Loving Your Stepchild Won’t Happen Naturally

If you’ve been married or living with a stepchild longer than six months, I’m sure you recognize the truth in this statement. As much as I wish it to be true, loving a stepchild doesn’t happen naturally.

I talk to stepparents every day and I hear stories of how everybody got along so well until they married or began living together. Then relationships began to change.

It’s not uncommon for a stepparent to begin a stronger role as a parent when stepkids are living in the home, often creating friction in the relationship. And naturally, there’s no hiding who we really are with one another when we live together. Suddenly we begin to see a different side of our stepchild.

What do you do if you feel less than loving toward your stepchild? Don’t panic. And don’t berate yourself for it either. It’s natural.

Give yourself permission to grow a relationship with your stepchild over time. Don’t put expectations around the relationship or define what it’s supposed to look like. Your relationship with your stepchild is YOUR relationship. Don’t compare it to someone else’s or feel guilty for your feelings. Loving a stepchild takes time and effort.

If you’re doing your part to reach out to your stepchild and bond through relationship-building behavior, then accept whatever stage the relationship is at. Some days you might feel love for your stepchild and the next day feel not-so-loving 🙂 But time is on your side and as you build experiences and memories together, love follows.

It may never be the same type of love you have for a biological child. And depending on other variables (age of child, influence of other bio-parent, etc.) there might a degree of distance that you can’t change. But don’t give up. Continue to do your part to grow a loving relationship with your stepchild.

The rewards of stepparenting don’t appear early in the journey. But they’re far more rewarding down the road because you know you earned those rewards–they didn’t happen naturally just as a love for your stepchild won’t happen naturally. But it can happen!

Cherish your relationship today. Not the relationship you wish it were or the relationship you expect it to be next year. Where are you at today? It’s okay if it’s not perfect. Acceptance is the first key to change.

And if you want to grow a deeper love for your stepchildren, accept them for who they are and offer grace more freely for their shortcomings, expecting nothing in return. I know it’s  not easy but you’ll be blessed in the process!

“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

Other thoughts on learning to love your stepchildren? I’d love to hear them!

Pic by Stuart Miles

 

Are You Thriving or Surviving as a Stepparent?

I’m recovering from the stomach virus -bleh- and I can tell you that for the last two days, I’ve simply survived!

You know the feeling, right? You can barely lift your head off the pillow and wonder if your stomach will ever feel normal again.

Thankfully, today I’m better! I’m beginning to think I can thrive again as a person! But for awhile, I questioned if I would ever feel good again.

Sometimes those same feelings invade us as a stepparent. Days are just plain hard. The pain of rejection or hurt from being misunderstood creeps in and swallows up our ability to thrive. Tears flow freely because we’ve been down this road before and begin to wonder if things will ever get easier. We tell our friend, “I’m barely surviving on this stepparenting journey.”

Don’t lost hope. We all have those days. But you don’t have to stay stuck there. Realize that God can use your pain to teach you and mature you. Character is birthed out of pain.

And then you will find a way to thrive again.

In his book, “The In-Between,” Jeff Goins quotes a difficult stepfamily story:

“Eighteen years ago my daughter revealed that her stepdad was sexually abusing her. In all the fallout afterward, I waited, prayed, and worked toward healing. Three years passed before the sun began to shine again on our lives, and many more years passed before complete healing happened for all family members. In the waiting, I grew closer to God and stronger in my faith. I learned to ask God, “What do You have for me to learn from this situation?” rather than demanding, “Why did You let this happen?”

There was a period of surviving before this family could thrive again. But instead of wasting her pain, this mother grew closer to God and stronger in her faith.  She made every effort to learn the lesson God wanted to teach her during that difficult period.

We don’t get to thrive every day on our stepparenting journey. Sometimes there are lessons to be learned along the way. Sometimes others in our stepfamily have lessons to be learned before we can thrive again. But there’s always hope for a new tomorrow if we don’t give up.

Success is only found after a period of struggle in almost every endeavor. But the pain of surviving gives us gratitude for the days of thriving. Without the storms, we would never see the rainbows.

If you’re simply surviving today, keep pressing forward toward thriving again. You’ll find the rainbow when it’s time.

Are you in a season of thriving or surviving? Will you share it with us?

“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.” – Helen Keller

Pic by Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Celebrate Mother's Day with Stepmoms

Five Great Ways to Celebrate Mother’s Day as a Stepmom

One of the hardest hurdles to cope with as a stepparent is the reality that we make the same sacrifices as a biological parent but  reap very few rewards for our efforts. In his book, The Smart Stepfamily, Ron Deal gives three reasons why the stepmother role is even more difficult than the stepfather role.

“First, children tend to maintain more frequent contact with their noncustodial mothers. Second, children’s attachment to their biological mother is believed to be stronger than their attachment to their father, making the acceptance and bonding with a stepmother even more difficult. Third, because society expects women to achieve a higher relational standard than men, stepmothers feel greater pressure to build a strong attachment with stepchildren.”

We know it’s not easy being a stepmother, right? Thus, we have every reason to celebrate and affirm ourselves on Mother’s Day for what we do for our stepchildren. But we don’t have to wait and let our stepchildren’s response control our day.

Five Great Ways to Celebrate Mother's Day as a StepmomIt’s natural for stepchildren to honor their biological mom on Mother’s Day. Unfortunately, that could mean the stepmom gets left out.

So why not choose to create your own special day? Here are a few suggestions:

1. Spend Saturday night at a Bed and Breakfast and wake up Sunday morning to a breakfast prepared for you. Re-connect with your spouse as you reminiscence and celebrate the good things happening in your stepfamily.

2. Find another stepmom who’s  having a difficult time and spend the afternoon with her. Encourage her efforts and talk through her challenges. Laugh together and affirm each other for the special role you’re playing as you’re making a difference in your stepchildren’s lives.

3. Abandon your house and spend the day at a nearby lake, beach, bike path or hiking trail. Absorb the beauty of nature and remind yourself of God’s love for you through His creation, His sovereignty over your life, and His willingness to walk with you through difficult times.

4. Attend your favorite church service with a beautiful corsage on, signifying the important role you play as a stepmom. Then spend the afternoon with your spouse creating a “God box” that outlines prayer concerns for your stepfamily on small pieces of paper. As you drop each concern in the box, pray for your family’s needs. Keep the box going for an entire year and re-visit the box next year to see how God has answered your prayers.

5. Give yourself the gift of relaxation with a good book, time at the movies or a day at the spa with a girlfriend. Eat at your favorite restaurant and tell your family you’ll be taking the day off from chores. Pamper yourself in whatever way feels special to you.

Mother’s Day doesn’t have to be a difficult day for stepmoms. Plan your own celebration! You deserve it! And if your husband’s looking for a gift idea for you, tell him to send you to the Stepmom Retreat in September. It will be a great time of fellowship with other stepmoms and a place to find help, healing, and hope on your journey. Go here for details: http://blendedandbonded.com/events/

How are you celebrating this week-end? I would love to hear about it!

Pic by  posterize.  This post was originally posted 5/9/2012

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When You Don’t Feel Love Toward Your Stepchild

I’ll never forget the day my stepson shot back at me, “You’re not my mom, Gayla. My mom would support my decision.”

I disagreed on an important decision he was making and voiced my opinion. I chose not to respond to his hurtful words and for a few days following, I didn’t feel love toward my stepson.

When You Don't  Feel Love for your Stepchild

Does that make me a bad person? No. I’m human. I needed some time to consider what he said and ask God to help me love him, despite my hurt.

I knew there was more behind my stepson’s words than his disagreement. What he was saying to me was, “I miss my mom. I wish she were here so I could have this conversation with her.” But she wasn’t. She had passed away just a short time earlier after a fierce battle with colon cancer. He was reacting toward me in anger to his loss.

It’s not always easy to live with the behavior of our stepchildren and feel love toward them. Here are a few things to consider on those days:

1.  Recognize their loss. Stepfamilies are born of loss and your stepchild might be dealing with layers of loss. As they go through life transitions such as adolescence, graduating from high school, etc. their loss is resurrected from years’ past and felt again. Try to be empathetic toward the feelings that are impacting their behavior.

2. Be the adult. Yes, it’s easy to stoop to the level of one attacking you, but someone needs to act like an adult.  I’m not saying it’s easy – on more than one occasion I had to withdraw from a conversation to keep from saying something I shouldn’t. But if we say hurtful words back, it  compounds the ill effects.

3. Take a time out when you need one. No one expects you to withstand painful happenings without taking time to recharge yourself. Determine what works for you to refresh yourself mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Maybe it’s coffee with a girlfriend, a long afternoon walk, or a week-end away with your spouse.

4. Let the biological parent be in the charge. When you’re struggling with less-than-loving feelings toward your stepchild, step back and let the biological parent handle everyday situations. Our emotions get in the way of healthy reactions when we’re hurt, making it more difficult to address misbehavior or parenting decisions.

5. Pray for resolve. Allow God to soften your heart and pray the same for your stepchild. Look past the hurt toward a long-term relationship that’s willing to make sacrifices. It’s not unusual to have days you don’t feel love toward your stepchild. But if you’re in it for the long run, you want to work through those days and seek a long-term loving relationship.

Do you have other thoughts to offer? I would love to hear them.

Picture by Stuart Miles

 

Dear Stepparent: Let Go of the Guilt

I often wonder why we so easily assume feelings of guilt surrounding our stepparenting journey. Why can’t we accept we’re imperfect? Why do we insist we must do everything right or our stepchildren will never love or accept us?

Perhaps society dictates that to us, particularly as stepmoms. But it isn’t true. And guilt is a powerful emotion. As long as you choose to feel guilty for the things you’ve done wrong, God cannot use the things you’ve done right for His glory.

So today and every day forward, I want you to focus on letting go of the guilt for:

  • Choosing to take a break from stepparenting when you know you need one.
  • Supporting your husband in disciplining his children.
  • Embracing a career that satisfies you.
  • Spending time with a girlfriend to nourish your soul.
  • Loving your stepchild in spite of his/her flaws.
  • Choosing to stay out of the relationship between your spouse and his ex.
  • Encouraging your spouse to spend time his biological child…alone.
  • Not loving your stepchild the same way you love your own child.
  • Making a less-than-perfect choice…again.
  • Putting your needs ahead of your stepchildren’s needs at times.
  • Doing fun things with your children, even if your stepchildren aren’t with you.
  • Planning a date night.
  • Spending time with your biological child…alone.
  • Choosing to embrace your new family, despite what others think.

Where do you struggle with guilt and how have you overcome it? Will you share it with us?

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.