Archive for the 'stepfamily holiday tips' Category

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



When Stepfamily Pain Overshadows Holiday Joy

The facebook status of my friend was heart-breaking:”After 25 years of working for the same company, my wonderful hard working amazing husband was told he does not have a job. Our world has turned upside down…” A hard situation to face at the holiday season.

sad christmasBut the reality is, we’re all dealing with tough stuff. Stepfamilies, especially, often carry pain throughout the holiday season. So, how do you cope? Here are a few suggestions:

1) Don’t dwell on the negative.  Try to find something positive about your challenging reality. The holiday season when we walked through my stepson’s custody battle was one of the hardest for me. It seemed as if I got out of bed every day with a dark cloud over my head. But I tried to focus on the blessing of the relationship with my husband and his willingness to walk a difficult road together that might not include a happy ending.

2) Trust God’s plan for your family even if you don’t understand it. I love the words of Charles Spurgeon: “When you can’t trace God’s hand, trust His heart.” God wants what’s best for you and your family. However, life is often understood backward;  circumstances don’t make sense with our finite eyes. But we find peace when we trust God’s plan, even if we don’t understand it.

3) Do your part to overcome the pain. Don’t allow yourself to be a victim, wallowing in self-pity. If you’re struggling with a stepfamily challenge that seems to have no end, seek support. Talk with other stepmoms (healthy-minded ones). Find a counselor educated in stepfamily dynamics. Use Scripture and prayer to find answers. But don’t stay stuck in your pain without reaching out.

4) Consider the joy of perseverance.  When I complete a long run as I train for running events, I find joy in the perseverance of completing a 10 or 12 mile run. I know I’ve pushed myself to the limit and I wanted to give up, but I didn’t. The same holds true with stepfamilies. We will be pushed to the limit, but the joy comes in refusing to quit. I’ve written about it more here: “Stepparenting Feels Like I’m Running a Marathon.”

5) Read our holiday e-book for encouragement. Stepmom Heather Hetchler and I wrote our e-book, Unwrapping the Gift of Stepfamily Peace, to offer hope and encouragement to stepparents. We know how difficult the holiday season can be – we’ve walked the road in our own stepfamilies. I hope you’ll consider purchasing and reading the e-book as a gift to yourself.

I don’t know what pain you’re facing in your stepfamily but I pray you don’t allow it to overshadow the joy of the holiday. I want to offer the privilege of praying for you if you share your concerns with me. I’d love to hear from you. “For nothing is impossible with God” (Luke 1:37).

I love Lysa TerKeurst’s quote from Unglued: “We can’t always fix our circumstances, but we can always fix our minds on God.”

Are you facing stepfamily pain? Will you commit to a positive perspective and intentional effort to keep it from overshadowing your holiday joy?

Related Posts:

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

Trusting God’s Plan on a Difficult Journey

Is the Heartache of Stepparenting Worth It?

How to Cope with Holiday Drama in Your Stepfamily

A portion of a new chapter from our e-book this year:

“Drama and stepfamily holidays seem to go together. With so many variables in play it’s likely than an event, unexpected circumstance, or family member will spark a conflict. Emotions become heightened and angry words are hurled. Before the shopping even begins, the holiday season carries an unpleasant damper.

cruise decorBut the season doesn’t have to be perfect to be meaningful. Unexpected drama can be extinguished if we don’t ignite the flame. A bumpy day can end with a beautiful sunset. But it requires intentional effort toward positive solutions when drama arises.

Holiday drama comes in many forms. Below are a few suggestions on how to conquer common stepfamily themes with a positive perspective.

Negotiating the Schedule:

‘My husband allows his ex to control the holiday schedule and I don’t even want to discuss it this year,” a new stepmother moaned. “I have very little say in how we celebrate because it has to go her way.’

Not discussing the schedule doesn’t solve the problem. Pro-actively negotiating with the ex-spouse does. But it takes calculated effort.

I’ve watched stepparents procrastinate the holiday discussion because they know it creates tension. When the unresolved schedule hangs over everyone’s head, the tension is already there. The best approach starts with supporting one another by: discussing your desire regarding the schedule in your home first, attempting a positive discussion with your ex-spouse, and negotiating the schedule until it is agreeable.

I have more success negotiating the schedule with my ex-spouse when I go into the conversation expecting to find success for both our homes. If I assume he will be disobliging the meeting is immediately tension-filled, resulting in disagreement. Small successes can lead to big victories over time. If I establish a positive pattern, it creates an environment that allows better negotiating year after year.

If your ex is especially difficult, you can preface the conversation with, ‘I want to interact peacefully with you as we discuss the schedule and will do my part to work out the details with you as fairly as possible.” You can’t control his/her interaction, but you can begin the conversation amicably be offering a sincere and humble heart. If the conversation turns confrontational, take a break and reconvene another time. … ”

Go here to buy the e-book and read on: 

Other topics of drama included in this chapter are: coping with entitled stepchildren and strained co-parenting.

I hope you’ll check it out and let us know what you think.

How do you cope with holiday drama? Please share.

Related Posts:

Holiday Mantra for Stepparents: Don’t Take it Personally

Coping with Difficult Emotions Through the Holidays

Holiday Tip: Live by Faith, Not Fear





How to Unwrap the Gift of Stepfamily Peace


The 2nd edition of our holiday e-book, Unwrapping the Gift of Stepfamily Peace,  is out and for the next few weeks I want to include some excerpts to help you thrive, not just survive, the holiday season.

New Ebook cover


Today I start with the introduction to give you an idea why Heather Hetchler and I wrote the book:

“When we became stepparents we never imagined the roller coaster of emotions we would ride. We willingly said “I do” to men with children, while bringing our own kids into the mix.

Like you, we pledged our hearts and our lives to our spouses, agreeing to partner with them to parent our children. Together, we have strived to build a family based on love, faith, and commitment.

As stepparents, we face many challenges in our role and we realize the holidays can be an especially difficult time. While the season offers opportunity to bond and grow closer as a family, there is ample opportunity for hurt and disappointment.

Our book was written for every stepparent who dreams of a peace-filled holiday season. You are not alone on this journey.”

If you feel alone on your journey, reach out to other stepparents. There are a variety of online groups that offer encouragement and support. (But be careful, there are some that offer only negative support). Here are a few that I like:

Twitter: #TwitterStepmoms – a group of stepmoms seeking to encourage one another through uplifting posts

Facebook: Buckeye BonusMom: A group moderated by Lisa Teal Webb, stepmom to 3, who focuses on the positive side of stepparenting

Facebook: StepparentingSuccess: A group Heather and I started on FB to encourage stepparents with helpful tidbits

Stepmom Magazine:  helpful articles from other stepmoms living in the trenches, published monthly.

The holiday season is in full swing. How are you doing so far? I hope you’ll download our e-book to help you and your family unwrap the gift of stepfamily peace through the flurry of the holidays.

What tips can you offer that help you through the holiday season as a stepparent? I would love to hear them.

Related Posts:

Will You Celebrate the Beauty of Family this Holiday–Even if Yours is Imperfect?

Seven Tips for Finding Balance in the Midst of Holiday Chaos

Holiday Tip: Live by Faith: Not Fear





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

I’ll never forget the first holiday season our family celebrated together. My husband and I had married in mid-October and the holidays descended upon us before we could get settled in our new surroundings. My expectations of a joyous holiday season quickly faded as the reality of chaos and heartache took over.

Blending four young children, managing a harried schedule with two uncooperative ex-spouses while grappling with my expectations of a perfect, first holiday ignited a simmering blaze that burned throughout the season, leaving behind a trail of hurt feelings and defeat.

How could I expect it to be perfect? Because I’m a perfectionist. I wanted to prove to myself and others that, despite the odds of our new marriage and complexities, we could have a perfect, delightful holiday season. I was wrong.

In her book, Set Free to Live Free: Breaking through the 7 Lies Women Tell Themselves, Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith writes, “Perfection is not the goal on earth. … Your life is a progressive journey. There will be times of success and times of failure. There will be times of faith and times of doubt. There will be moments of joy and moments of fear. You cannot maneuver this obstacle course we call life and expect to finish the race perfectly.”

I’ve given up the idea of a perfect holiday season. But that doesn’t mean it won’t be meaningful. There may be squabbles among the kids, or sour attitudes while shopping, or a less-than-perfect decorated tree by my children, but that doesn’t mean I won’t cherish the memories of time together as a family.

You see, our time as a family isn’t the same anymore. We only have one of our five children still living at home and we will only all be together briefly on Christmas day. So, I choose to value how small or large our family gathering is and enjoy every moment we have together as an imperfect family.

In our e-book, Unwrapping the Gift of Stepfamily Peace,  Heather writes, “Life rarely goes  as planned and the tighter we hold onto expectations of the perfect Thanksgiving or Christmas, the tighter, tenser and more stressed we are likely to feel. Let the strands of Christmas tree lights, not our emotions, be the only thing that gets tangled up this holiday season. Peace in the heart leads to peace in the home.”

Have you experienced lesss-than-perfect holidays in the past? How did you cope?

Related Posts:

Holiday Tips for Stepfamilies: Create Family Traditions

Holiday Tips for Stepfamilies: Do the Right Thing

Are You Prepared for the Unexpected this Holiday?

How to Co-Parent Successfully

Taken from our e-book, “Unwrapping the Gift of Stepfamily Peace,” I want to share some thoughts on  how to make co-parenting work.

Our son, Nathan, hangs with a friend whose parents are divorced. Nathan came back from a birthday party, talking about meeting his friend’s dad for the first time. As the conversation ensued, I learned both parents were at their son’s party and casually spoke with one another throughout the evening. I remember thinking to myself, what a blessing they’ve given their son.

Not all co-parenting situations can be as amicable, but the goal of co-parenting is to put aside the differences that dissolved your marriage and do your part to have a cooperative relationship.

Stepfamily living brings stress and tension, which easily carries over into the co-parenting relationship. Intentional effort is required to get along, including sacrifices and tongue-taming. If disagreements arise, it’s important to keep them from children’s ears. Adult issues need to be confined to the adults.

Co-parenting doesn’t mean we try to control what is happening in the other parent’s home. When we divorced our spouse, we relinquished control of how our children will be parented in their home. But the biggest challenge of co-parenting, learning how to be amicable in a relationship with someone you couldn’t get along with in marriage, is the link to success when parenting children after divorce.

Successful co-parenting strategies include setting boundaries about how you will be treated. If you’re dealing with a hostile ex-spouse, it often works best to communicate via text or e-mail. Don’t put yourself in a vulnerable situation that could lead to emotional abuse.

Strained co-parenting gives you an opportunity to practice displaying the gifts of the Spirit as defined in Galatians 5:22, 23: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” I know it’s not easy but as our children watch us model kindness and goodness or patience and self-control in the midst of rude or unkind behavior, they learn the value of asserting those qualities in their own lives. And we gain the satisfaction of knowing we took the high road, even when it wasn’t easy.

Drama and stepfamily living too often co-mingle, but you don’t have to let the onslaught of drama ruin your journey. Take every opportunity to conquer it with a positive perspective, peaceful interactions and determined effort to work through the challenges.

What tips can you add to help co-parent successfully?

Related Posts:

Co-Parenting With a Difficult Ex-Spouse

Co-Parenting Collisions

How To Co-Parent Successfully with Your Ex-Spouse

Holiday Mantra for Stepparents: Don’t Take it Personally

As we head into the holidays, life gets dicey. Emotions are heightened as we try to find the perfect gift for our stepchild or negotiate that last-minute schedule change with our ex.

And if we, as stepparents, are carrying emotions too closely to our heart, we can easily take flippant comments and haphazard looks personally.

But that’s a recipe for disaster.

When my stepdaughter was younger, I was overly sensitive to everything she said to me. One day we were talking about how she liked her mom to French-braid her hair and she said, “Why can’t you French-braid my hair? I think it’s weird that you don’t know how.”

Well, that was enough to hurt my feelings. I couldn’t recognize the fact that she wanted me to be more involved in her life and this was something we could do together. Instead, I took it as a personal attack.

The stepmom role is a complicated one but sometimes we make it harder because of our insecurities. We think we’ll never measure up to their biological mom and we compete with her and compare ourselves constantly, always coming up short.

If we learn to spend more time improving upon who we are already, we’ll be a better stepparent. And if our stepchild can’t accept us that way, that’s okay. God created each of us as a unique person.

We might be criticized for being someone different than our stepchild understands. Perhaps she can’t accept our short hair because her mom wears her hair long. Or maybe our stepchild doesn’t understand why we work from home when her mom leaves the house every day at 6:00 a.m. for a corporate job.

But, if we’re secure in who we are, it won’t bother us when our stepchild questions our choices. Our natural reaction becomes: I won’t take that comment personally or get defensive. I will accept her thoughts as her own, even if they’re different from mine.

Stepfamily authority Ron L. Deal says it best in his book, The Smart Stepfamily: “Stepparents cannot afford to be insecure. Stepfamilies were not made for the emotionally fragile.”

It’s easy to be overly sensitive to our stepchildren’s comments, particularly through the holidays. But as we become more confident and at peace with ourselves, we’re better equipped to foster a healthy stepparenting relationship, allowing critical or judgmental comments to slide right past us.

Will you adopt the holiday mantra: don’t take it personally? How might that influence your step-relationships?

Related Posts:

Seven Tips for Finding Balance in the Midst of Holiday Chaos

What is our Role as a Stepparent?

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