When Stepparenting Feels Too Hard – Four Ways to Overcome Discouragement

Do you have days when you want to call it quits on your stepparenting efforts? Days when it seems that no matter how hard you try, the results are not what you want?

I had one of those days recently. The challenges were not all related to stepparenting, but some were, and by the end of the day, I was not in a good place emotionally or spiritually. So, I began to consider what to do to change my negative thinking pattern. Here are some ideas that surfaced:

1. Remember that “this too will pass.” Circumstances change, relationships change, and living arrangements change. If you’re having a bad day with a stepchild, remember, he/she will eventually grow up and leave home. We had four children living at home 15 months ago and we now have one. Change is one thing we can count on, but it often brings positive results.

2.Work through difficult feelings with a friend. Allow yourself to be vulnerable with another person and consider your part in the situation. Find support through a prayer group or Bible study. But, if you cannot get past feelings of anger, rejection,or self-pity, you may need to consider stepfamily coaching  or other professional help.

3. Make an intentional effort to stay positive.  In his book, The Power of Positive Thinking, Norman Vincent Peale says, “Take charge of your thoughts. You can do what you will with them.” We can choose to think positively about our stepchild who is pushing our buttons and constructively work through conflict, or we can ruminate negatively about his/her shortcomings and create a tension-filled home. Our behavior is the result of our thoughts.

4. Find hope in the Lord. Look to the one true Source for help. Hope in the Lord brings strength, perseverance, and encouragement. Psalms 62:5-8 says, “Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from Him. He alone is my rock and my salation; He is my fortress, I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.”

Have you had a difficult day recently on your stepparenting journey? Can you offer other suggestions?

Related Posts:

When Stepparenting Isn’t What You Expected

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

Coping with Stepfamily Storms


Saying Good-bye is Never Easy

We’ve sold our home in Conway (Praise the Lord) and recently put a contract on a home in Bossier City, Louisiana. We will be moving in just a few short weeks. And the good byes I find myself in the middle of are harder every day.

The church choir I’ve played piano for the last three years gave me a nice send-off tonight. I have some wonderful friends who I’ve cried with, laughed with, and sung with. It’s hard to say good-bye to long-term friends as we move.

But it reminds me of good-byes that we sometimes have to deal with in stepfamilies. Good-byes that are not our choice but are driven by someone else’s decisions.

In her book, The Stepfamily Survival Guide, Natalie Nichols Gillespie talks about some difficult good-byes her family has endured with her stepdaughter, Lorra. “Lorra has chosen as an adult not to continue her relationship with her father and me for now, and Adam and I have sobbed on many occasions over her decision. The family all know that I have had nightmares on multiple occasions that one of my stepdaughters is getting married and I am standing outside watching through the windows because I am not allowed inside the church!”

That’s a difficult good-bye. But Natalie Gillespie can’t change the decision her step-daughter has made. She can simply pray that she will have a change of heart someday.

Good-byes are never easy. But with God’s sustaining strength, we can endure them.

“I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” (Phil 4:13)

Related Posts:

Stepparenting Heartache

Stepparenting Heartache Part Two

When Do You Seek Custody of a Stepchild?


I have a dear friend who had a gut feeling that her stepchild was being mistreated by his mother’s boyfriend. Her stepson had made several comments about happenings at his mom’s house that were concerning. So, she and her husband hired a private investigator to find out about the mom’s boyfriend.

The results were alarming. The PI uncovered several assault charges, a DUI charge, and other charges that had been filed within the previous six-month period on the boyfriend. It was enough evidence that my friend and her husband chose to seek custody of the 10-year-old boy. I think it was a wise choice.

The court hearing resulted in temporary custody for the dad and stepmom for four months while all parties participate in counseling and after that point, it will be determined where they boy should reside long-term. Although my friend has a new baby and custody of her stepson will disrupt her entire household, she has chosen the high road of doing what’s right for her stepson.

I applaud stepparents who selflessly choose to care for their stepchildren, even when it inconveniences their lives. As a stepparent, we might enter marriage with part-time custody of our stepchildren and prefer the arrangement remain that way. But stepfamily life tends to take twisted turns when we least expect them. 

Stepmothers, in particular, have a natural bent toward nurturing that allows us to recognize when things aren’t quite right with our stepchildren. I believe it’s our responsibility to act on those gut feelings and get to the bottom of what we’re concerned about. Our stepchildren deserve to be raised in a stable, healthy home and if they are being mistreated or neglected in their custodial home, we must take action to change their environment.

When we marry our spouse and choose to take on the responsibilites of a stepparent, we say, “I do — for better or for worse.” There are many times on the stepparenting journey that the circumstances get worse before they get better.

Assuming custody of stepchildren who have previously lived in another home is never easy. But it’s not right to allow our stepchildren to remain in a home that we know is not best for them. It may be that temporary custody is all that’s needed to change the other home, but it won’t happen until we step out with faith and courage.   

Are your stepchildren at risk in their custodial home? Is it time to do something different about custody arrangements?

Related Posts:

When a Stepchild Changes Residence

Coping with Change

Expect the Unexpected on Your Stepparenting Journey

New Beginnings

I love the first day of a new month. I can look at what happened last month and celebrate the highs. I can also recount the lows and commit to a better month from the beginning.

For those of us living in the South, March marks the end of Winter and beginning of Spring. This morning my 10-year-old son rode his bike to school in shorts and a short-sleeved shirt. The promise of nicer weather lifts my spirits while I tackle the challenges of life.

As I recount the previous month, I focus on what I did right in my stepparenting relationships and what I need to do differently. I’m thankful as I reflect on an incident with my stepson that I handled better than usual.

This past Sunday, my stepson spent the afternoon with us. He was complaining to his Dad and me about several relationship issues he’s struggling with. I quickly identified what I felt the problem was and wanted to blurt out his faults and how he’s contributing to the issues. Instead, I kept my mouth shut and began to pray for my  husband as he counseled his son. I know that my husband has much more influence with him than I do. And although he might not make the same suggestions I would, he has a good understanding of his son and how to help him.

Stepparenting requires us to discern when to talk and when to keep our mouth shut. More often than not, we need to voice our opinion in a private discussion with our spouse, and let him/her address the issue with his/her child. The blood bond that the biological parent shares with his child allows him a greater chance of success in correcting behavior without alienating the child than the stepparent. 

It’s also important to pray for our spouse, and pray specifically for wisdom, on the parenting journey. I love the reminder in James that says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5).

I’m thankful today for a new month. I pray it offers you a new beginning in your challenges.

Do you need to focus on a n fresh start in your stepfamily relationships? 

Related Posts:

PositiveThinking Results in Successful Stepparenting

When Our Thinking  Becomes Distorted

Parenting From Your Knees

Making Your Remarriage Work: Embrace Flexibility

My husband and I returned from a five-day anniversary trip yesterday to learn some disturbing news. My stepson, a college student living on his own with a roommate, was robbed and held at gunpoint a few days ago at his apartment. In broad daylight, the door to his apartment was kicked open, and two men ransacked his place while threatening him with his life.

I’m thankful my stepson wasn’t hurt and we believe God protected him. Feeling unsafe to stay there, we’re now faced with a decision concerning where he will live. We offered him the chance to move back home, realizing it would be an adjustment for all of us. But we want him to heal from his traumatic experience and be able to move forward without fear.

Change is an inevitable part of life. Stepfamilies encounter more change, on average, than traditional families. As children move back and forth between homes, relationships with ex-spouses and extended family members change, and jobs change to accommodate family needs, transitions seem never-ending.

If we choose to embrace flexibility, our remarriage will fare better.  We may not like the changes that occur, but if we accept them and deal with them the best we can, we will find contentment. If we fight change, we become bitter and resentful with our circumstances.

We can also be assured there will be more change as years pass. Children/stepchildren grow up and leave home, demands of the family change, and new responsibilities surface as our own parents age and the parenting roles reverse. Embracing flexibility offers a healthy outlook for our remarriage as we cope with everyday change.

What change are you currently encountering? Can you embrace a flexible attitude?

Related Posts:

Coping with Change

When a Stepchild Changes Residence

Nurture Your Marriage

Struggling With Emotions

My first born child moved out today.

Jamie is a 20-year-old college student who has been attending college in the same town we live so it was convenient (and less expensive) for her to live at home. But today she moved into an apartment with a college girlfriend.

I think it is a healthy move but I was overcome with emotions as her bed was carried out of our house. I wasn’t prepared for the tears that wouldn’t stop rolling down my face as I watched my daughter pack her belongings from her room into her car. I suddenly began reflecting on 20 years of parenting my baby girl.

And then I began wondering why I wasn’t as emotional when my stepson moved out a few months ago. He is also a 20-year-old college student who lived at home his first two years of college and moved out the first part of the summer. But his move didn’t evoke the tears and emotions I felt today.

I have a good relationship with my stepson but it is not the same kind of relationship I have with my daughter. He has never called me Mom and has made it clear to me that he has another Mom who is very important to him. I have walked lightly in my relationship with him and have never felt the love from him I feel from my daughter.

So, why have I put so much pressure on myself for the last 15 years as his stepmom to believe I had to have the same feelings for him I have for my birth children? Why have I berated myself for not being the perfect stepmom?

I carried my birth children in my womb for 9 months, nursed them for a year, and performed the role of Mom for them that no one else has. My children only have one mother.

But my stepchildren have another mother whom they love dearly (and think of fondly since her unexpected passing). I don’t want to compete with their feelings for her; but, I must admit that their relationship with her affects the kind of relationship they have with me.

I know I can make a difference and have meaningful relationships with my stepchildren when I offer them my love and affection. However, it may not replicate the love I carry for my birth children.

Stepparenting is a hard role. We make it even harder when we create expectations of ourselves we can never meet.