Coping with Unexpected Challenges on Your Stepfamily Journey

I sat by my phone anxiously, watching every text that came across. My niece was having a baby, and I wanted to know the details. Was it a boy or a girl?  What was the name? How big? How was my niece doing?

ID-100396479So many questions. The answers were slow to come. And then a revelation no one expected.

The baby was delivered, and all seemed to be fine. A beautiful baby girl. Eleanor Joy. My niece was doing great.

But without warning, another text crossed my screen. Something wasn’t right. A diagnosis no one suspected had surfaced.

Beautiful Eleanor Joy had Down Syndrome. The doctor was certain of it.

I shuddered as I reread the text. No! It can’t be! I thought. The extensive ultrasounds. The routine prenatal visits. How was it never discovered? How will my niece and her husband cope with this unexpected turn?

Questions without answers. They dominate life. How do you handle them?

In our stepfamily journey, we had an unexpected turn eight years into our marriage. We had moved past the hard transitions, and our family was beginning to enjoy more peaceful relationships. Our four children could sit at the dinner table without fighting (on occasion!)  and hope was on the horizon.

But the call from my husband’s ex-wife with unexpected news shook our family to the core. She had colon cancer—late stage. Read more

Why Reality Triumphs in Your Stepfamily

My son has an upper respiration infection.  As he whined about his symptoms while picking at his breakfast, I didn’t want to believe him. My to-do list for the day didn’t include a trip to the doctor, a two-hour wait with screaming children sliming their germs beside me, and another trip to the pharmacist.

But it didn’t matter what I was imagining in my head. My son was sick. If I had denied his symptoms, the virus lingering in his body would have continued to attack his healthy cells, creating more and more symptoms of illness. We leave for a seven-day cruise tomorrow and that’s a disaster in the making!

It’s the same in our stepfamilies. Maybe your stepdaughter doesn’t want to acknowledge the marriage of her dad to you — her stepmom. Maybe she’s fantasizing that her parents will get back together. Maybe she’s believing the lies her mom is putting in her head about you. But the truth is… reality wins!

Eventually, your stepchild will accept the reality of your presence in his or her life. Even if the biological parent in the other home is bashing you on all fronts, reality will win. Eventually, your stepchild will recognize that you’re not going away and she needs to squelch her fantasies and begin to develop a relationship with you. At some point, your stepchildren develop a mind of their own, separate from the garbage the other biological parent is feeding them, and form their own opinion of you!

It’s not easy. There may be some squirming and squealing in the process. There might be one step forward and two steps backward. But from my own experience, I can assure you — even if it seems hopeless…it’s not!  Even if there’s a lot of conflict in your stepfamily right now, it eventually subsides. I promise. (If you don’t give up).

I love Dick Dunn’s words in his book, “New Faces in the Frame.” He says, “At first you may see little or no progress. Remember that as children mature, their capacity to understand matures also. True maturity is a life-long process. In time, fantasies give way to reality, and children move on with their lives. Fantasies attach us to the past–letting go frees us for the future.”

Be gentle with your stepchildren as they learn to put aside their fantasies and live with reality. It’s not an easy process, but it will change your relationships over time. Reality triumphs every time.

Do you agree? Is your stepfamily living in reality or still struggling with fantasy?

Pic by Victor Habbick

Have you heard of our Stepmom Retreat? Come join us in Dallas September 25-27, 2015 and find hope, camaraderie with other stepmoms, and fun! Details here: http://sisterhoodofstepmoms.com/

 

 

Stepparent Mantra: Don’t Take Things Personally

Baffled by my teenage son’s behavior, I stood speechless as he slammed the door in my face. Usually a mild-mannered, easy-going kid, his outburst of anger surprised me. Had I done something to offend him? I quickly rehearsed our conversation in my head but couldn’t determine the root of his anger.

I’ve learned a few things in the midst of raising five teenagers. Sometimes they have bad days — just like we do. Their behavior likely has nothing to do with us!

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How often do we take things personally when our stepchild looks at us crossways or snarls at our innocent question about homework? I remember doing it in my younger years as a stepmom, particularly with my adolescent stepchildren. I didn’t recognize the influence of raging hormones and teenage insecurities that contributed to out-of-control behavior.

Read more

prayer for strength blended families

Power of Praying for Your Stepfamily

As I looked at the bookshelf bursting with parenting and step parenting books, my mind went a different direction. How often do I turn to a book, instead of seeking the Source with the best answer? One of my favorite Scriptures reads, “For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength” (I Corinthians 1:25). Read more