Archive for the 'Uncategorized' Category

Celebrating Valentine’s Day as a Stepcouple

Have you made plans for Valentine’s Day yet? If not, please do. As a stepcouple, you deserve a night out to celebrate your marriage and enjoy time as a couple.heartStepfamily life includes too much time trying to cope with the everyday strain of kid issues, or co-parenting with a difficult ex-spouse, or juggling the emotions that crop up constantly surrounding stepfamily challenges.

Valentine’s Day is a day to celebrate the love that brought you and your spouse together. Leave the kids at home and spend the night out. Make plans to do something special. It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money or even involve the entire evening. But it needs to send the message to each of you that your marriage is important.

Make a few rules surrounding the evening. There will be no discussion of children, ex-spouses, financial challenges, or job stress. The evening is to be dedicated to celebrating your love and what brought the two of you together. Make plans for the future. Dream about years to come when the kids will be gone (it really does happen, I promise). Or plan a summer vacation for just the two of you.

But don’t let Valentine’s Day slip by without celebrating your marriage. It only comes once a year. What’s your plan?

How do you celebrate Valentine’s Day? I would love to hear.

Related Posts:

Nurture Your Marriage

The Value of a Supportive Spouse

Make Your Remarriage Work: Separate Marriage and Parenting Issues

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Ten Ways to Strengthen Your Stepfamily Relationships

It’s easy to think we must be perfect in our stepfamily interactions and make huge steps every day to strengthen our relationships. But that isn’t true.

Small steps on a regular basis can result in huge dividends with your stepfamily.

steps

Here are ten easy ways to show every day love and harbor positive relationships in your stepfamily:

1) Offer grace freely and often.

2) Think positive thoughts about your stepchildren; if a negative thought pops up – replace it.

3) Say at least one nice thing to each person in your stepfamily daily or as often as you see them.

4) Live “one day at a time” and enjoy the present moment – don’t project into the future.

5) Take care of yourself: emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually.

6) Strive to keep a thankful spirit.

7) Nurture your marriage with sweet gestures, alone time, and date nights.

8) Send thoughtful text messages when your stepchildren are away.

9) Deal with conflict when it occurs in a healthy context – don’t stuff it, don’t ignore it, don’t exaggerate it.

10) Pray for each member of your family daily.

Other ideas? What suggestions can you give to help strengthen stepfamily relationships?

Related Posts:

Is Your Stepfamily in a Season of Challenge?

Five Ways to Create Stronger Stepfamily Relationships

Lessons Learned About Stepparenting from Tim Tebow

Five Practical Tips for Successful Stepparenting

Finding Success Through the Bumps on Your Stepparenting Journey

As I listened to my husband on the other end of the phone with his daughter, I knew something bad had happened. He handed the phone to me and said, “She wants to talk to you.”

1170300_important_callThrough tears, my stepdaughter, Adrianne, relayed that her boyfriend of six years had broken up with her. When she was home over Christmas, she had told us she thought they would be getting engaged in 2013. Obviously, that’s not going to happen.

My heart is breaking for her. I know she’ll work through her sadness but at 27 years old, she’s invested a lot of time in a relationship that’s come to a halt.

I’m thankful she has reached out to us during her difficult hour. She asked if she could come spend next week-end with us. Of course, we’re happy to have her drive the three hours to our place and visit any time.

Here’s the paradox of stepparenting. During her adolescent years, we had the typical stepmom-stepdaughter relationship — highly strained the majority of the time. Research shows the stepmom-stepdaughter relationship is often the most difficult. Our relationship was no different.

However, as she matured through her young adult years, Adrianne began reaching out to me more often.  She began asking my opinion on issues and calling us more regularly. She made it a priority to attend family vacations with us and create stronger relationships with her stepsisters.

Well into the second decade of our marriage, Adrianne and I have a wonderful relationship. I’m thankful we’ve been able to connect and can now enjoy our time together, instead of walking on egg shells when she’s around.

Does it have to take that long to bond with your stepchild? No! Some stepparents connect easily and find stepparenting a joy. But many do not.

The adolescent years of stepparenting are tough. It’s easy to slip into thinking that the relationship will always be strained.

The teen-age years may take a heavy toll on your relationship. But kids do grow up and often recognize the value of their parents when they leave the nest.

Don’t give up on finding success on your stepparenting journey. Maybe you won’t find it in the first decade of your marriage. Maybe it won’t happen until your stepchildren leave home.

But it’s never too late to enjoy the success of a thriving stepfamily relationship when it happens.

Is it taking longer than you hoped to find success on your stepparenting journey? Will you share about it?

Related Posts:

Learning How to Love my Stepchildren

Is It A Privilege to be a Stepparent?

Are You Willing to go the Distance as a Stepparent?

 

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 

 

 

 

 

Resolutions for the Not-So-Perfect Stepparent

When I married my husband,  I set out to be the perfect stepparent. I read all the books, went to the conferences, and worked overtime doing everything right for my stepchildren. But I wasn’t a perfect stepparent. I made a lot of mistakes. Through 17 years of stepparenting, experience has taught me that I don’t have to be a perfect stepparent to have stepchildren grow to love me.

new yearThis year, instead of making resolutions about being a better stepparent, I decided to ponder a few resolutions on how to move past my imperfections and keep going on days I want to quit as a not-so-perfect stepparent.

So, this year I commit to …

 1. Let go of the Stepmom guilt. We all experience it from time to time. We let our mind run away with what we’ve done wrong as a stepparent. Or we compare our stepfamily to our neighbor’s perfectly-blended family and let the criticism begin. Stepmom guilt comes from the expectation that everything in our home should be perfect. But that’s never going to happen. Instead, why not let go of unrealistic expectations that keep us bound to guilt when we don’t measure up?

2. Forgive myself when I fail. A defeated stepparent doesn’t parent effectively. When we barrage ourselves with negative self-talk over a poor parenting choice, we continue down a negative path. Forgiving ourselves for less-than-stellar stepparenting moments allows us to begin again with a renewed mind and fresh perspective for our parenting challenges.

3. Seek out support from other stepmoms on hard days. My neighbor is a single parent with two school-aged children. She recognizes her need for help in juggling her responsibilities and seeks out other moms to assist with car pool or after school care when the demands of her work schedule become overwhelming. As stepmoms, it’s helpful to find fellow stepmoms who can offer encouragement or support on hard days. If you haven’t found local stepmoms, check out the group on Twitter of  #TwitterStepmoms.

4. Listen to my heart on how to parent my stepchild, instead of others’ opinions. It’s easy to run to the phone and ask our best friend what to do when we’re facing a difficult parenting moment, but if we step back and listen to our heart while considering our options, we make better decisions. Considering our stepchild’s personality as part of the parenting equation allows us to tailor our parenting in a healthier light.

5. Nurture my marriage. Stepchildren eventually exit the nest. The goal is for the marriage to outlast the stepparenting years.  Good marriages don’t just happen -they require regular nurturing. I want to continue to reach beyond an ordinary marriage by being my partner’s biggest fan and most loyal friend.

6. Take time to run, or quilt, or whatever activity works for me to re-group when the stepparenting strain takes over.  It’s important to re-group and make time for self-care when we’re about to go off the parenting cliff. Balancing stepparenting demands with activities we can look forward and enjoy by ourselves or with others, creates a well-rounded stepparent who can more effectively handle the strains of stepparenting.

As you start a new year, do you have resolutions to consider as a not-so-perfect stepparent? Do you need a mindset do-over that includes room for imperfection and second chances as a stepparent? Perhaps that’s the ticket to success this year on your not-so-perfect stepparenting journey.

Do you have other resolutions to add? Leave me a comment and let me know.

Related Posts:

The Myth of the Perfect Stepparent

Making it Your Best Year Yet

Five Practical Tips for Successful Stepparenting

New Beginnings

Merry Christmas! Will You Include Gifts of Grace and Flexibility?

I pray you and your family have a wonderful celebration of Christ’s birth. nativity scene

As you join together with extended family members, I want to give a few last thoughts on enjoying a peaceful holiday. I’m including an article I wrote a few months ago, “Offer Gifts of Grace and Flexibility for a Peaceful Holiday Season.” You can see the published article in BCParent here. Merry Christmas!

“The news isn’t good. The factory will close in less than 90 days and my job will end. I’m sorry.” My husband’s unexpected words brought tears to my eyes as we began the holiday season last year.  As plant manager of a manufacturing company hit hard by the declining housing industry, we knew his job was in jeopardy. But we weren’t prepared for the finality of closure. It was the beginning of a difficult season that carried over into the new year and beyond.

So, how do you create a peaceful holiday season when you can’t control downward-spiraling circumstances? How do you find peace in the midst of turmoil? How do you get along with those around you when it seems your world is crumbling?

May I suggest two important attributes? Grace and flexibility. As a mom to five children, I’ve endured too many non-peaceful holiday seasons. Days full of out-of-control emotions, hectic schedules, non-cooperative kids, and a host of other stressors. After a particularly difficult year, I evaluated the details of the season and determined what could be done for more peaceful days the next year. The missing ingredients to our holiday season? Ample doses of grace and flexibility.

Heather Hetchler, mom/stepmom to six children agrees. She says, “While most gifts end up in a landfill, grace and flexibility help create cherished memories that will forever live in the hearts of those who receive these precious gifts.”

When I learned my husband’s job was ending, I knew he would need extra grace and a flexible spirit from me as we explored new opportunities for him. It wasn’t easy for my always-have-a-plan character to not know what was around the corner, but I learned to accept uncertainty and change as part of the journey we were on. I learned to recognize when the job-hunting seemed tedious and discouraging for my husband, and he was in need of an extra dose of grace.

Through the holiday season, we have ample opportunity to offer grace and flexibility to our children, our spouse, and others we come in contact with. If you live in a stepfamily, it’s likely you’ll have more contact with ex-spouses and ex-in-laws, creating tension-filled moments and stress-filled days. But if we choose to offer grace at hurtful words and a flexible spirit when a stubborn demeanor shows up, we’re more likely to find peace.

Many families have other unique challenges that emerge during the holidays. Addiction seeps into some homes, creating havoc and dissension. Mental illness rears its ugly head during periods of stress, resulting in confusion and uncertainty. The loss of a loved one creates a sad reminder that holidays will never be the same. Grace is the perfect answer when irritability, sadness, or frustration set in.

Flexibility becomes a necessary part of unwrapping holiday peace when schedules change or the unexpected happens. Illness, job loss, marital disharmony. Unexpected events like these create heartache that can disrupt the possibility of enjoying holiday peace. Flexibility becomes the key to creating a peace-filled moment amidst stressed-out emotions.

Jan Gull, stepmom to three, says she incorporates flexibility during the holiday season with “more being, less doing.” She works to maintain a schedule that allows time to create memories as a family through baking cookies together and making gifts for others instead of spinning the web of excessive spending and gift-giving.

After my husband’s job loss, we were thankful for another job opportunity without a long unemployment period, but it required re-locating to another state. Leaving three children behind in college, we reluctantly moved four hours away and began a new life. It has been a difficult transition, but maintaining a flexible spirit has helped us adjust to our new home.

The holiday season often includes new surroundings with complicated variables. It’s easy to get caught up in the busyness or stress of the season and act out in anger or frustration. But we can intentionally choose to make different choices that allow for a more peaceful season.

Grace and flexibility are not always easy to offer, but can be priceless gifts when extended during stressful periods. Will you choose grace and flexibility as part of your gift-giving this season?”

For more holiday tips, purchase our e-book, Unwrapping the Gift of Stepfamily PeaceNew Ebook cover

Related Posts:

When Stepfamily Pain Overshadows Holiday Joy

Are You Celebrating the Beauty of Your Stepfamily This Holiday, Even if Yours is Imperfect?

Holiday Mantra for Stepparents: Don’t Take it Personally

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


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

Join 41 other followers

Follow me on Twitter

Blog Topics