Gayla Grace with Three Reasons Stepfamilies Need Traditions

Traditions – Three Reasons a Stepfamily Needs Them

 

holiday-traditions-for-gg

“Family traditions are a great way for stepfamilies to connect with one another. Family members come together and work toward a common goal in a non-threatening environment. Traditions can be as simple as making paper chains to count down the days toward Christmas (one of my kids’ favorites) or more involved such as helping serve a meal at the homeless shelter. The goal is to find activities that the family enjoys and will look forward to doing together.”

It’s been seven years since I originally penned those words. Little has changed except now the kids are older and we don’t make a paper chain. Some of the kids are now married, so we’ve adjusted our traditions to include spouses and to accommodate the schedules of these new families. Well, now that I think about it, maybe more has changed than I realized. But I still believe family traditions are one of the keys to successfully navigating the holiday season as a stepfamily.

With traditions, everyone knows what to expect and works at accommodating their schedule to allow time to participate.

There are three benefits to creating traditions.

  1. Traditions create bonds. Bonds are strengthened as the family does something together. Think of the strands of a rope. One strand by itself is weak, but when woven together with more strands, the rope becomes stronger. Creating bonds makes your stepfamily stronger.
  2. Traditions provide a means of expressing love and laughter. These emotions help protect a family from brokenness and conflict. Working for a common purpose creates a sense of loyalty to each other and the family.
  3. Traditions create special memories. Memories that will be cherished long after family members pass on. Reminiscing of times’ past with loved ones can help ease the loneliness that creeps in when celebrating the holiday without that special someone.

Traditions are important and flexibility is key to making them work in stepfamilies.

Continuing traditions already in place also helps to provide routine and predictability.  Routine during the hectic holiday time just might offer some stability to otherwise unstable emotions that seem to surface this time of year.

It’s never too late to start family traditions. They offer a sense of belonging that can help cement relationships. Bring your family together and enjoy some new traditions this year!

What are some of your family traditions?

New Year’s 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 to do everything right for my stepchildren. But I wasn’t a perfect stepmom. I made a lot of mistakes. After almost 20 years, experience has taught me that I don’t have to be a perfect stepmom for my stepchildren to grow to love and accept me.

Resolutions for the Not-So-Perfect Stepparent

 

This year, instead of making resolutions about being a better stepmom, I decided to consider 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 …

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Coping with Unexpected Challenges on Your Stepparenting Journey

Today marks the nine year anniversary of the loss of my stepchildren’s mother after a fierce battle with colon cancer. It’s always a hard month for them as they reflect on life without her.

When I married my husband, I had no way of knowing such a tragedy would occur. We could have never prepared ourselves for the difficult season that followed her death.

But unfortunately, it happened. And it’s not the only difficult issue we’ve dealt with in our stepfamily. I’m sure there have been challenging circumstances in your family too, that you could have never foreseen when you married. So, how do you cope when the unexpected happens?

For me, I seek to live by faith instead of allowing fear to control me. I know that fear and faith don’t go together. If I’m allowing faith to guide me, I won’t be controlled by fear.

In her book, Calm My Anxious Heart, Linda Dillow says, “Faith enables us to be content even when life doesn’t make sense. Faith is the bulwark that keeps us strong even when we’re assailed by agonizing thoughts about what might happen or by what has happened. …Faith is believing God is true to His word when my feelings are screaming out something different. Faith is completing my small part of the picture/puzzle without being able to see the finished product.”

Faith allows me to take the next step that seems right for me, even when I don’t have all the answers, trusting God will guide me. Fear paralyzes me from making any kind of move, convincing me every move will be the wrong one.

If I focus on the challenge that seems insermountable instead of focusing on the reality of God’s provision to meet my needs, I invite stress into my home. I love the quote I read recently by Joyce Meyers, “The person who really understands the grace of God will not worry. Worrying is trying to figure out what to do to save yourself rather than trusting in God for deliverance.”

When my husband lost his job two years ago, once again we faced the unexpected. Re-locating out of state, leaving three children behind in college, has not been easy. But I take intentional steps every day to allow faith to guide me instead of letting fear paralyze me.

I’ve heard it said there are 365 “fear not” verses in the Bible. Isn’t that interesting? God knows the stronghold of fear and gives us a verse every day to rely on for strength and comfort.

Have you faced the unexpected on your stepparenting journey? How did you cope? I’d love to hear your comments.

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10)

Pic by digitalart

Original post 8/2012

The Blessing of an “Ours” Baby

I was approaching 40 years old. My husband and I had four children already – we each brought two from our previous marriage. My husband had had a vasectomy almost ten years prior. How could we even consider having a child together?

“Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4

I wanted a child with my husband. We knew the odds were against us. But we chose to claim God’s promise and do our part to make it happen.

The doctor was frank. “You have less than a 50% success rate because of your age and the length of time since the original surgery. But I’ll do the surgery if you’d like.”

We agreed. It appeared to be successful. Two months later, I was pregnant. Three months shy of my 40th birthday, I delivered a healthy baby boy. Praise the Lord!

Nathan turns 12 years old today. He has been a complete joy to our family.  He is the common thread we all share. And he is the one child my husband and I can enjoy and raise without any outside influences.

Gayla, nathan

But having an “ours” baby is not for everyone. For some, it’s not even an option. And if you’re considering it, I don’t recommend doing it immediately after marriage. My husband and I were married five years before we began the process.

There are sacrifices to an “ours” baby. Many times, there is an age gap between an “ours” baby and other children. Vacations become harder to navigate when you’re planning activities for a wide range of ages. In addition, other children in the family can become sensitive to playing favorites with the “ours” child.

And of course, there’s another mouth to feed. Current statistics say it costs more than a quarter of a million dollars to raise a child to 18 years old. Add college expenses on top of that.  We currently have three children in college. We have put braces on five sets of teeth. We have paid for glasses or contacts for four of our five children. We have bought and insured a bunch of cars. And the list goes on.

But do I regret our decision of an  “ours” baby? Absolutely not.  The financial and personal sacrifices we have made can never outweigh the joy of the only child my husband and I share together. I will be forever thankful for our blessing, Nathan Cole Grace.

Do you have an “ours” baby? Are you hoping for an “ours” baby? Please share and I’ll be happy to pray with you about it.

Other Posts You Might Enjoy:

When God Says Wait

God’s Timing is Different Than Ours

Count Your Blessings

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

Is Your Stepfamily in a Season of Challenge?

I love watching the giddiness of pre-married couples in our stepfamily class. They are in love and somewhat blinded to what lies ahead. Maybe that’s a good thing. Thankfully, they’re trying to educate themselves on how to do stepfamily life before marriage. It’s a beautiful season of refreshment.

We have another couple about four years down the road and they’re definitely in the stepfamily trenches. With a few years under their belt, the kids are questioning their authority and as teen-agers, trying to separate from the family. The stepparents express frustration and bewilderment in how to move forward with their relationships.

It’s a hard period that can last several years before resolving the challenges. During this season, stepfamily authority Ron Deal says, “You must learn to endure disharmony.” I completely agree. It’s a season of challenge.

If you make it through the season of challenge, you move into the season of rewards. During this period, stepchildren decide you’re okay as their stepparent, and regardless of what the other parent might say about you, the stepchild chooses to love and respect you because of the significant role you’ve played that they’ve learned to appreciate. The relationship isn’t perfect, but it’s special. Unfortunately, many stepparents never make it to this season because they’re not willing to endure the season of challenge.

The next season is the season of celebration. The stepchildren leave home and become productive citizens. They aren’t making perfect choices in all areas of life but they’re functioning on their own without your daily assistance. They stay in touch regularly (especially when they need money :)) and the relationship is generally positive and hopeful.

Other seasons follow (like grandparenting seasons) but I’m stopping here to give thanks that we’ve made it to the season of celebration. My stepchildren aren’t perfect and I don’t agree with all their choices, but they’ve launched from the nest and at 22 and 27 years old, are coping well as young adults. My husband and I will celebrate 17 years of marriage this month and I’m continually grateful we didn’t quit during the season of challenge. Yes, there were times we wanted to, but those times are now behind us. And they will pass for you too if you learn to endure the disharmony and commit to the end.

I look forward to the years ahead with my husband. Although we worked through a lot of disharmony during our season of challenge, it’s seems a small sacrifice now for the seasons that follow.We still have one child at home but there are fewer disagreements and stressful circumstances to deal with since it’s our child together.

Are you in a difficult season? Will you commit to endure your season of challenge so you can enjoy the seasons that follow? 

Related Posts:

The Myth of the Perfect Stepparent

Change: A Friend or a Foe in Your Stepfamily?