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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?

 

What Stage of Remarriage Are You In?

I was recently talking to a stepmom who’s struggling in her role with her stepdaughter. In hearing some history of the relationship, I could see the normal progression that often happens in stepfamilies with various stages of integration. How a stepfamily navigates the stages of remarriage determines the success or failure of long-term relationships.

monkey fami

As noted in Dick Dunn’s booklet, New Faces in the Frame, most stepfamilies work through a progression of stages.  We start out in the infatuation/honeymoon phase and everything is grand. Many couples at this stage are blind to the difficulties they will encounter as a stepfamily. They negate their children’s feelings about their relationship and refuse to listen to others’ opinions.

But it’s not long before things begin to change and we move into the questioning phase and begin to wonder, “What have I done?” “Why did I think this would work?” During the questioning stage of my remarriage, I reflected on how it seemed easier to be a single parent than cope with the daily challenges in our new family. I had committed to my new marriage, however, “for better or for worse,” and endeavored to continue the journey. For many remarriages, the questioning stage will make or break a family.

The most critical stage: the crisis stage comes next. Levels of crisis vary from minor bumps to major explosions, but this stage represents a turning point in which family members seek change. Challenges build until someone reaches for help. It’s a productive stage if families confront the problems and begin to find solutions. Unfortunately, many couples give up and call it quits at this stage.

The last three stages usually occur somewhere between the second and fifth year of remarriage. Complicated stepfamilies that include children from both partners will likely take longer. It’s also not unusual for stages to be re-visited. But as families reach the latter stages, hope begins to surface and tensions begin to ease.

The possibility stage offers positive thinking toward improved relationships. Following the crisis stage, the stepcouple emerges with renewed energy to seek family harmony. After struggling for years, the family begins to unite. Broken relationships begin to heal and day-to-day life appears easier.

The growth stage follows on the heels of possibility. Although there has been some growth from the beginning, families in this stage recognize a steady pace of growth, with more steps forward than backward. Family members feel accepted by one another and problems are resolved quickly when they arise. Stepparents feel comfortable in their roles and tension with ex-spouses has eased.

The last stage: the reward stage is reached only after years of intentional effort. For many stepfamilies, it is never reached because they give up. But for those who persevere, the reward of harmonious relationships and sense of accomplishment from a united family outweighs the burden of what it cost to get there.

Stepfamilies offer children a chance to heal from broken relationships while learning how healthy relationships relate to one another. Researcher James Bray published results from a ten-year study with stepfamilies that indicated a healthy, stable stepfamily can help overcome some of the negative psychological effects of divorce. And while remarriage with children may be challenging, intentional effort and commitment can lead to satisfaction and reward in the long run.

To see my complete article on the stages of remarriage,  published in Calgary’s Child Magazine this month, go here.

What stage of remarriage is your family in? Have you successfully navigated some of these stages? I would love to hear about it!

Related Posts:

Making Your Remarriage Work: Separate Marital and Parenting Issues

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

Don’t Settle for Mediocrity in Your Remarriage

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

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?


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