Archive for the 'stepparenting choices' Category

New Beginnings Offer Hope for Stepfamilies

 

I watched the reality show, “The Biggest Loser,” for the first time last night. I found myself fascinated with the contestants, the trainers, and the hope of a new beginning. I watched in disbelief as the contestants were scoffed, humiliated and screamed at. I caught myself wondering how much money they’d paid to put themselves through days and possible weeks of emotional torture. But then I saw the look of victory when each one stepped on the scale. The reward. The sense of accomplishment. The hard times that were no longer  for naught.

biggest loser

I saw parallels with what we go through on our stepparenting journey. We are given a new beginning and walk into re-marriage with a sense of hope. We come from defeated pasts – perhaps dysfunctional ways. But just like those battling obesity – we refuse to let our past define us.

But we don’t realize how hard the journey will be. As one contestant on the show, Nikki, said, “I knew it would be tough but I wasn’t ready for the emotional part. It’s more emotional than anyone can imagine. ” The 2 1/2 hour workouts, the controlling environment, living with strangers in small quarters. It proved too much for Nikki. After a workout that turned confrontational with lead trainer, Jillian Michaels, Nikki was given a choice: “What do you want to do? There’s the door or will you do the workout?” Jillian asked. With tears streaming down her face, Nikki quit.

Have you felt that way as a stepparent? I know I have. But unlike Nikki, I’m thankful I didn’t quit.

How do you keep from quitting on hard days? Here are some words from experienced trainers on the show that can apply to us  as stepparents:

– You have to dig deep and make a choice

– “I quit” cannot be in your vocabulary

– Push through the terror of failing because it’s so worth it on the other side

– Lose the victim mentality

– Shake it off. You can do this!

– It’s never too late to discover what’s holding you back

– As rough as it gets, you must keep moving forward

New beginnings offer hope. But we must embrace the challenges and do the work to get to the finish line. Just like weight loss, the reward is at the end of the journey but worth every ounce of effort when you get there.

If your stepfamily is struggling, commit to a new beginning. Dig deep and make a choice to march onward, against the waves of turmoil into a sea of hope. Begin anew each morning with your focus on the positives. You can do this!

“In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” (Romans 8:37)

Do you need to make a new beginning? The beginning of a new year is the perfect time to commit to a fresh start in your stepfamily relationships.

Related Posts:

Is Your Stepfamily in a Season of Challenge?

Looking for Hope on Your Stepfamily Journey?

Hope for the Future 

 

 

 

 

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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

 

 

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?

Is Your Stepfamily in a Season of Challenge?

I love watching the giddiness of pre-married couples in our stepfamily class. They are in love and somewhat blinded to what lies ahead. Maybe that’s a good thing. Thankfully, they’re trying to educate themselves on how to do stepfamily life before marriage. It’s a beautiful season of refreshment.

We have another couple about four years down the road and they’re definitely in the stepfamily trenches. With a few years under their belt, the kids are questioning their authority and as teen-agers, trying to separate from the family. The stepparents express frustration and bewilderment in how to move forward with their relationships.

It’s a hard period that can last several years before resolving the challenges. During this season, stepfamily authority Ron Deal says, “You must learn to endure disharmony.” I completely agree. It’s a season of challenge.

If you make it through the season of challenge, you move into the season of rewards. During this period, stepchildren decide you’re okay as their stepparent, and regardless of what the other parent might say about you, the stepchild chooses to love and respect you because of the significant role you’ve played that they’ve learned to appreciate. The relationship isn’t perfect, but it’s special. Unfortunately, many stepparents never make it to this season because they’re not willing to endure the season of challenge.

The next season is the season of celebration. The stepchildren leave home and become productive citizens. They aren’t making perfect choices in all areas of life but they’re functioning on their own without your daily assistance. They stay in touch regularly (especially when they need money :)) and the relationship is generally positive and hopeful.

Other seasons follow (like grandparenting seasons) but I’m stopping here to give thanks that we’ve made it to the season of celebration. My stepchildren aren’t perfect and I don’t agree with all their choices, but they’ve launched from the nest and at 22 and 27 years old, are coping well as young adults. My husband and I will celebrate 17 years of marriage this month and I’m continually grateful we didn’t quit during the season of challenge. Yes, there were times we wanted to, but those times are now behind us. And they will pass for you too if you learn to endure the disharmony and commit to the end.

I look forward to the years ahead with my husband. Although we worked through a lot of disharmony during our season of challenge, it’s seems a small sacrifice now for the seasons that follow.We still have one child at home but there are fewer disagreements and stressful circumstances to deal with since it’s our child together.

Are you in a difficult season? Will you commit to endure your season of challenge so you can enjoy the seasons that follow? 

Related Posts:

The Myth of the Perfect Stepparent

Change: A Friend or a Foe in Your Stepfamily?

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

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

The Danger of Comparing Your Stepfamily to Another

Do you find yourself comparing the growth of your stepfamily to your neighbor’s next door? Do you talk to your stepmom friend at work and wonder why her stepfamily seems to be having such smooth sailing while your family is stuck in the muck?

My husband always calls our family “remedial blenders.” Our relationships didn’t come together within the first five to seven years of marriage as stepfamily research suggests. In fact, some of our toughest years as a family were seven to ten years after our marriage.

Does that mean we were doing everything wrong, slowing the progress of our family blending? Certainly my husband and I made our share of mistakes as stepparents, but we also had some challenging variables to contend with that influenced the relationships in our family.

One of the biggest factors that determines how well a family unites is whether the ex-spouse allows his/her children the freedom to embrace a relationship with the stepparent. His/her attitude toward the stepparent can greatly influence the child’s ability to accept and love a new stepparent.

Unfortunately, as a stepparent, you have no control over what happens in the other home that influences the relationships in your home. I remember quite clearly the half-hearted hugs and stand-offish behavior I received every time my stepchildren returned from their mother’s home. I always wondered what kind of conversation went on about me while they were gone. I’m sure it was best I didn’t know.

Because my stepdaughter was ten when we married, her age also influenced our ability to bond. I didn’t understand when she began pulling away from the family as she progressed through adolescence but it was part of her growing-up process, a time of buiding her own identity separate from the family, that naturally takes place during the teen-age years.

Stepfamily research also suggests that the hardest relationship to develop is the stepmom/stepdaughter one. Instead of blaming myself for our prickly interactions, I would have done better to accept the fact that some of our challenges were simply intertwined in our tendency as two females in the same household to butt heads. When my oldest biological daughter traversed through the teen years, we encountered some of the same tensions.

It was also normal for my stepdaughter to desire a stronger relationship with her biological mother, leaving me in an indispensable role. Because of her natural bond with her mother, she couldn’t naturally bond with me.

After my husband and I were married eight years, we learned my stepchildren’s mother had colon cancer. My stepchildren stood by helplessly the next year, watching their mother slowly digress, then pass away. The pain of her loss left raw emotions they didn’t know what to do with, negatively impacting our stepfamily relationships.

So I no longer carry the responsibility for the remedial blending that occurred in our family. We could have never predicted nor controlled the circumstances that occurred. But we could control our reaction to them and our commitment to press forward, despite the odds.

What about your family? Were you hoping for smooth sailing as your relationships came together? Do you wonder why your family doesn’t look like the stepfamily next door that seems to be having an easier time? Don’t compare. It’s dangerous.

Those who have the easiest time as a stepfamily never appreciate the value of their relationships because they didn’t have to work for them.

If your family takes longer than you desire to unite, don’t despair. Celebrate the victories along the way. Affirm the value of what you’re creating. And be thankful for the challenges. Because you’ll always know it would have been easier to quit.

But you didn’t.

Can you recognize the uniqueness in your  circumstances that influence your relationships? Will you share how you cope with it?

Other Posts You Might Enjoy:

Coping with Loss in a Stepfamily

Stepfamily Trap: Denying our Feelings

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff


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