Step-Relationships Change as Time Passes

Our family enjoyed a long Easter week-end with four of our five children home. As I watched our kids interact, I couldn’t help but reminisce of times past when we encountered constant bickering and conflict among them. But now, with four of our children in their young adult years and only one child at home, the relationships have matured and grown beyond what I could have ever expected.

In the Easter picture of the kids, it’s interesting to take note of how they arranged themselves. My two biological daughters are on each end with my stepdaughter in the middle. In early pictures of our family, my bio children always stayed close to each other and stood side by side. But as years have changed their relationsips, they easily assume positions next to their step-siblings.

I would love to give easy, pat answers on how to mold relationships in blended families. But there are no easy answers.

It requires time, perseverance, and unending prayer. It requires constant nurturing of your marriage.  It requires going the extra mile when you don’t feel like it. It requires sacrificing some of your needs and wants for the sake of others.

But I can tell you from experience, the rewards are worth the effort.

I know there are days you want to quit. I’ve been there. Especially during the early years of our marriage, I remember thinking that single parenting was easier than trying to blend our family. If my first divorce hadn’t been so painful, I would have probably walked out. But after 16 years as a stepparent, I’m thankful I didn’t give up.

I’m also thankful that step-relationships change as time passes. It’s worth investing your time.

How have your relationships changed? Will you share it with us?

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”  Galatians 6:9

Related Posts:

Are You Willing to go the Distance as a Stepparent?

Nuggets of Wisdom from Co-Author Laura Petherbridge: The Smart Stepmom

Coping with Change






Learning to Accept the Things You Cannot Change

“Mom I have mono. The doctor thinks I’ve had it six or seven weeks. He says I might need to quit my job so I can finish out the school semester while trying to get well.”

My daughter’s words were distressing. A 21-year-old college student living in another state, I knew she had been sick but never guessed it could be mono. I felt powerless as to how I could help.

A few days later I received another call from my 21-year-old stepson, also a college student living out of state. “Gayla, I have bronchitis. The doctor put me on an antibiotic but says I need to take a few days off work and get plenty of rest.”

Again the feeling of helplessness came over me. Accepting my role as a mom living 250 miles from three of our children has been agonizing for me at times. But I can’t change it.

It reminds me of the years my stepdaughter and stepson lived with their mom more than 300 miles away and how helpless I felt about their circumstances. My stepson suffered from severe allergies and asthma but lived in a home with two parents who smoked. When he came to visit, we went to the doctor, refilled prescriptions, and sent instructions back home regarding the need to keep him isolated from smoke.

But the instructions were often disregarded.

I couldn’t change his circumstances. I couldn’t change the behavior that took place in their home. I could only control my reaction to it.

The stepparenting journey will inevitably bring unpleasant circumstances and difficult behavior we cannot change. Maybe it’s an ex-pouse. Perhaps it’s a rebellious teen-ager. Or it could be an unforeseen circumstance that disrupts your home, like my husband’s job loss that resulted in an unwanted re-location.

Regardless of the situation, we find peace when we accept what we cannot change, and choose to focus on our reaction and ability  to change what’s within our power.

I’m not saying it’s easy. I’ve had my share of pity-parties when I’ve cried out to the Lord about living so far from our children. I’ve pleaded and bargained with Him to change our circumstances.

But I don’t find peace there. I don’t find answers to my struggles. I find discontentment and hopelessness.

I find peace only when I go back to the Serenity Prayer and sincerely pray:

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,                                                                                                             Courage to change the things I can, And the wisdom to know the difference.”

What about you? Are you trying to change a circumstance you need to accept? Or have you found peace through acceptance? I’d love to hear from you.

Other Posts You Might Enjoy:

Creating Healthy Boundaries with your Ex-Spouse

Coping with Stepfamily Drama

Coping with  Stepfamily Drama Part Two

If It’s Not Working, Do Something Different

Have you ever become so stuck in your way of doing things that you can’t realize there’s a better way? Do you insist on doing things the way they’ve always been done?

Could it be time for a change at your house?

From our Thriving at the Holidays:A Stepparent’s Guide to Success e-book:

“From my early years, I had wonderful childhood memories of my parents and three sisters picking out a tree together and decorating it while engaged in lively conversation, enjoying Christmas music in the background. I was determined to carry out that blissful tradition with our blended family. But I soon discovered … that wasn’t possible.

Every year, my husband and I would gather our four children together and hit the streets for the best looking tree we could find within our budget. But every year we ended the evening with grumpy kids who were fighting over what tree looked the best. And we noticed the kids were competing with each other over what sized tree they had at their other parent’s home, creating further tension and division among themselves.

So, after several years, my husband and I finally decided to forego the stress-filled tree-shopping excursion and buy an artificial tree.

It was sad for me at first to admit that our family couldn’t enjoy the same blissful tree-shopping experience my family of origin had. I wanted our family traditions to be a way of uniting our family, though, and I knew this tradition wasn’t working for us. I soon discovered that the new tradition of retrieving the artificial tree from the attic, putting its branches in place, carefully arranging each string of lights and actually enjoying our time together was worth the change.”

What about your traditions? Are they working for you or do you need to consider a change?

Related Posts:

Holiday Tip: Live by Faith, Not Fear

Coping with Change

Thankful – In Good Times and Bad

“I have a lesion on my kidney. The doctors are running more tests today. Please pray for me.”

“My friend’s 2-year-old daughter has just been diagonsed with a malignant brain tumor. Please pray for them.”

These are words I’ve heard this week from friends. Difficult circumstances. Uncertain times. Anxious moments.

How do we continue to be thankful during hard times? I must admit there have been times this past year that I haven’t felt thankful.

I wasn’t thankful when my husband lost his job. I wasn’t thankful when I learned we had to re-locate for a new job. (although I was thankful for the job!). And I have struggled to be thankful in a new town when three of our children now live four hours away.

But God tells us to be thankful in all things. “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” I Thess 5:16-18

Did you notice the Scripture says to pray continually before we can give thanks? I think that’s the key – stay in an attitude of prayer.

Here’s a few words from a recent devotional: “The Bible says, ‘Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving.’ Only when you’ve spent time in God’s presence and drawn strength from him, will you be equal to the challenges you face on any given day.”

Only when we’ve allowed God to penetrate our heart and our mind can we be thankful when our circumstances don’t appear worthy of thanksgiving.

So, what are you thankful for today? I’m thankful for a new writing opportunity God gave me that resulted in my first e-book! The 2nd edition of the e-book, Unwrapping the Gift of Stepfamily Peace will soon be available on Amazon and other e-retailers. 

I hope you’ll check it out and tell me what you think.

Are you feeling thankful today? Will you share with us what you’re thankful for? 

Related Posts:

Being Thankful for Stepchildren

Count Your Blessings

How Do You Cope When Your Season of Life Takes an Abrupt Turn?

I knew our move out of state would be a difficult change for me. But I didn’t recognize the change of season I would experience at the same time.

I had a comfortable life in Conway, Arkansas. I was actively involved in the community as a fellow parent, school volunteer, local magazine writer, piano instructor, and active church member.

I spent most of my time involved with our children’s activities and community events. But when we moved, everything changed.

It changed because my season changed. We had two children already in college who were living away from home, but it was easy to connect with them on week-ends or evenings.

Our fourth oldest child graduated from high school last Spring and made plans to begin college in the Fall. And like her brother and sister, she began her college education in Conway.

So, we moved to Shreveport, Louisiana with one child. Our 10-year-old, Nathan, is the only child we have left at home. It creates a lump in my throat as I realize we have begun the descent to empty nest.

How did this happen? How did we go from four children at home, frequent teen-age struggles, frustrating stepchild rebellion, and unexpected late-night crises to a quiet, easy-going environment with a compliant elementary child who rarely ripples the water? 

How did our home move from one that had constant activity with countless children coming and going to a home controlled by the activity of one? 

Suddenly, I recognize the brevity of our child-rearing season of life.

I know it feels like your stepchildren will never leave home and you will always be in an unending struggle with them — but it really does change.

I know it’s hard to recognize that someday you won’t need to have frequent conversations with your difficult ex-spouse about the children’s visitation schedule — but it really does change.

I know it seems like you will never get the laundry finished, house cleaned, and meals cooked on time because there are simply not enough hours in the day — but it really does change.

And when your season of life takes an abrupt turn, how do you cope?

Lean into your faith, and rely on those you love.

Seek help from someone else who has gone through it. Because at some point, we all experience new seasons of life. 

But in our new season, we can find meaning with purposeful involvement in other’s lives around us. We can leave behind the struggles of our stepparenting years and move forward with a renewed faith in maturing relationships with our stepchildren.

So, if you’re in a child-rearing season with difficult stepchildren that seems to have no end, be encouraged. It will not last forever.

But in the midst of it, nurture the relationship with your spouse. Because when the children leave home, and your season of life takes an abrupt turn, your spouse will be there to pick up the pieces with you. 

“To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1)

Where are you in the seasons of life? Will you share your experience in the comments below?

Related Posts:

There’s Beauty After the Pain

Finding Hope in the Midst of Uncertainty

The Valley of the Unknown

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

As another school year gets underway, many stepfamilies are adjusting to new routines. Stepchildren may be adjusting to different expectations at Mom and Dad’s house with homework and after-school activities. Stepparents may be forced to alter everyday patterns to accomodate bus schedules or after-school pickup.

The changing routines can wreak havoc on a stepfamily already struggling with fragile egos and tense emotions.

For stepparents, navigating a successful path through the back to school maze takes a calm spirit and flexible attitude. 

I recall stressful mornings of years’ past as I struggled to get out the door to my full-time job while making sure our four children had breakfast, a packed lunch, school papers signed, an after-school pickup plan, and were headed to the bus by 7:30. I recall telling a counselor during our early years of marriage, “School mornings are too stressful and I’m not sure how to change it.”

Oftentimes, the only thing we can change to make stepfamily living less stressful is ourselves. I couldn’t change the crazy schedule we lived for several years with kids navigating between households, stressful jobs, and defiant attitudes. But I could change how I reacted to the stress of the situation.

When I made an intentional effort to stay calm during the heat of a battle with one of my stepchildren, I made strides toward a positive outcome while resolving the conflict. When I chose to stay flexible through an ever-changing back and forth routine with my stepchildren, I was better able to meet the demands required of me with those routines.

I’m not saying it was easy. I like routine and I want the routine to stay the same every day. But that’s simply not possible in stepfamilies.

I like an orderly home with school papers put in place, and homework assignments completed on time. But  I learned to adjust to the erratic ways of teen-agers who seem to work best with papers scattered all around while completing a project, or head-banging music that  helps them think while they finish their paper at midnight (which was always restricted to their bedroom!)

Back to school routines create yet another stressful period as stepfamilies make adjustments to accommodate one another. But with a flexible attitude and a calm spirit, we can help our stepchildren adjust to their new routines and thrive in their new school surroundings, creating an environment in our home that benefits each one of us.

How is your back to school routine going? Does it need a dose of flexibility or an extra effort toward a calm spirit?

Pic by dan