Archive for the 'take care of yourself' Category

How to Cope with Difficult People in Your Stepfamily

We all have difficult people in our stepfamilies we must deal with and sometimes it feels overwhelming. If you’re having one of those days, consider some options on how to cope with challenging people.

anger

1) Don’t give them power over your emotions.

In other words, don’t allow their hurtful words to affect you. When someone says mean things to or about us we have a choice: will we let those words penetrate our heart or will we let them roll off, recognizing mean words often come from an unhealed hurt. I learned of a physical altercation that happened last week between a biological mom and a new stepmom. The bio mom can’t cope with the stepmom in her young daughter’s life and during the week-end exchange, erupted toward the stepmom. The stepmom did nothing to elicit the response; the bio mom has unhealed hurt related to her ex-husband’s re-marriage and the stepmom’s role in her daughter’s life. If the stepmom recognizes where the hurtful words came from, she can let the  altercation roll off without allowing the bio mom’s response to have power over her emotions.

2)  Seek out healthy people to hang with.

If we’re surrounded by healthy people, we are less likely to let an unreasonable person affect us. And if our ego gets bruised from hurtful words, we can turn to others to help re-build our esteem instead of lashing back. It also helps to minimize the amount of time we spend with those who tend to be unreasonable. If you have an unreasonable stepchild coming for the week, plan time away with friends or your spouse to maintain a healthy image of yourself and your surroundings.

3) Accept the relationship in its current state.

If we spend our time trying to change another person or fretting over a tense relationship, we gain nothing. A peaceful heart comes with accepting a difficult relationship as it is and seeking to do our part to improve it, while recognizing that unreasonable people sometimes thrive on drama. I like to consider the words of the Serenity Prayer: “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.”

4) Be a positive role model

Commit to take the high road as often as possible. Someone needs to be the mature person in an unreasonable person’s life – how about you? We can influence others through positive attitudes and behavior. If our ex-spouse learns we’re not going to fight back when he/she becomes unreasonable, the game ends. If our stepchild doesn’t get a rise from unreasonable behavior, it’s more likely to end. Positive attitudes and behavior with unreasonable people, however, take intentional effort. Are you up for it? Remember: “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” (Phil 4:19)

5) Maintain healthy boundaries.

Respect yourself enough to erect boundaries that work for you. If you’ve had a difficult day and are not in a good place emotionally, don’t walk into a tense conversation with your stepchild over chores that didn’t get done. Ask  your spouse to do it. If you know the unreasonable person in your stepfamily who chooses to pick battles with you is going to attend the Thanksgiving meal, make sure you don’t sit by him/her. It’s not selfish to take care of yourself – no one else can do it for you. And you’ll maintain a healthier demeanor for whatever situation occurs when you know you have the right to maintain boundaries that work for you.

Unreasonable people abound and tend to show up more frequently in stepfamily relationships. Stepfamilies often have unhealed hurts that foster tense relationships. But we don’t have to get sucked into the dysfunction and allow others to have power over our emotions or influence our reactions. If we accept that some interactions will be difficult and some persons in our stepfamily will be unreasonable, we have a healthier mindset to cope with the behavior when it occurs. We will also appreciate the relationships with reasonable people in our lives even more!

Can you offer other tips for dealing with unreasonable people in your stepfamily?

Related Posts:

Coping with Difficult People

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

When Stepparenting  Isn’t What You Expected

Five Great Ways to Celebrate Mother’s Day as a Stepmom

One of the hardest hurdles to cope with as a stepparent is the reality that we make the same sacrifices as a biological parent but  reap very few rewards for our efforts. In his book, The Smart Stepfamily, Ron Deal gives three reasons why the stepmother role is even more difficult than the stepfather role.

“First, children tend to maintain more frequent contact with their noncustodial mothers. Second, children’s attachment to their biological mother is believed to be stronger than their attachment to their father, making the acceptance and bonding with a stepmother even more difficult. Third, because society expects women to achieve a higher relational standard than men, stepmothers feel greater pressure to build a strong attachment with stepchildren.”

We know it’s not easy being a stepmother, right? Thus, we have every reason to celebrate and affirm ourselves on Mother’s Day for what we do for our stepchildren. But we don’t have to wait and let our stepchildren’s response control our day.

It’s natural for stepchildren to honor their biological mom on Mother’s Day. Unfortunately, that could mean the stepmom gets left out.

So why not choose to create your own special day? Here are a few suggestions:

1. Spend Saturday night at a Bed and Breakfast and wake up Sunday morning to a scrumptious breakfast prepared for you. Re-connect with your spouse as you reminiscence and celebrate the good things happening in your stepfamily.

2. Find another stepmom who’s  having a difficult time and spend the afternoon with her. Encourage her efforts and talk through her challenges. Laugh together and affirm each other for the special role you’re playing as you’re making a difference in your stepchildren’s lives.

3. Abandon your house and spend the day at a nearby lake, beach, bike path or hiking trail. Absorb the beauty of nature and remind yourself of God’s love for you through His creation, His sovereignty over your life, and His willingness to walk with you through difficult times.

4. Attend your favorite church service with a beautiful corsage on, signifying the important role you play as a stepmom. Then spend the afternoon with your spouse creating a “God box” that outlines prayer concerns for your stepfamily on small pieces of paper. As you drop each concern in the box, pray for your family’s needs. Keep the box going for an entire year and re-visit the box next year to see how God has answered your prayers.

5. Give yourself the gift of relaxation with a good book, time at the movies or a day at the spa with a girlfriend. Eat at your favorite restaurant and tell your family you’ll be taking the day off from chores. Pamper yourself in whatever way feels special to you.

Mother’s Day doesn’t have to be a difficult day for stepmoms. Plan your own celebration! You deserve it!

How are you celebrating this week-end? I would love to hear about it!

Related Posts:

Celebrating Mother’s Day as a Stepmom

More Mother’s Day Thoughts

Overcoming the Pain of Rejection

Grasping the Value of Boundaries as a Stepparent

As I was listening to my friend complain about the disrespectful behavior from her stepson, I couldn’t help but think, “Why haven’t you established some boundaries that would allow you to take care of yourself instead of putting up with his self-centered behavior?

We can require respect from our stepchildren, even if they don’t like us. Our actions or inactions teach others how to treat us. It helps to team up with our spouse and set some ground rules (i.e. yelling is not allowed, even when you’re angry), and then follow through with consequences if they’re not followed.

It isn’t our role as stepparents to be walked on, taken advantage of, or neglected. We have needs and wants also, and it’s okay to express our needs and learn how to take care of ourselves.

For example, I learned many years ago that I don’t deal well with chaos. It makes me nervous to spend a lot of time in an environment that is loud or uncontrolled. Since my husband and I have five children, I can’t completely avoid those situations.

However, I’ve learned that if I take a time-out for myself when we have large groups of kids at the house and let my husband be in charge for awhile, I can regroup and come back to the interaction refreshed. I want our kids to be comfortable having their friends over, so I’ve learned how to cope with my limitations.

I’ve also learned that I have less patience with my stepson and his ideas of post-college life than I do my stepdaughter’s quest for mature decision-making about her future. I’ve learned that my husband can guide my stepson better without the judgment and lack of understanding I experience. It’s more natural for me to spend my emotional energy influencing my stepdaughter regarding her long-term relationship or my biological girls with their current struggles.

As stepparents, we make constant sacrifices for our stepchildren and may see few rewards, particularly in the beginning. If we give up too much of ourselves in order to meet the constant needs of others, we will wind up frustrated or resentful. It’s our responsibility as stepparents to determine what we must do to take care of ourselves adequately.

I like the way Sue Thoele discusses boundaries in The Courage to be a Stepmom:. “With practice and commitment, taking care of ourselves and setting self-nurturing limits can become second nature. Cultivating the ability to say “no” to unreasonable responsibilities and expectations makes it easier for us to say “yes” to love and laughter.”

Do you need to practice saying “no” this week?

Related Posts:

The Power of Boundaries as a Stepparent: Part One

The Power of Boundaries as a Stepparent: Part Two

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?

Seven Tips for Finding Balance in the Midst of Holiday Chaos

Our family leaves on an extended holiday trip in just over 2 weeks and I keep wondering how I’m going to get everything done. So, here are a few tips I’ve created to help myself maintain balance during this busy time of year – I hope you find them helpful also.

1. Prioritze your schedule to include activities most important to you. Say no to everything else and to obligations someone else can manage.
For me, that includes attending my son’s Christmas party at school, special church services, a holiday piano performance in our hometown, a few Christmas parties, and various other events. However, it doesn’t include ladies bunko night, the symphony performance, or lunch with each of my girlfriends to exchange gifts – there simply isn’t time for all that. 

2. Start each day with a spiritual act – prayer, devotional, Bible reading, listening to songs of praise, etc. to center your mind and soul for the day.
When we start our day with God in control, it allows for a God-centered day instead of a  man-centered one.  

3. Don’t allow someone else power over your emotions (i.e. ex-spouses, children/stepchildren).
Commit to staying in control of your emotions instead of allowing someone else to take that power from you. Walk away from volatile emotions or heated conversations. Engage in communication via e-mail or texting if necessary.

4. Stay faithful to healthy eating patterns and a regular exercise routine.
Get up earlier than usual if you need to, but don’t skimp on exercise and sensible eating. You will feel better and manage your demanding schedule more competently if you maintain healthy habits through the season.

5. Break down consuming tasks into chunk-size actions that can be completed a little at a time.
For instance, I easily become overwhelmed when I think about shopping for our five children in addition to parents, siblings, nieces, nephews, etc. However, if  I choose one child to focus on until I’m finished and then move to the next child or a parent or whatever, the task seems less daunting.

6. Commit to making each day positive.
We have so much to be thankful for and if we choose to focus on the positives in our life, we will manage our schedule with greater ease. If we have a bump in the road one day, we can choose to pick ourselves up and keep moving forward instead of allowing negative thoughts to set in.

7. Read Thriving at the Holidays: A Stepparent’s Guide to Success – Unwrapping the Gift of Peace (an easy-to-read e-book) to find additional tips on maintaing balance and creating a peaceful season.  

There they are – 7 tips for finding balance during holiday chaos.

Do you another tip to add? Would you please share it with us?

Related Posts:

Holiday Tip: Balancing Your Time as you Consider What’s Important

Holiday Tips for Stepfamilies: Live One Day at a Time

Celebrating Mother’s Day as a Stepmom

With Mother’s Day only a few days away, you may be thinking about how your stepchildren will handle the celebration. It tends to be an awkward holiday for many stepmothers, including myself at times. We don’t know whether to expect anything from our stepchildren or let the biological mom get all the attention for the day.

Personally, I believe if we’ve played an active role as a stepmother, we deserve some recognition. But that doesn’t mean we will get it from our stepchildren. We may need to ask our spouse (the father of those children) to honor and acknowledge us on Mother’s Day for the difficult role we play.

Stepfamily authority Ron Deal includes a statement from a stepmom in his article, “I Dread Mother’s Day.” The stepmom says, “I get all the grief of parenting, but I don’t get to enjoy the pleasures associated with being a mom.” As a stepmom, I’ve had days I feel that way too. But thankfully, it’s not every day.

I’ve learned to enjoy Mother’s Day with no expectations from my stepchildren. If they offer me a gift or choose to honor me in some way, I’m thrilled. But if they don’t, I know my husband appreciates what I do and lets me know that regularly. I also believe God put these children in my life to care and nurture and I want to be obedient to His calling.

In my next post I’ll talk about a free e-book that will soon be available on my website in honor of stepmoms. I hope you’ll check back to find out how to get your copy.

How does your family celebrate Mother’s Day? Is is meaningful day or a difficult one?

Related Posts:

More Mother’s Day Thoughts

Overcoming the Pain of Rejection

Grasping the Value of Boundaries as a Stepparent

As I was listening to my friend complain about the disrespectful behavior from her stepson, I couldn’t help but think, Why haven’t you established some boundaries that would allow you to take care of yourself instead of putting up with his self-centered behavior?

We can require respect from our stepchildren, even if they don’t like us. Our actions or inactions teach others how to treat us. It helps to team up with our spouse and set some ground rules (i.e. yelling is not allowed, even when you’re angry), and then follow through with consequences if they’re not followed.

It isn’t our role as stepparents to be walked on, taken advantage of, or neglected. We have needs and wants also, and it’s okay to express our needs and learn how to take care of ourselves.

For example, I learned many years ago that I don’t deal well with chaos. It makes me nervous to spend a lot of time in an environment that is loud or uncontrolled. Since my husband and I have five children, I can’t completely avoid those situations.

However, I’ve learned that if I take a time-out for myself when we have large groups of kids at the house and let my husband be in charge for awhile, I can regroup and come back to the interaction refreshed. I want our kids to be comfortable having their friends over, so I’ve learned how to cope with my limitations.

I’ve also learned that I have less patience with my stepson and his ideas of post-college life than I do my stepdaughter’s quest for mature decision-making about her future. I’ve learned that my husband can guide my stepson better without the judgment and lack of understanding I experience. It’s more natural for me to spend my emotional energy influencing my stepdaughter regarding her long-term relationship or my biological girls with their current struggles.

As stepparents, we make constant sacrifices for our stepchildren and may see few rewards, particularly in the beginning. If we give up too much of ourselves in order to meet the constant needs of others, we will wind up frustrated or resentful. It’s our responsibility as stepparents to determine what we must do to take care of ourselves adequately.

I like the way Sue Thoele discusses boundaries in The Courage to be a Stepmom:. “With practice and commitment, taking care of ourselves and setting self-nurturing limits can become second nature. Cultivating the ability to say “no” to unreasonable responsibilities and expectations makes it easier for us to say “yes” to love and laughter.”

What boundaries have you set that offer a healthy perspective for you? Will you share them with us?

Related Posts:

The Value of Boundaries as a Stepparent: Part One

The Value of Boundaries as a Stepparent: Part Two


Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 43 other followers

Follow me on Twitter

Blog Topics