Journey

The Danger of Favoritism in Your Stepfamily

“I don’t feel the same way toward my stepchildren as I do my biological children,” a stepmother recently admitted. “I feel guilty when I say that, but it’s the truth.” “That’s okay, ” I replied. “The challenge comes in treating them the same, regardless of how you feel.”

I understand how this stepmom feels. It’s easier to love a child who you carried in your womb, nursed for a period of time, watched his first smiles, and heard his first words. There is a natural love that develops with your own child.

It’s different with stepchildren. They come to us at varying stages of life. Sometimes they enter our lives at a young age, other times they’re young adults or older. Oftentimes they come with their own feelings toward gaining a stepparent, and those feelings aren’t always good.

So why do we beat ourselves up as stepparents when we don’t have an automatic love for our stepchidren? Why do we put so much pressure on ourselves to have a perfect relationship with them from the beginning?

Perhaps society creates this image. Especially with moms, it’s assumed we can easily play out our maternal role, regardless of who’s on the other end. But that simply isn’t the case.

Relationships grow over time. And there are two parties involved in your stepparenting relationship – you and your stepchild. You can influence your side of the relationship, but you have no control over many of the influences your stepchild is receiving.

So, you may feel a different love toward your stepchildren than your biological children, but you must strive to treat them equally. Stepchildren feel like outsiders when they’re treated as “less than” and will not integrate into a stepfamily when they sense unfairness.

A predictable outcome of parental favoritism is competition between siblings and sibling rivalry, which stepfamilies are set up for already. And when siblings are close in age, parents must be even more diligent about how they treat each child.

That doesn’t mean you can never have one-on-one time with your child or you must spend the exact amount of money on each one. Even in biological families, circumstances dictate how parents spend money and time with their children.

For a non-custodial parent, there’s nothing wrong with spending time alone with your children when they come to visit. But be sure to allow time with the rest of the family too. It’s also not unusual to spend more money on one child than another at certain times. During our kids’ high school years, my daughter required tutoring for several years. We spent hundreds of dollars getting her through  high school math that we didn’t spend on the other kids.

The real issue with favoritism in stepfamilies, according to stepfamily authority Ron Deal, is “a heart issue, not a time or money issue.” As stepparents, our heart feels differently toward our stepchildren than our biological children. But one of the hidden gifts of stepfamilies is learning to love our stepchildren as God loves us. We can choose love, even if we don’t feel it. 

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

We didn’t deserve God’s love and grace. But He offered it anyway.

It might be easier to offer preferential treatment to your children, based on how you feel. But your stepchildren deserve equality. Will you commit to the high road of fairness?

How do you overcome the challenge of favoritism in your stepfamily?

Related Posts:

Marriage is Not Always Blissful: Especially in Blended Families

As a Stepfamily, You Can Expect Challenges

Learning to Accept the Things You Cannot Change

Five Ways to Create Stronger Stepfamily Relationships

I was married to a physician turned alcoholic in my first marriage, and toward the end of that 11-year-union, I learned to apply the slogans of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) to cope with my everyday challenges.

But AA slogans shouldn’t be confined to only problems in alcoholic relationships. When I entered a stepfamily upon marrying the second time, I quickly recognized the value of the AA slogans in stepfamily relationships.

 Here are a few examples of AA slogans and how to use them to create stronger stepfamily relationships:

1) Let go and let God

In the beginning of our marriage,we encountered countless problems in our stepfamily that were beyond my power to fix. I spent wasted time trying to control the situation or find a solution. When I learned to let go and let God be in control, I found the peace I’d been searching for. Solutions to our challenges didn’t surface quickly, but I knew God’s solutions would always be better than mine.

2) Let it begin with me and Be part of the solution, not the problem

As the adult, we need to step up and be the example for forgiveness, kindness, patience, and goodness toward our stepchildren. When they see us model this behavior, they are more likely to extend the same type of behavior toward us.

It’s also our responsibility to work toward a solution. I often see stepparents ruminating over their problems with others instead of seeking solutions. We become what we focus on – will you choose to focus on the problem or a solution?

3) How important is it?

It’s easy to escalate small issues into big boulders. I clearly remember a conflict ten years ago that I created. I insisted that all our children should attend my parent’s 50th wedding anniversary. My stepdaughter, who was living with her mom at the time and had a strained relationship with me, didn’t want to go. I was angry when my husband couldn’t force her to be there and I made a big deal out of it, creating further conflict with my husband.

Fast forward ten years. My parents are celebrating their 60th annivesary next month. My stepdaughter and I have mended our ways and she wants to participate in the celebration! Many of the battles we deem important enough to fight will work themselves out over time.

4) One day at a time

Building trust takes time, change takes time, healing old wounds takes time; there are no immediate ready-made solutions. This day is all I have to work with, and it is all I need. If I am tempted to worry about tomorrow’s concerns, I will gently bring my mind back to today.” (Courage to Change: One Day at a Time in Al-Anon)

Living one day at a time allows us to focus on the problems at hand, letting go of the problems of yesterday, and trusting God with the problems of tomorrow.

5) Keep an open mind

Stepfamily relationships evolve over time.  Sometimes they get worse before they get better. But if we keep an open mind to different solutions when current ones aren’t working and remain flexible as we encounter change, we will have a better chance at long-term success in our relationships.  It’s also important to stay united with our spouse, keeping open to their thoughts and ideas on what is happening in our home.

Other slogans of AA that can be applied to the stepfamily journey also include: Easy does it, first things first, just for today, keep it simple, listen and learn, live and let live, and think. If you’re interested in learning more about their slogans you can go here.  I find Al-Anon resources (for families of alcoholics) helpful also.

I love AA slogans and can find ways to apply them every day. Do you agree?

How will you use an AA slogan to create stronger relationships in your stepfamily or have you applied one already? Will you share it with us?

Related Posts:

As a Stepfamily, You Can Expect Challenges

Steps for Successful Stepparenting

 

Learning to Accept the Things You Cannot Change

“Mom I have mono. The doctor thinks I’ve had it six or seven weeks. He says I might need to quit my job so I can finish out the school semester while trying to get well.”

My daughter’s words were distressing. A 21-year-old college student living in another state, I knew she had been sick but never guessed it could be mono. I felt powerless as to how I could help.

A few days later I received another call from my 21-year-old stepson, also a college student living out of state. “Gayla, I have bronchitis. The doctor put me on an antibiotic but says I need to take a few days off work and get plenty of rest.”

Again the feeling of helplessness came over me. Accepting my role as a mom living 250 miles from three of our children has been agonizing for me at times. But I can’t change it.

It reminds me of the years my stepdaughter and stepson lived with their mom more than 300 miles away and how helpless I felt about their circumstances. My stepson suffered from severe allergies and asthma but lived in a home with two parents who smoked. When he came to visit, we went to the doctor, refilled prescriptions, and sent instructions back home regarding the need to keep him isolated from smoke.

But the instructions were often disregarded.

I couldn’t change his circumstances. I couldn’t change the behavior that took place in their home. I could only control my reaction to it.

The stepparenting journey will inevitably bring unpleasant circumstances and difficult behavior we cannot change. Maybe it’s an ex-pouse. Perhaps it’s a rebellious teen-ager. Or it could be an unforeseen circumstance that disrupts your home, like my husband’s job loss that resulted in an unwanted re-location.

Regardless of the situation, we find peace when we accept what we cannot change, and choose to focus on our reaction and ability  to change what’s within our power.

I’m not saying it’s easy. I’ve had my share of pity-parties when I’ve cried out to the Lord about living so far from our children. I’ve pleaded and bargained with Him to change our circumstances.

But I don’t find peace there. I don’t find answers to my struggles. I find discontentment and hopelessness.

I find peace only when I go back to the Serenity Prayer and sincerely pray:

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,                                                                                                             Courage to change the things I can, And the wisdom to know the difference.”

What about you? Are you trying to change a circumstance you need to accept? Or have you found peace through acceptance? I’d love to hear from you.

Other Posts You Might Enjoy:

Creating Healthy Boundaries with your Ex-Spouse

Coping with Stepfamily Drama

Coping with  Stepfamily Drama Part Two

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

 

 

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

I had the privilege of attending the first “stepmom retreat” this week-end in Dallas, hosted by http://www.blendedandbonded.com/ with Laura Petherbridge speaking. It was a wonderful time of connecting with stepmoms from around the country, meeting stepmom friends I talk with on Twitter and FB, and hearing some nuggets of wisdom from long-time stepmom Laura Petherbridge, co-author of The Smart Stepmom.

 

I want to share a few thoughts I came away with that spoke to my heart in hopes of encouraging you in your stepparenting role. Many I had heard before but they were good reminders for me.

1. God can teach me how to love kids who are hurting me. I ask Him to help me see them through His eyes and He does. “Chosen” love is still love. I can choose to love my stepchildren.

2. Children are fiercely loyal to a biological parent, even if the parent is unkind, abusive, detached, or emotionally unstable. The more dysfunctional the other biological parent is, the less likely the stepchild will bond with the stepparent. I can’t control that.

3. All stepfamilies are formed due to loss. Re-marriage is viewed as another loss for children and the children are at least two years behind the parents in the grieving process. Give them time to heal.

4. Money is going to be tight. My husband is OBLIGATED by God to support his children (I Timothy 5:8). They didn’t chose a stepmother or more siblings.

5. The children who do the best after divorce are those who maintain a healthy relationship with both parents. Stepchildren need alone time with their biological parent, without the stepparent.

6. God will reward your efforts. “Let us not become weary in doing  good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9

There is so much more I could share, but instead I encourage you to read Laura’s book. She has walked the path and offers reality with encouragement through her writing.

Do you need encouragement today? What nugget of wisdom spoke to you?

Related Posts:

Marriage is Not Always Blissful, Especially in Blended Families

Tip for Healthy Stepparenting: Learn to Cope with Rejection

Mantra for Stepparents: Don’t Take it Personally

Will You Commit to Unwavering Effort and Prayers on Your Stepfamily Journey?

“Observe the ant,” the great oriental conquerorTamerlane told his friends. In relating a story from his early life, he said, “I once was forced to take shelter from my enemies in a dilapidated building,where I sat alone for many hours.

 

Wishing to divert my mind from my hopeless situation, I fixed my eyes on an ant carrying a kernel of corn larger than itself up a high wall. I counted its attempts to accomplish this feat. The corn fell sixty-nine times to the ground, but the insect persevered. The seventieth time it reached the top. The ant’s accomplishment gave me courage for the moment, and I never forgot the lesson.” (Quoted in Streams in the Desert devotional, from The King’s Business.)

Tamerlane was a Central Asian conqueror and a brilliant military leader in the late 1300s who fought without wavering and gained control of a vast region including Iraq, Armenia, Mesopotamia, Georgia, Russia, and parts of India. He died on an expedition to conquer China.

So how do we relate Tamerlane to our stepfamily journey? Stepparenting requires unwavering effort. And we may not accomplish all that we desire in our lifetime. But that doesn’t mean we quit.

We may not see the rewards that Tamerlane did either. We might see very few earthly rewards. But God recognizes our efforts and will reward us.

I’ve been praying for a precious two-year-old girl, Stella, who was recently diagnosed with a brain tumor. Her parents lost her sister, Charlotte, a few years ago to a different illness and were devastated when yet another child was handed a dismal prognosis. Yet, despite the overwhelming odds, their prayers for their daughter’s healing are unwavering.  

As I read the mom’s CaringBridge post this morning, her raw emotions tugged at my heart, but she doesn’t stop asking for a miracle for her baby. Here is an excerpt:

“So it seems the cancer cells are putting pressure on the brain causing Stella to have seizures. They currently have her heavily sedated while they attempt to control the seizures. As far as I am concerned nothing revealed on the current MRI will change that this is a setback and we have to push on. Dr Saylors confirms this and we are not quitting hoping and praying that our final result will be the complete healing of our Stella Rose.

We are battered but not broken. So many parts of this are reminiscent of watching our Charlotte and I can say this is difficult for everyone who sees her. She is hooked up to a lot of tubes right now, had many fluids and is swollen because of this. …

Pray for the seizures to get well controlled with medications, pray we get to start chemo as planned and pray we get our Stella back before the next step begins. As always ask God for a miracle.

Does your stepfamily need a miracle? Will you commit to unwavering effort and prayers on your stepfamily journey?
 

Related Posts:

God’s Timing is Different Than Ours

Parenting From Your Knees

Stepfamily Detours – Where Are You Headed?


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