Gayla Grace sharing ways to get through the bumpy holidays as a stepfamily

The Holidays – 3 Ways to Make Them Better

3 ways to make the holidays better by Gayla Grace
This is my first holiday season without Mom. After a long hard road with Alzheimer’s, she passed away in August. Although I’m thankful she’s no longer suffering, I think about her every day. I’d love to go back and have just one more conversation with her, even if she doesn’t complete a full sentence or know my name. I want to see her beautiful smile and hear her laugh.
But that can’t happen.
My heart aches.

Challenges and loss at the holidays create heightened emotions.

We want to experience the happiness and light-heartedness of the season, but sometimes our circumstances don’t allow it.

What holiday difficulties are you facing? Yours will look different than mine, but I’m sure you have some. In stepfamily situations, grief often creeps into our homes.

Maybe you’re grieving the loss of what you’d like your holiday to look like but know it won’t. Or maybe you’re unhappy with the schedule that’s been arranged with your kids or your stepkids.

Many stepparents grieve because of the outsider feeling they sense during the holiday season.

If you’re struggling with grief for any reason, seek to fill up your love tank. Look for ways to offer love to those around you or ask for love from others, such as your spouse. Let your spouse know when you’re having a difficult day. Ask for what you need—don’t expect others to read your mind.

  1. Take another stepparent to lunch or connect with someone who needs a friend. Don’t ruminate over your problems. “Talking about our problems is our greatest addiction. Break the habit. Talk about your joys,” says author Rita Schiano.
  2. Accept the situation and make the best of it. This too will pass. The sun always shines again after the rain.
  3. Count your blessings. Look for things to be thankful for. Although Mom is gone, I’m thankful to have more time with Dad and will enjoy having him in our home this Christmas.

Maybe you won’t be with your stepkids over Christmas, but you can send a note or a special text to let them know your heart is still with them.

You can expect bumps as part of your holiday journey. It probably won’t go exactly as you hope or plan. But holidays can still be meaningful, even when they’re not perfect.

“Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord.” Psalm 31:24

How do you trudge through the bumps? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

For more stepmom encouragement, check out our devotional book written just for you!

Ask a family member to give it to you as a gift this Christmas!

Click the image to order from Amazon.

quiet-moments

Five Ways to Find Peace During the Holidays by Gayla Grace

Five Ways to Find Peace During the Holidays

Today my friend, Barb Goldberg, shares her thoughts on celebrating the holidays as a stepfamily.

 

 

What is the first thing that crosses your mind when you think about stepfamilies and holidays?

I’m guessing it isn’t peace!

Stepfamilies have an advantage over other families. We know that we have to practice our mediation skills. And we know that we have to establish our peace processes now.

Stepfamily or not, holidays are stressful! But a stepfamily holiday experience can be holiday stress on steroids.

In addition to the everyday chores of a holiday, we get to juggle divorce agreements, children’s schedules, ex-wives, extended family, egos, and gifting. All within a 24-48 hour time frame.

Although it may sound like a nightmare, peace is within our grasp.

Here are five tips that can take your holidays from a war zone to a haven of thankfulness and serenity.

  • Generosity of time
    Be flexible with the schedules. It’s important to keep those agreed-upon commitments, but if a parent runs late, let it go. Relatives may be visiting and holiday events can make you forget about time. Roll with it. Children hate to hear those arguments. It completely stresses them out.
  • Fight the urge to compete
    It’s easy to fall prey to gift wars. In a subconscious battle to win your stepchildren’s love, don’t start buying expensive presents to impress them. The only person who will be impressed is the executive who runs your credit card company. Children know what you’re doing and it’s a bad lesson to teach. Keep the gifts thoughtful regardless of what the other ‘side’ is giving.
  • Write the ex a note
    Holidays are a great time to be grateful and thankful. Write your stepchildren’s parent a note and let them know how much you appreciate their children and the time you spend with them. If you have any other lovely things to express, please do so. There is still nothing like getting a written note.
  •  Act the way you want the holiday to be.  If you still feel like ‘humbug’ when you envision your holidays, act the way you would like them to be. Human behavior is contagious and you will spread cheer when you pretend. Even if you are miserable, don’t show it on the outside. You will be shocked at how you will be convinced by your own show.
  • Swallow your tears and volunteer!
    Volunteering is the best way to spend your time. If you are without your children this holiday, it is the best distraction. If you are with your children, it is the best lesson. Helping others will put your stepfamily woes in perspective. They really are not very serious when you look at the grand picture.

Stepfamily life is a precious gift because it truly does teach us how to celebrate holidays with the perfect spirit. We are lucky. Happy holidays!

Barbara Goldberg

Saving the World, One Stepfamily at a Time

Barb is the author, blogger, speaker, and teacher for The Evil Stepmother Speaks. Barb teaches the art and science of stepfamily management.

Her book, The Evil Stepmother Speaks: A Guide for Stepfamilies Who Want to Love and Laugh is a funny, must-read.

For additional holiday tips, check out our holiday e-book,

Unwrapping the Gift of Stepfamily Peace,

 co-authored with Heather Hetchler of CafeSmom. 

It’s packed with proven tools, tips, personal stories, and new holiday traditions you can create with your stepfamily. And a list of recipes!

It’s a great way to help you find peace at the holidays.

 Unwrapping the Gift of Stepfamily Peace by Gayla Grace & Heather Hetchler

A fresh holiday resource for stepfamilies

Affordable, Helpful Resource to Reduce Stepfamily Holiday Stress

At Stepparenting With Grace, we share the stress that goes along with life in a stepfamily.

In recent weeks, we’ve talked about co-parenting stress and  reducing tension when kids live in two homes.

Stress is not unusual for stepfamily relationships. We must learn to navigate the occasional (or not so occasional) rough waters.

Add the upcoming holidays and we could be moving into a very stressful season.

But help is on the way.

Laura Petherbridge, The Smart Stepmom, has a new holiday resource available that is both helpful AND affordable. This downloadable pdf is full of insights, inspiration, and humor designed to help navigate the holidays. From “Juggling the two-home schedule” to “Traditions” and “The Ghost of Christmas Past” you will find helpful ideas.

Ideas designed to relieve the stress of the holidays.

Providing 30 days of inspiration, it might be just what you need to make it through the season!

And at an affordable $4.29, you can’t go wrong. This useful resource is available only on

Laura’s website.

Check it out today and start preparing for your stress-less holiday season.

 

 

 

 

Dealing with Anger by Gayla Grace

Five Practical Ways to Deal with Anger in Your Stepfamily

5 ways for dealing with anger by Gayla Grace

“I just want her to affirm my kids. Tell them, ‘Good job,’ every now and then. Act like she cares.”

Those words were shared by a client in a coaching session a few years ago. It didn’t surprise me. I’d suspected that his wife, the stepmother to his two children, had unresolved anger that was affecting her relationships with his kids. I wanted to help her get to the root of it.

It can be a challenge to deal with our anger. But there are questions to ask and steps to take to master the challenge.

  1. What am I angry about?
  2. What do I need from my spouse to help me work through my anger?
  3. What is keeping me from connecting with my stepchildren?
  4. How have I been wounded?
  5. Where does the root of my anger lie?

Admitting our anger is the first step toward resolving it.

Oh, we can bury it. We can tiptoe around it. We can even pretend it doesn’t exist. We can blast others with it. But these things do nothing to RESOLVE the anger. They do nothing to SOLVE the problem. They only serve to prolong and/or inflame the problem.

We need to give ourselves the grace to explore the anger and learn to manage it.

As a stepparent, I understand anger. Maybe you’ve been treated like an outsider. Maybe your stepkids are rude to you daily. Maybe the ex-spouse invades your home emotionally. Perhaps your spouse doesn’t support your stepparenting efforts, or others in your community don’t respect your role.

We walk different paths as stepparents. Some of us get to engage quickly with our stepchildren, forming emotional bonds and life-long ties. And some of us tread uphill daily. For years. And we wonder if things will ever change.

If that’s where you are today, barely treading water, I encourage you to look inward.

Are you harboring anger that needs to come out?

Are you allowing the burden of guilt to keep you smothered?

Anger is a natural emotion.

Embrace it and resolve to make a change.

When the stepparenting journey is rocky, It’s easy to feel like we’re stuck, believing the situation will never be different. Like a truck spinning its tires in the mud, we throw off displeasing behavior that affects everyone in our path. We want to change. But we don’t know how or where to start.

I’ve been there. And it wasn’t pleasant.

I want to help.

Here are five steps we can use to manage our anger:

  1. Identify possible solutions.
  2. Take a timeout.
  3. Stick with “I” statements.
  4. Don’t hold a grudge.
  5. Know when to seek help.*

Helpful stepfamily resources I recommend are:

The Smart Stepfamily by Ron L. Deal

The Smart Stepmom by Ron L Deal and Laura Petherbridge

The Courage to be a Stepmom by Sue Patton Thoele

Another option for you and your family may be stepfamily coaching. I would love to help you find success in your stepfamily relationships and possibly find a fresh perspective. Go to my coaching page for details.

Regardless of where you are, you don’t have to stay there. You are not stuck.

But you will have to be intentional about making changes to really see a difference.

Will you take the risk and seek the help you need to find peace again?

 

Have you experienced anger in your stepfamily?

What suggestions do you offer for coping with your anger as a stepparent?

I would like to read about your thoughts and ideas in the comments.

5 steps to dealing with anger by Gayla Grace

*from the Mayo Clinic-the complete text here.
What Happens to Your Marriage When the Kids are Gone by Gayla Grace

Your Marriage Counts: What Happens When the Kids are Gone?

My husband and I celebrated 22 years of marriage this past weekend. Of our five children, we have only one still at home who is an “ours” child, 16-year-old Nathan.  Although life still has challenges, our marriage, most of the time, is free of tension and conflict. I don’t say that to brag, but to offer hope.

It hasn’t always been that way.

If you’ve read much of my blog, then you’ve heard my stories of disharmony and stepfamily struggles. I’ve opened my heart about our challenges in hopes you could avoid some of the mistakes we’ve made.

As I think about what advice I’d give as we celebrate another anniversary, I want to offer a reminder: your marriage counts.

What Happens to Your Marriage When the Kids are Gone? Words of encouragement by Gayla Grace

One day the kids will be gone.

The food fights at the dinner table, the step-sibling squabbles over who sits in the front seat, the arguments over chores that didn’t get done, the lingering smell of dirty laundry that emanates from their bedroom, the curfews that are broken…those things won’t matter anymore.

If we’re fulfilling our role correctly as parents and stepparents, we will work our way out of a job.

Our kids will fly away and lead thriving adult lives.

It will be the two of us.

Will we have a marriage left? Will you have a marriage left?

 

Parenting and stepparenting is a season. And like all seasons, the season will end.

Please don’t neglect to nurture your marriage.

In the midst of watching your stepson at the soccer field, hold your partner’s hand.

While making dinner for the family, smile at your spouse across the room.

On a busy afternoon at work, stop and send a text that says, I love you.

Sure, anniWill you still have a marriage when the kids leave home?versary trips are nice and date nights are important, but even simple gestures of love can keep relationships connected when schedules don’t allow for extended time together.

If you’re stuck in unresolved conflict or tension that won’t subside, seek professional help. Stepfamily life is complicated. Sometimes you need help from a neutral party who can identify the root of an issue and what to do about it. Be sure to find a pastor, counselor, or coach who understands stepfamily dynamics.

I also encourage you to check out helpful resources for stepfamilies. My husband and I are currently leading a stepfamily class at our church with the book, The Smart Stepfamily Marriage: Keys to Success in the Blended Family. It’s a great book to go through together as a couple that shows how to build on your relationship strengths and helps you improve your weaknesses.

Your marriage counts.

Do you have suggestions on how to nurture your remarriage? I’d love to hear them in the comments.

 

 

 

Co-Parenting: One Thing to Remember

Co-Parenting: One Thing to Remember by Gayla Grace

I watched my son’s friend negotiate an upcoming visitation schedule with his dad at a recent soccer game. I could sense the stress the teen felt as he was thrust in the middle between his parents. I wanted to step in and tell the dad, “Call your ex-wife and work this out. This isn’t your son’s responsibility.”

It might seem easier to ask our kids to handle the communication to avoid the ex. I get it. My husband and I had numerous co-parenting collisions with ex-spouses when our kids were still at home. Some of them could’ve been prevented. Some could not.

But one thing we learned early on (and the one thing to remember!): keep the kids out of the middle.

To co-parent successfully requires intentional effort on our part, including sacrifices and tongue-taming, to make it work. But it’s our responsibility, not our children’s, to negotiate the details.

The biggest challenge may be learning how to be amicable in a relationship with someone you couldn’t get along with when married to them.  And while it is hard, I believe it is the link to success when parenting children after divorce.

Co-parenting often creates tension and stress.

We have to remember that when disagreements arise, it’s important to keep them out of range of children’s ears. Adult issues need to be confined to adults.

It’s OK to ask the children how they feel about a particular issue (visitation, event, etc.) but the negotiating and scheduling should be done by the adults.

Stepchildren are unnaturally pulled between two homes with parents they love in both homes. Asking them to make a choice or take sides with one home over another creates hurt.

This is not a game of Tug of War with the children as the rope!

Co-Parenting: One Thing to Remember by Gayla Grace

The Solution

Strained co-parenting gives us an opportunity to practice the gifts of the Spirit as defined in Galatians 5:22-23: “…love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”

I know it’s not easy but as our children watch us (and they are watching!) model kindness and goodness or patience and self-control in the midst of rude or unkind behavior, they learn the value of asserting these qualities in their own lives.

And we gain the satisfaction of knowing we did the right thing, even when it wasn’t easy.

Have you been caught in the middle? What steps did you take (or wish you’d taken) to remedy the situation?