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?

Grief, Stepfamily, and the Process of Healing

I held my breath, waiting for words I didn’t want to hear. “I suggest you place your mother on hospice care. Her body has started to shut down.” The doctor looked at me compassionately, waiting for a reply. His suggestion didn’t surprise me. Mom wasn’t getting better. But the tears in his eyes produced tears of my own.

Gayla Grace and her mom shortly before she passed away.

He had watched me and my three sisters tend to Mom’s every need during her lengthy hospital stay. She was well-loved and well-cared for. He knew the loss would be hard for us.

Less than a week after the doctor uttered his painful words, Mom passed away, August 27, 2017.  I know Mom’s in a better place, but tears fall freely and often right now. Losing a parent is never easy.

Grief is not a new emotion for me. I wish I could say that makes it easier. It doesn’t.

Grieving the loss of a loved one is hard.

We can pack away the feeling in hopes of pretending it isn’t there. But it rears its head eventually. Grief shows up in the form of addiction, codependency, anger, depression, obesity, or a host of other issues if we don’t deal with it properly. Too often we address the symptoms of grief, instead of the root of the feelings.

How Grief is a Process by Gayla Grace of Stepparenting with GraceGrief changes relationships.

Long before my mother passed away, her mind had been stolen by the disease of Alzheimer’s. No longer the same person, I grieved for the mother who raised me. I plead with God to heal my mother. I didn’t want to give up hope. But I eventually learned to accept the reality of the situation, unable to change what was happening.

Grief has changed my stepfamily relationships also.

When I married my husband, I brought two daughters that joined his family with a daughter and son. As I began the journey with my stepson, I envisioned ball games as his biggest fan and an affectionate mother-son bond my friends had told me about. I looked forward to shopping excursions and pedicures with my stepdaughter.

Instead, I discovered loyalty conflict and distanced relationships. I endured tension at every ball game as I sat inches away from a woman who wanted nothing to do with her son’s stepmother.  I tiptoed around confused emotions as my stepchildren traveled between two homes. I uncovered feelings of insecurity and doubt as a stepmom.  And finally .. I lowered my expectations for relationships that would never materialize the way I’d envisioned.

I grieved for the life I would never have.

I cried. I fretted. I protested. I withdrew into myself. I bargained with God. I lashed out at others. I complained.

Until one day, I finally accepted the life God had called me to. And found a joy that only God can give.

I love these words penned by Sarah Young in Jesus Today:

“Make every effort to accept as your calling the life I have assigned to you. This perspective helps take the sting out of even the harshest circumstances. If I have called you to a situation, I will give you everything you need to endure it — even to find Joy in the midst of it.

Learning to be content is both a discipline and an art: You train your mind to trust My sovereign ways with you — bowing before My mysterious, infinite intelligence. You search for Me in the details of your day, all the while looking for good to emerge from trouble and confusion. You accept the way things are without losing hope for a better future.”

Acceptance.

It’s not easy—whether in our family of origin or stepfamily relationships.

Acceptance takes time. Oftentimes, it takes prayer. But when grief shows up … acceptance is the first step toward healing.

*Come join us at our upcoming Stepmom Retreat and learn more about how to process your grief and other emotions common to stepmoms. I’d love to meet you there! Details here: http://sisterhoodofstepmoms.com/dallas-texas-2017/

How has grief affected your stepfamily? Will you share how you’ve coped with it?

 

 

 

 

 

The Path to Super StepMom Status by Gayla Grace

The Path to Super StepMom Status

The Path to Super StepMom Status by Gayla GraceIn my 20 plus years of being a stepmom, I have had more conversations than I can count with other stepmoms who are frustrated and desperately trying to achieve SUPER STEPMOM STATUS. It’s as if it’s an award to be given out at the end of the year. But they aren’t achieving the status and instead end up feeling like a failure. Year after year they vow it will be different but the next year rolls around and things are the same. No award. No loving stepchild who thinks they are great.

No. It’s just the same ole thing.  And often we feel we’ve failed.

You are not alone.

You are not the first nor will you be the last stepmom to:

  • think you have failed.
  • believe with all your heart that you CAN be the best stepmom ever!
  • believe your stepchild will LOVE you!
  • and they will want to be your friend!

The reality is that they don’t think you’re the best. They may not ever love you nor want to be your friend.

I speak from experience. During my stepson’s adolescent years, he found all kinds of reasons to dislike me. Some of them might have been legitimate, but most were unfounded. Regardless of how hard I tried to be a good stepmom to him, he rejected my efforts.

I tried. He rejected. I tried again. He rejected again.

The cycle went on.

I wish I could tell you there was a “magic formula” to ensure stepmom success. But I can’t tell you that. What I can tell you is there’s no such thing as “SUPER STEPMOM!”

So…

Sometimes we’re dealing with a difficult teenager. Or a younger child that whines and cries.

Are we going to want to quit and throw in the towel? Most definitely! But we have to remember we’re the adult in the equation. We need to keep our cool as best we can. We can pray and ask for strength from the One who is greater than we are. And then remember …  this is normal stepfamily dynamics.

I’ve been married to my stepson’s dad for 20+ years. Finally, after many difficult years, my stepson and I now have a good relationship.

Is it because I became a different person toward him?

No. It’s because he has matured into a young man who, at 27  years old, recognizes and appreciates the role I’ve played in his life.

 Did I want to quit being his stepmom during those adolescent years?

Absolutely!

Did I deserve the treatment I received?

No!

Am I thankful I didn’t walk away?

Yes!

Quitting is NOT the answer!

Trying to achieve SUPER STEPMOM status does not guarantee a good relationship with your stepchild.

It almost always results in unmet expectations. Consistent love over time, through the ups and downs of life, could be the difference.

Remember this: regardless of your stepchild’s behavior, the only way you fail in this role, is if you quit.

Are you trying to be SUPER STEPMOM?  How is that working out for you?

3 things you can do to reduce the tension between homes

Three Ways to Help Reduce Tension Between Homes

Three things to do to lessen the tension between homes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s early August and school will be starting soon (it has actually already started for our son). The kids will have practice or lessons after school, and they may be juggling their stuff between two households.

I know there are worse things in life than heading out the door and having Joey or Susie say, “I left my trumpet at Mom’s (or Dad’s) house.”

But the morning that happens…well, it doesn’t seem like things could be much worse.

Here’s the deal…

I’ve been there.

I’ve done this.

I’ve LIVED this.

The tension in these situations is REAL.

But there IS hope. The back and forth between households was a problem my husband and I wanted to tackle. We wanted the transition between homes to be as smooth and stress-free as possible.

We came up with three important strategies that worked for us.

Maybe they will help you navigate your “between-home waters” this school year.

  1. Limit trivial conversations.  We made the kids take responsibility for books, uniforms, band instruments, whatever to avoid multiple trips between houses. We reduced our interaction over trivial matters with the exes to devote our energies to peaceful conversations on things that mattered most.
  2. Limit unnecessary interactions. As stepparents, we didn’t attend every event for every child. If the other biological parent was going to be there, there was no reason to always put ourselves through an uncomfortable situation with an ex-spouse just a few rows over. Attend the important stuff, show your support, but choose wisely when the situation allows for a choice.
  3. Limit family activities and expectations. Do everyone a favor on transition day and limit your activities. There is enough emotional turmoil in the child’s life without adding extra things to do.

What do you do to lessen the “between household” tension?

This is a revision of an article I originally wrote for Focus on the Family. You can read the original article here.