Eight Steps to Easing Stepfamily Stress at the Holidays

Stepfamily holidays are complicated. And stressful, right? How do you ease holiday step stress? There are no easy answers, but there are a few things you can do to help make your h-o-l-i-d-a-y-s  more enjoyable.

stepfamily holiday

H – Help someone. Take the focus off yourself and your difficult stepfamily circumstances and offer help to someone in need. Ring bells for Salvation Army or buy a gift for an underprivileged child. There are dozens of ways to help others.

O –  Offer grace and forgiveness often. The holiday season creates additional stress for your stepchildren too. If your stepchild shoots an angry look your way, be quick to forgive and press on.

L – Let go of perfection. Don’t expect your holiday season to go perfectly; recognize there will be bumps along the way. And don’t sink into a pit when it happens–pick yourself up and start anew.

I – Ink in special days on your calendar. Plan date nights with your spouse. Go to coffee with a girlfriend. Take time to take care of YOU.

D – Delegate chores to others. If you have a house full of company coming, hire a cleaning person. If you’re hosting a party, ask others to help with food. Don’t take on all the tasks yourself and end up overwhelmed.

A – Act on your gut. If you sense a meltdown coming on from your stepchild, do something to divert it. If you’re too exhausted to attend the neighborhood Christmas party, don’t go. Use your gut instinct to make your days go smoother.

Y – Yak to a supportive friend or another stepparent. Don’t hold your emotions in or let them all out by exploding. Talk through your struggles with someone who cares.

S – Simplify.  Decorate with a few items instead of several dozen. Bake one or two special treats instead of a counter full. Shop online to avoid the grumps of the holiday rush. Enjoy the simple pleasures of the season.

It’s the beginning of the season. Commit to make it enjoyable and meaningful with a few intentional steps.

If you need a helpful resource, be sure to check out our e-book, Unwrapping the Gift of Stepfamily Peace.

Pic By feel art

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 that surround 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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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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

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

 

 

Back to School – Five Tips for Success with Stepchildren

Our youngest son started middle school last week as a 6th grader and has had some intimidating moments at his new school. He started off in the wrong classroom for homeroom but didn’t discover it until the teacher called roll. He left to go to the correct classroom and finally entered the right room–tardy.

The next day he innocently walked through a circle of 8th graders on his way to class and was belittled by the older kids who insisted he “Go around next time!” And later that day he discovered the bus he rides home includes a few high school students who aren’t always nice to the young ones!

bus School is tough for our kids. Their days are stressful and intimidating, especially for those starting new schools. But we can help make their school year a success. Here are a few tips I suggest:

1. Pray regularly for your children and stepchildren. In her book, The Power of a Praying Parent, Stormie Omartian says, “The battle for our children’s lives is waged on our knees. When we don’t pray, it’s like sitting on the sidelines watching our children in a war zone getting shot at from every angle. When we do pray, we’re in the battle alongside them, appropriating God’s power on their behalf.”

2. Evaluate your schedule – have you left room to help with homework? It’s easy to inundate ourselves with too many commitments. I evaluate my schedule regularly to see if I need to change/add/delete anything. Raising children requires time and energy.  Our role as stepparents is even more demanding, mentally and emotionally.  If we give all  our energy to outside commitments and demanding careers, what do we draw from to deal with the inevitable crises and unexpected irritants that will surely come our way?

3. Resolve conflict as it occurs. Our children are impacted every day by what happens in our home. If we refuse to be cooperative with an ex-spouse regarding a new school schedule or negotiating activities, our children suffer. Here’s what Ron Deal says on this issue in The Smart Stepfamily: “An old African proverb says, ‘When two elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers.’ Biological parents who fight and refuse to cooperate are trampling on their most prized possession – their children. Elephants at war are totally unaware of what is happening to the grass, for they are far too consumed with the battle at hand. Little do they know how much damage is being done.” Someone has to be the bigger person and work to resolve conflict – will it be you?

4. Expect the best of your children. And let them know you love them. Our kids will live up to the expectations we set – they’re looking for someone to believe in them. As I drove my son to school this morning, I told him, “I’m proud of you for keeping a good attitude, even though I know your first days of middle school have not been easy.” Our stepchildren need our support. On days they’re not easy to love, ask for God’s help. “I am with you; …I will strengthen you and help you.” (Isaiah 41:10)

5. Get to know their friends. Make your house the hangout.  If we don’t know our children’s friends, we can’t help them in their relationships. Friends can directly influence what kind of school year our stepchildren/children have. If you’re raising teens, keep food around – it always works. And gently talk to your kids about friends you don’t approve of and why. Childhood friendships are a breeding ground for teaching  what healthy relationships look like.

Are you looking forward to a new school year or dreading it? Will you commit to do your part in helping your children/stepchildren have a successful year?

What other tips do you offer? I would love to hear from you.

Pic by scottchan

Related Posts:

Back to School Routines and Your Stepfamily: Peaceful or Chaotic?

The Myth of the Perfect Stepparent

Change: A Friend or a Foe in Your Stepfamily?

Learning to Accept the Things You Cannot Change

Setting Boundaries with Your Stepchildren

My stepson moved from Conway, AR to Austin, TX this past week. After graduating from college, he opted to explore the big-city scene of Austin as a single person. He spent a few days at our house during the transition.

austin capitalThe weeks prior to the move, we were in contact with him almost daily regarding details like renting a U-haul, finding the best apartment, budgeting his finances for the move, etc. A dilemma surfaced regarding how to pull a trailer when his Jeep didn’t have a trailer hitch. Since I drive a car with a trailer hitch, my husband suggested we let him borrow my car and pull the trailer behind it.

I bristled at the suggestion. My stepson has totalled one vehicle and allowed a friend to drive his next vehicle, which the friend totalled. Knowing my stepson has little experience in pulling a trailer made me even more uncomfortable. I pleaded my case for another option and thankfully, my husband agreed.

During the short period my stepson stayed at our house, he asked if I would help with his laundry. It was a small favor I knew would help without a huge sacrifice on my part. Our kids are taught to do their own laundry as teenagers, but saying yes to laundry that day was okay with me.

Boundary setting requires wisdom and sensitivity on our part as stepparents. The boundaries you set in your home will look different than what I set in my home. And boundaries change as our children mature.

Saying no to driving my car was a boundary I felt strongly about it. But doing my stepson’s laundry to help with his move was a gesture of love for me. If we can say yes we need to say yes – that’s part of building a loving relationship with our stepchildren. But when we need to say no, say no.

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

I like the way veteran stepmom 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.”

As stepparents, we make endless sacrifices for our stepchildren with few rewards, especially in the beginning. It’s our responsibility to determine what boundaries we need to put in place to foster thriving relationships. When we allow disrespect, or behavior that goes against what we can tolerate, we invite resentment into our heart and home.

If you’re struggling with boundaries, I recommend reading Boundaries, When to Say Yes and When to Say No to Take Control of Your Life by Drs. Cloud and Townsend. Healthy boundaries impact all areas of our life and enable us to recognize our limits and seek balance as stepparents.

Are you successful in setting boundaries with your stepchildren? I would love to hear your thoughts.

Related Posts:

The Power of Boundaries as a Stepparent – Part One

The Power of Boundaries as a Stepparent – Part Two

Creating Healthy Boundaries with your Ex-Spouse