When Our Stepchildren are Hurting

During my stepson’s adolescent years, he often lashed out at me with hateful looks and angry words. I was caught up with feelings of injustice and couldn’t see his emotional pain.

When a friend said to me, “Hurting people hurt people,” it began to make sense. My stepson had situations in his life that he didn’t like and couldn’t control and therefore, took his feelings out on the nearest target: me.

I couldn’t always offer forgiveness readily but I would find a way to get to that point. I knew our relationship would never develop if I couldn’t act as the adult and do the right thing, regardless of his actions.

Our pastor offered some insightful thoughts on forgiveness today that I think are worth sharing. It doesn’t make forgiveness any easier but it does remind us of our role.

1. Forgiveness is always the responsibility of the person who is injured. When my stepchild offends me, I can’t wait until he offers an apology to forgive him. It is my responsibility to offer forgiveness, regardless of his actions.

2. Forgiveness is usually based on grace. I love this one! We don’t forgive others only when we think they deserve it. They may never deserve our forgiveness. But I didn’t deserve the forgiveness Christ offered me on the cross either.

3. Forgiveness might bring mutual peace. But then again, it might not. Offering our forgiveness doesn’t guarantee it will be accepted. The relationship may not be reconciled through our amends. But we can find peace through our forgiving actions.

We often become so focused on our own problems that we don’t recognize the loss and pain our stepchildren are suffering.

It isn’t easy being a stepparent. But it isn’t easy being a stepchild either.

“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Romans 12:18

Do you need to offer forgiveness to someone today?

Creating a Stable Stepfamily: Offer Love and Grace Freely

My youngest son just came back from his first overnight church camp. He told me story after story of the fun he had with his friends and the memories he made on the campground.

But then, with tears in his eyes, he told me of the many talks they had of what Jesus has done for us and the love and grace He offers us, undeserved.

As we come to the end of our posts on creating a stable stepfamily, I am reminded of the most important element of creating a stable stepfamily: offer love and grace freely to your stepchildren. Even when they don’t deserve it.

Stable relationships are formed as we show our stepchildren we love them on good days and bad, offering forgiveness to them, undeserved. It’s not easy to do and can only be accomplished through God’s strength, but will make a long-term difference in our relationships.

How can you show love and grace to your family this week-end?

Have a happy 4th of July and spend some quality time with your stepchildren!

Healthy Stepparenting #15: Don’t Keep Score

Today I conclude my series on Healthy Stepparenting tips. I want to focus on an intentional action we can take to stabilize our relationships during and after periods of conflict. It’s a simple suggestion that carries a lot of weight: Don’t keep score.

When we’ve been hurt or wronged by someone else, it’s easy to get caught up in negative thoughts toward that person. If we don’t forgive them, bitterness will creep in as we start tracking every misdeed.

What do we gain by keeping score when our spouse or stepchild wrongs us? Will it change their behavior? Does it offer any positive result for us?

Keeping score allows a prideful spirit to insist our way is right. It gets in the way of reconciliation as it airs an attitude of self-righteousness.

When we’ve been wronged, we can choose to forgive and let it go.

Perhaps we’re keeping score because we can’t overlook minor offenses. Or maybe we tend to be overly sensitive and react with anger or hurt feelings to every irritation we encounter. Some people like to dwell on other’s faults because it keeps them from looking at their own faults.

Keeping score is a dangerous game in relationships. It may offer a temporary sense of satisfaction but leads to long-term bondage. When we hold a grudge and keep track of other’s offenses, we invite disharmony into our home.

Forgiveness offers freedom. It’s an intentional choice. And it’s a choice worth making time and again.

Healthy Stepparenting #10: Offer Grace Freely

If you have biological children and stepchildren, you may find it easier to offer grace to your biological children than you do your stepchildren. But the truth is, our stepchildren greatly need and deserve our grace.

It’s easy for our biological children to feel unconditional love and acceptance from us. It’s natural for us to offer grace to the children we bore. But it may feel uncomfortable and unnatural to offer love, grace and acceptance to our stepchildren. We may not feel love toward them. We may not believe they are worthy of our grace. But we have been offered grace we don’t deserve either.

Christ offers unconditional love and never-ending grace on a daily basis. In fact, I believe Christ knew how badly I needed to feel His grace after my divorce. As a result, he gave me a second husband with the name “Grace,” allowing me to carry that name for the last 14 years. It’s a daily reminder of His grace that surrounds me.

You are probably familiar with the common acronym for Grace – God’s Riches at Christ’s Expense. But I recently heard another one I like as well – God’s Radical and Complete Embrace. What a sweet picture that paints of God’s love for us. And what a great reminder of the grace we should offer our stepchildren – radical and complete embrace.

Are you up for it? I know it may not feel comfortable or natural. But just because something isn’t comfortable for us, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it.