Archive for the 'counseling' Category

As a Stepparent, You’re an Olympic Champion!

Are you watching the Olympics this week? What’s your favorite sport? I love the gymnastics. The athletes make it look so easy to throw themselves across the floor in beautiful tumbling techniques and hoist their bodies in ways that seem impossible.

                                                                      Robert Deutsch – USA Today

As I listened to some of the gynmasts’ stories, I couldn’t help but compare them to the challenges of stepparenting and the champion role we play every day. Here are a few parallels I see:

1. It’s emotional. Often.

I’ve seen a lot of tears since the Olympics started. Some are tears of joy – many are tears of defeat. But as one coach said, “Without the passion and the emotion, you wouldn’t have an Olympian.”

The same is true of stepparenting. If we didn’t care deeply about our stepchildren, we wouldn’t feel the intense anger, sadness, and anxiety surrounding their choices and their reactions toward us. But our emotions speak loudly of the significant role we play in their lives. We’re champions because we take on the role of parenting someone else’s child, and endure the emotions that follow.

2. Investing time and energy doesn’t always lead to the success you desire.

Gymnast Jordyn Wieber invested years of practice and agonizing work toward an anticipated gold medal in the all-around at the 2012 Olympics. But that dream was shattered when she failed to qualify for the final event. Beat out by two of her teammates, she disintegrated into tears following the final scores.

Our view of success as a stepparent doesn’t always follow the time and energy we invest toward it. But that doesn’t mean we’ve failed. Variables beyond our control can keep our stepchildren from developing a relationship with us. Loyalty conflict toward a biological parent often plays a huge role in keeping a stepchild in a guarded position. But God sees our heart and measures our success as a champion by the effort we make, regardless of the final result. “The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (I Samuel 16:7)

3. It requires special techniques to cope with the stress involved.

After qualifying for the all-around finals, gymnast Gabby Douglas told the commentator interviewing her that she meditates on Scripture to help calm her nerves and deal with the task at hand. The stress surrounding Olympic athletes is unbearable at times, but Gabby has found a successful way to cope.

Stepparenting also involves stress that seems unbearable at times. The relentless demands on our time, society’s pressure of what role we are to play, the emotional tug-of-war with the biological parent, and the unending mind games stepchildren often play with us, can lead to  discouragement without hope. But when we seek faith-filled solutions such as prayer, Scripture reading, meditation, and fellowship with other healthy stepparents, we find the energy to cope and succeed as champions.

4. Good coaching is mandatory. 

Many Olympic athletes speak of changing coaches when they begin training for an Olympic event. Success will not be attained with mediocre methods or inexperienced coaching.

Stepparenting challenges also require coaching/counseling during difficult seasons. Coaching needs to be attained from an experienced professional who understands stepfamily dynamics. Traditional family methods with stepfamilies doesn’t lead to success. If you’re stuck in your stepfamily difficulty, check out my coaching page to find hope. Champions turn to good coaching when they need help.

5. Champions don’t quit when they fail.

If you follow the stories of Olympic athletes, many of them compete month after month for years before attaining the success they’re striving for. It would be easy to quit, but quitters don’t succeed.

When you fall down as a stepparent, you must get back up. If you haven’t read my most recent blog post, it speaks to that:  The Myth of the Perfect Stepparent. We become champions in our stepparenting role when we keep trying, even though we want to quit. I know it’s hard. I’ve been there.

I applaud your efforts as a stepparenting champion. I wish I could visit with you over a cup of coffee about your biggest struggle. But remember: God sees every effort, even if the results aren’t what you’re hoping for.

I love the Olympic Creed and think it can be applied to stepparenting as well:

The important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take  part, the important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle.  The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.

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

Related Posts:

Stinkin’ Thinkin’ Creates Bitter Quitters in Blended Families

Learning to Accept the Things You Cannot Change

Is It a Privilege to be a Stepparent?

The Myth of the Perfect Stepparent

My husband, Randy, turns 50 years old today! He has been a stepparent to my two girls for 17 years.

He will be the first to tell you he has done a lot of things wrong. But his stepdaughters love him dearly.

It hasn’t always been that way.

Jodi (left) was almost three when we married and Jamie (right) was five. Randy had a difficult time with Jamie from the beginning. She didn’t want another dad in her life and she made that clear to him.

He overheard a conversation between the two girls one night in the bathtub during our first year of marriage. “I hate him too, I can’t believe Mom married him,” Jamie told Jodi. There was little love, or even like, between Randy and the girls in the beginning.

During our second year of marriage, Randy left the house one evening and called from a nearby hotel. “I’m not coming home tonight. I’m not sure I’m coming home again. I can’t deal with the ongoing conflict between me and you and the kids.”

It was a tough season. Blending four children ages 3-10 and learning how to parent together was harder than we anticipated. But neither of us wanted to endure another divorce.  Randy and I began counseling that year to work through the bumps.

During her teen-age years, Jamie challenged us on every turn. If Randy punished her in any way, she threatened to call Child Protective Services. She ran away more times than I can remember (but thankfully never went far). And after one particularly aggravating day with defiant behavior, Randy took Jamie’s cell phone and threw it to the ground. As it busted into several pieces, Jamie began yelling at us both. The night didn’t end well. And I wasn’t sure the sun would come up the next day.

But it did. And Randy didn’t give up on his stepparenting role with Jamie.

When she came into driving age, Randy wanted to teach her to drive. She tested every ounce of his patience. They would come in from a driving session hardly talking to one another–Jamie’s anger brewing over. But the next day, they were at it again.

During her high school years, Jamie participated in competitve cheerleading. Randy would jokingly say, “Do you call cheerleading a sport?” The ongoing drama with other cheerleaders, out-of-town competitions, and continuous suction cup to his wallet threw Randy into stress overdrive. His grumpiness overshadowed his joy at times. But he didn’t quit supporting Jamie and the things that made her tick.

Do you have to be a perfect stepparent to have a meaningful relationship with your stepchildren? NO!

Randy’s stepdaughters, Jodi (19) and Jamie (22), love their imperfect stepdad.

Why? How did that happen?

Randy never quit. He got up when he fell down. He sought help when he needed answers. He cried. He  prayed. He struggled. He fought. He apologized. He forgave. He smiled with gritted teeth. But he never quit.

When he fell down, he got up. He prayed some more. He sought help again. He struggled harder. He cried again. He forgave some more.                        But… he got up when he fell down. 

Is it a cycle? Yes. You take one step forward and two steps backward. You celebrate a season of growth, then start a season of despair. You gain the insider status one day and feel like an outcast the next.

Does that mean you failed?

No.

You fail when you quit.

The easy road is the quitter’s road. The majority of stepparents take that road.

But if you signed up for the race, your stepchildren deserve a finish.

I know it’s not easy. I know you want to quit. But you’ve been given an opportunity to influence a young child’s life like no one else can. In an imperfect way.

Will you take the challenge? Will you commit to the journey? Will you get up when you fall down? I hope so.

Because my husband will tell you: there are rewards to stepparenting, even when you’re not perfect…but they’re at the end of the journey.

“I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13

Related Posts:

Are You Willing to go the Distance as a Stepparent?

Stinkin’ Thinkin’ Creates Bitter Quitters in Blended Families

As A Stepfamily, You Can Expect Challenges

You Don’t Have to be Super Stepmom

Are you Willing To Go the Distance as a Stepparent?

My husband, Randy, and I leave tomorrow to travel to Little Rock to run the Little Rock marathon on Sunday. The picture below is after last year’s race – Randy is on the left.

Randy posted a faster time last year than his previous four marathon events. On our way home from LR, we talked about how he improved his time. Many of his training methods relate to similar strategies we can use as stepparents.

1. If it isn’t working, try something different. Randy had struggled with leg cramps toward the end of each previous marathon race. This time, he sought help from a specialty running store and used some magnesium tablets that seem to have prevented the cramps, allowing him to decrease his walk breaks at the end of the race.

If you’re struggling in a particular area of your stepparenting role and don’t know a solution, it may be time to seek help. Find a pastor, trusted friend or counselor who is familiar with stepfamily dynamics to confide in and seek advice. Check out coaching/counseling options that are offered through stepfamily sites (including mine here).

2.  Be willing to invest a lot of time. Preparing to run 26.2 miles in a marathon is not an easy feat. The training schedule involves 18-22 weeks of strenuous running, along with other cross training workouts. Attempting to run a marathon without the training leads to failure.

Successful stepparenting also involves a lot of time. Stepping into your stepchild’s life and expecting an instant relationship only leads to disappointment. Be willing to spend time getting to know your stepchild, understanding his likes/dislikes, and finding common ground on which to build a relationship.

3. Expect setbacks along the way. Long distance training often leads to injury. The workouts are hard and your body begins to break down. An unexpected weakness shows up through a muscle strain, bone fracture, or ligament tear. With adequate rest and therapy, injuries heal and the training can begin again.

Stepparents can also expect setbacks. A difficult ex-spouse, rebellious teen-ager, or unexpected conflict can lead to setback. It may take months or years to work through a difficult phase, but progress can always begin again if you don’t give up.

4. The biggest prize comes at the end but there are rewards along the journey. The medal earned for completing a marathon is placed around the runner’s neck as he crosses the finish line. However, a sense of pride and satisfaction is enjoyed throughout the training period as a runner sets and reaches goals he never dreamed possible.

The greatest reward for successful stepparenting is experienced as stepchildren leave home, appreciative of strong relationships they share with one another. However, stepparenting also has rewards throughout the journey as bonding occurs and love for one another develops.

Successful stepparenting, like marathon training, has rewards worth seeking. But the journey to the finish line can also be cherished when you choose to keep going the distance, even when it’s not easy.

How do you keep going as a stepparent when the road gets tough? Will you share? 

Related Posts:

There’s Beauty After the Pain

It’s Always Too Early to Quit

When Stepparenting Feels Too Hard – Four Ways to Overcome Discouragement

Do you have days when you want to call it quits on your stepparenting efforts? Days when it seems that no matter how hard you try, the results are not what you want?

I had one of those days recently. The challenges were not all related to stepparenting, but some were, and by the end of the day, I was not in a good place emotionally or spiritually. So, I began to consider what to do to change my negative thinking pattern. Here are some ideas that surfaced:

1. Remember that “this too will pass.” Circumstances change, relationships change, and living arrangements change. If you’re having a bad day with a stepchild, remember, he/she will eventually grow up and leave home. We had four children living at home 15 months ago and we now have one. Change is one thing we can count on, but it often brings positive results.

2.Work through difficult feelings with a friend. Allow yourself to be vulnerable with another person and consider your part in the situation. Find support through a prayer group or Bible study. But, if you cannot get past feelings of anger, rejection,or self-pity, you may need to consider stepfamily coaching  or other professional help.

3. Make an intentional effort to stay positive.  In his book, The Power of Positive Thinking, Norman Vincent Peale says, “Take charge of your thoughts. You can do what you will with them.” We can choose to think positively about our stepchild who is pushing our buttons and constructively work through conflict, or we can ruminate negatively about his/her shortcomings and create a tension-filled home. Our behavior is the result of our thoughts.

4. Find hope in the Lord. Look to the one true Source for help. Hope in the Lord brings strength, perseverance, and encouragement. Psalms 62:5-8 says, “Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from Him. He alone is my rock and my salation; He is my fortress, I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.”

Have you had a difficult day recently on your stepparenting journey? Can you offer other suggestions?

Related Posts:

When Stepparenting Isn’t What You Expected

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

Coping with Stepfamily Storms

Stepfamily Trap: The Danger of Denying Our Feelings

“I thought I would naturally love my stepchildren as my own but the feelings are not there,” my friend, stepmother of two said. “I tried to deny my feelings for a long time, but I’m finally accepting them for what they are.”

You can’t control your feelings and if you allow yourself to feel guilty for feeling a certain way, it creates more bad feelings. It’s okay if you don’t feel love toward your stepchildren all the time. You might develop more loving feelings as your relationship develops, but you might not.

If we’re really honest, we must admit that some stepchildren are easier to love than others. In her book, Stepmonster, Dr. Wednesday Martin paints a painful, but realistic, picture of how stepchildren behave. “Our stepchildren do, in fact, frequently try to exclude us. They do things — consciously or unconsciously — that make us feel overlooked, left out, unappreciated. They send subtle and sometimes not-so-subtle signals that they wish we simply didn’t exist, that they’d like to erase us from the picture, or from the message on the answering machine.”

Dr. Martin goes on to tell a story “of a woman who was not invited to her stepdaughter’s wedding, after nearly two decades of marriage to the young woman’s father, ‘because it will be too difficult for Mom.’ Her husband told his daughter that they would attend together or not at all, but the stepmother never really recovered from her hurt and, not surprisingly, ceased making efforts with her stepdaughter for a long time.”

Hopefully, your stepchildren have not been that cruel to you. But, if you’ve been a stepparent long, I would venture to guess you’ve been hurt more than once by your stepchild. That doesn’t make it okay to stoop to his/her level and react with tit for tat behavior, but it is okay to acknowledge how those actions affect your feelings.

I learned early in our marriage that I would need God’s help to love my stepchildren unconditionally. It’s not easy and I don’t get it right all the time, but as I pray for God to soften my heart toward my stepchildren, I’m able to offer them my love and forgiveness. In our early years of marriage there were days that I felt my  stepchildren didn’t deserve another chance, but then I was reminded that I don’t deserve the love and grace God offers me either.

Feelings are not facts. They will change as your relationships develop. It’s okay to admit to feelings of hurt, anger, and disappointment in your stepparenting role. Just don’t get stuck there. Work through your feelings with a friend, a minister, or your spouse. Or seek professional counseling if you need help identifying your feelings and coping with them.

We can’t allow our feelings to control us. But we can seek to uncover their roots and deal with them appropriately.

What feelings are you burying, in hopes they will simply go away?

Related Posts:

Let Go of the Guilt

Do You Love Your Stepkids?

Overcoming Difficult Feelings as a Stepparent

Creating a Stable Stepfamily: Get Professional Help When You Need It


If you follow national news, you’ve probably seen the story of the stepfamily in Oregon that has been missing their seven-year-old son for more than three weeks.

The father of the boy has now filed for divorce from his wife, the stepmom, and it appears she may be a suspect in the case. The father has also removed the 18-month-old child they share together from the home, and filed for sole custody.

Overwhelmed stepparents face challenges every day that require more mental and emotional strength then they possess. Stepparenting is not an easy role. But there is help out there for those who want it.

My husband and I sought counseling within six months of our marriage. Blending four children proved more difficult then we imagined and we quickly realized we needed help. We worked with a wonderful counselor who understood stepfamily dynamics and guided us toward healthy development in our stepfamily roles. The counseling we received at that time probably saved our marriage.

In seeking a counselor, I strongly recommend you inquire about his/her training with stepfamilies. If counselors try to counsel stepfamilies the same way they counsel traditional families, it does not work! It’s important to work with someone who understands stepfamily dynamics.

It also helps to ask others in your community about counselors they recommend. Unfortunately, there are too many incapable counselors who can do more harm than good. Finding a good counselor is worth the time and effort it takes.

If you recognize that your family needs help, don’t wait to find it. There are precious children at stake who deserve the chance to be raised in a healthy home.

Do you need help coping with your stepfamily challenges?


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