Archive for the 'successful stepparenting' Category

What is Your Role as a Stepparent?

When we moved to Louisiana a year and a half ago, my two biological daughters stayed behind in Conway, AR. They both had summer jobs and wanted to stay close to their friends the rest of the summer. At 18 and 21 years old, I knew they could manage on their own but needed a temporary living place before they moved  into college housing in the Fall.

moving

My next-door neighbor, Sara, offered to let the girls stay at her house. She and her husband have four grown children and extra bedrooms. It was a perfect arrangement to get us through a transitional period.

When we returned to Conway to help my daughter Jamie move into her college apartment, I observed the relationship between her and my neighbor. It reminded me of a stepparenting relationship in the early years.

Sara knew her role as an additional parent to the girls. She didn’t try to overstep or undermine my relationship in any way. But she did offer a listening ear and everyday support when the girls needed it.

Late in the summer the girls’ dad came for an out-of-state visit. Because their dad is an alcoholic, his behavior is unpredictable and their relationship with him is tenuous. Sara spent several hours talking to the girls about their feelings and struggles with their dad. She offered an unbiased opinion to the situation  as a third-party observer. The girls needed a maternal figure to talk to and since I wasn’t there, they confided in Sara.

I believe that is how our stepparenting role should play out. We are to provide everyday support and a listening ear for our stepchildren when they need it. We are to be a cheerleader for their every effort in sports, music, school, drama, or whatever. We are to love and care for them as if they are our own. But we are not to undermine or compete with their biological parent. We are not to try to replace their biological parent. We are an additional parent.  

Our stepparenting role may change as years pass. When my stepchildren lost their mother to cancer eight years ago, I became their primary maternal figure. My husband has stepped into the primary parenting role with my girls because of their dad’s instability. But for many years, my husband and I both worked at functioning as an additional parent to our stepchildren.

As we drove away from our neighbor’s house to return to our home in Louisiana, Sara was on the front porch with her arm around my youngest daughter, Jodi, who stayed there another week before moving into the dorm. It gave me a warm feeling to know that, although I couldn’t be there every day because of our move, my daughter was loved and cared for by an additional parent.

What role do you play as a stepparent? Is it a healthy role that benefits your stepchildren?

Related Posts:

Is It a Privilege to be a Stepparent?

Expect the Unexpected on Your Stepparenting Journey

Dear Stepparent: Never Underestimate Your Value with Your Stepchildren

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

How to Cope with a Difficult Ex-Spouse

I’m addressing a question today I received from a reader. How do you cope as a stepmom when you’re dealing with a biological mom who is belittling to you and doesn’t want you in her children’s lives?

angry catThe stepmom role becomes harder when the bio mom makes every effort to exclude you from her children’s lives and unfortunately, it’s not uncommon, particularly in the beginning. It helps to understand that at the root of this issue lies the fear that the bio mom feels the children are going to bond with the you – the stepmom, and form a deeper relationship with you than they have with her.

It’s an unfounded fear because children almost always have a stronger relationship with their biological parents than they have with a stepparent, but she is reacting out of her own fear and communicating to her children that she wants their loyalty. Women are territorial when it comes to their children. If you have children of your own, you understand these feelings, but it doesn’t give the bio mom the right to act belittling or antagonistic  toward the stepmom.

To help alleviate the threat the bio mom is sensing, the stepmom needs to send a message that she has no intention of interfering with the relationship between the bio mom and her children and isn’t trying to replace her in any way. In their book, The Smart Stepmom, Laura Petherbridge and Ron Deal give an example of how to communicate this message which they call “The No-Threat Message.” They suggest doing it in person or via e-mail if the relationship is already strained.

“Dear Meghan, since we are both involved with your kids, I wanted to take a minute to communicate with you. I want to share that I totally understand and respect that you are the only mother of these children. I’m not their mom, and I will never try to take your place. They are your children. I am honored to be an added parent figure in their lives. I view my role as one of support to their father, and my desire is to be a blessing to them. I promise to speak well of you and work together for their benefit. I desire to make their lives easier, not more difficult. Please know that I pray for the entire family. If there’s anything I can do to help the situation or if you have any questions, feel free to contact me.”

Sending the no-threat message doesn’t guarantee the bio mom will accept your position in her children’s lives but it offers her some perspective on how you feel about your role. She is more likely to allow a relationship between you and her children if she doesn’t feel threatened by your behavior and sees you live out the No-threat message.

Unfortunately, some bio moms are mean-spirited and vindictive. In this case, there’s not a lot the stepmom can do to have an amicable relationship. For further insight, I suggest reading the chapter from The Smart Stepmom, “Meet Your Ex-Wife-in-Law: Friend or Foe.” It gives additional scenarios of how to cope with a difficult ex-spouse.

What suggestions would you give this reader? I’d love to hear them.

Related Posts:

Co-Parenting with a Difficult Ex-Spouse

Creating Healthy Boundaries with Your Ex-Spouse

Recognizing the Need for Boundaries

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

 

 

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?

Debunking Stepfamily Myths – Do You Get Caught in Their Web?

What stepfamily myths did you believe before you married? Maybe you’re still believing them and wondering why you’re not happy in your re-marriage.

Our stepfamily group is reading through Ron Deal’s book, “The Smart Stepfamily.” This week we’re looking at some important stepfamily myths from Deal’s book that disillusion us if we believe them. Here’s a few to consider:

1. Love will happen instantly between all family members.

Do you think so? Has it happened? When we were having a difficult time with our kids during our dating period, my husband would say, “We’ll just love ’em through it.” Uh-oh. That doesn’t always work, does it? Deal says, ‘”Love in the sense of ‘love your neighbor’ is attainable; love in the sense of deep family bonds may or may not be achieved.”‘

2. We’ll do it better this time around.

If you’ve been married before, it’s easy to think you have it figured out and this time it will be easier. But if kids are involved, it  won’t be easy. Don’t compare this marriage to another one. Accept the good and the bad and live in the reality of your current marriage, recognizing it too will have challenges.

3. Everything will fall quickly in place.

Really? Has that happened? My guess is No. Deal says, “The stepping-stone of patience is critical to stepfamily development. Becoming disillusioned with how your family is progressing is an almost universal experience, because progress never happens on your timetable. Remember, the average stepfamily takes seven years to integrate.”

4. Our children will feel as happy about the remarriage as we do.

If you have attended many re-marriage weddings, it’s easy to find children who are not happy about their parent’s new marriage. Stepfamily experts say kids are often a year behind the adults in accepting and progressing with a new family. It’s easy to find parents rushing their kids to catch up with where they are emotionally. Deal says, “What a blow it is for parents to realize that remarriage is a gain for them, but another loss to their children.” Remember, time is your friend.

5. Blending is the goal of this stepfamily.

We call ourselves blended families because we are combining people from two families into one. But if you think about what happens when you put ingredients into a blender, that isn’t what you want to take place in your family. Deal says, “More realistic is a process by which the various parts integrate, or come into contact with one another, much like a casserole of distinct parts. For example, biological parents and children will always have a stronger bond than stepparents and stepchildren, even if all goes well. This is not to say that different members of a stepfamily cannot be close. Many will develop deep emotional bonds, but there will always be a qualitative difference.”

Have you been disappointed by stepfamily myths? Are there others you have believed that didn’t come true? I would love to hear about them.

Related Posts:

A Glimpse Into One Stepmom’s Story: The Good and the Bad

Learning How to Love My Stepchildren

Is It a Privilege to be a Stepparent?

When Anger Boils in Your Stepfamily

As I felt my heart begin to race, I knew I had to settle  down before I said something I shouldn’t. I said a quick prayer to calm my soul and ask for guidance. My anger was boiling. And I wasn’t sure how to proceed with the conversation.

I was in a heated discussion with my stepson on a decision he was making that I didn’t agree with. At 22 years old, I don’t meddle in his decisions and we rarely disagree, but this was a financial decision that affected me and my husband also. So I calmly stated my opinion on the subject and he balked.

I could tell we weren’t going to come to an agreement, and I knew I needed to involve my husband. So I ended the conversation with, “I can’t and won’t tell you what to do, but I’ve given you my opinion.” I ended the call and sat in silence,  stunned at how quickly I had allowed anger to overtake me.

In her book, Unglued: Making Wise Choices in the Midst of Raw Emotions, Lysa Terkeurst re-enacts a difficult day at home with her kids when everything goes wrong – including the way she handled it. She went to bed that night an emotional wreck with nothing to show for her day but regret. But she allowed a different perspective to change the way she would react in the future as she deemed:

“I can face things that are out of my control and not act out of control.”

An applicable quote for stepfamily life! How often do we face things that are out of our control? Do we act out of control as a result?

I knew if I stayed on the phone with my stepson, I would eventually act out of control. He and I didn’t agree on the subject and it wasn’t going to change. I needed to involve my husband for resolution.

When my husband came in from work, he had already heard the story. My stepson immediately called his dad to vent after leaving our conversation. I wanted my husband’s opinion on the issue and was prepared to humble myself if he didn’t agree with  the position I had taken. Thankfully, my husband supported my opinion and helped his son understand why.

Difficult interactions occur in stepfamilies frequently, especially in the early years when relationships are forming. But we have a choice as to how we will react when our anger boils or our feelings are hurt.

Terkeurst goes on to say, “Remember, feelings are indicators, not dictators. They can indicate there is a situation I need to deal with, but they shouldn’t dictate how I react. I have a choice.”

During my stepson’s teen years, I didn’t always see my feelings as indicators. Sometimes they were dictators that threw me into an angry tailspin. Instead of involving my husband for resolution, I tried to do it myself with angry words or extreme consequences. But I learned that conflict with my stepchildren was resolved more peacefully (and my anger boiled less often)when I united with my husband and we confronted the situation together.

“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (Romans 12:18)

How about you? How do you handle it when your anger boils in your stepfamily?

Related Posts:

Six Steps for Coping with Stepfamily Storms

Coping with Stepfamily Drama

Coping with Stepfamily Drama, Part Two


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