God Uses Imperfect Stepparents

The early morning text surprised me. I don’t hear from my young adult stepson a lot but sensed he needed to talk based on what I read. I picked up the phone and engaged in a lengthy conversation with him regarding his year-long relationship with his girlfriend.

God Uses Imperfect Stepparents

It was a great time to impart words of encouragement and support for his recent decision to take a step back from the relationship. I heard his feelings of discontent and sound judgment about whether they could make it long term. I heard words of wisdom that I knew were partly due to his upbringing in our home.

I will forever be an imperfect stepparent. I could spend days relaying countless ways that I messed up with my stepchildren. My stepson, Payton, and I had a strained relationship much of the time during his adolescent years. I didn’t know how to raise a son and didn’t spend enough time “studying” Payton so I could parent him better. But God used my imperfect efforts and continues to redeem a less-than-perfect relationship.

If you’re struggling with a stepchild relationship that feels it’s on a downward spiral, don’t give up. God redeems relationships every day. We don’t have to have all the answers. But we do need to do our part in apologizing when we’re wrong and seeking to improve our stepparenting ways to foster a healthy relationship.

The stepparenting journey often includes one step forward and two steps backward, particularly in the early years. But don’t underestimate your value with your stepchildren. Stepparents who choose to stay the course, through the good times and bad, will make a difference in the lives of their stepchildren.

Do you agree? How is God using you as an imperfect stepparent?

Pic by graur codrin

Related Posts:

Learning How to Love My Stepchildren

Seeing God’s Mercy on Difficult Days

Finding Success Through the Bumps on Your Stepparenting Journey

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Danger of Favoritism in Your Stepfamily

“I don’t feel the same way toward my stepchildren as I do my biological children,” a stepmother recently admitted. “I feel guilty when I say that, but it’s the truth.” “That’s okay, ” I replied. “The challenge comes in treating them the same, regardless of how you feel.”

The Danger of Favoritism in Your StepfamilyI understand how this stepmom feels. It’s easier to love a child who you carried in your womb, nursed for a period of time, watched his first smiles, and heard his first words. There is a natural love that develops with your own child.

It’s different with stepchildren. They come to us at varying stages of life. Sometimes they enter our lives at a young age, other times they’re young adults or older. Oftentimes they come with their own feelings toward gaining a stepparent, and those feelings aren’t always good.

So why do we beat ourselves up as stepparents when we don’t have an automatic love for our stepchidren? Why do we put so much pressure on ourselves to have a perfect relationship with them from the beginning?

Perhaps society creates this image. Especially with moms, it’s assumed we can easily play out our maternal role, regardless of who’s on the other end. But that simply isn’t the case.

Relationships grow over time. And there are two parties involved in your stepparenting relationship – you and your stepchild. You can influence your side of the relationship, but you have no control over many of the influences your stepchild is receiving.

So, you may feel a different love toward your stepchildren than your biological children, but you must strive to treat them equally. Stepchildren feel like outsiders when they’re treated as “less than” and will not integrate into a stepfamily when they sense unfairness.

A predictable outcome of parental favoritism is competition between siblings and sibling rivalry, which stepfamilies are set up for already. And when siblings are close in age, parents must be even more diligent about how they treat each child.

That doesn’t mean you can never have one-on-one time with your child or you must spend the exact amount of money on each one. Even in biological families, circumstances dictate how parents spend money and time with their children.

For a non-custodial parent, there’s nothing wrong with spending time alone with your children when they come to visit. But be sure to allow time with the rest of the family too. It’s also not unusual to spend more money on one child than another at certain times. During our kids’ high school years, my daughter required tutoring for several years. We spent hundreds of dollars getting her through  high school math that we didn’t spend on the other kids.

The real issue with favoritism in stepfamilies, according to stepfamily authority Ron Deal, is “a heart issue, not a time or money issue.” As stepparents, our heart feels differently toward our stepchildren than our biological children. But one of the hidden gifts of stepfamilies is learning to love our stepchildren as God loves us. We can choose love, even if we don’t feel it. 

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

We didn’t deserve God’s love and grace. But He offered it anyway.

It might be easier to offer preferential treatment to your children, based on how you feel. But your stepchildren deserve equality. Will you commit to the high road of fairness?

How do you overcome the challenge of favoritism in your stepfamily?

 

Setting Boundaries with Your Stepchildren

My stepson moved from Conway, AR to Austin, TX this past week. After graduating from college, he opted to explore the big-city scene of Austin as a single person. He spent a few days at our house during the transition.

austin capitalThe weeks prior to the move, we were in contact with him almost daily regarding details like renting a U-haul, finding the best apartment, budgeting his finances for the move, etc. A dilemma surfaced regarding how to pull a trailer when his Jeep didn’t have a trailer hitch. Since I drive a car with a trailer hitch, my husband suggested we let him borrow my car and pull the trailer behind it.

I bristled at the suggestion. My stepson has totalled one vehicle and allowed a friend to drive his next vehicle, which the friend totalled. Knowing my stepson has little experience in pulling a trailer made me even more uncomfortable. I pleaded my case for another option and thankfully, my husband agreed.

During the short period my stepson stayed at our house, he asked if I would help with his laundry. It was a small favor I knew would help without a huge sacrifice on my part. Our kids are taught to do their own laundry as teenagers, but saying yes to laundry that day was okay with me.

Boundary setting requires wisdom and sensitivity on our part as stepparents. The boundaries you set in your home will look different than what I set in my home. And boundaries change as our children mature.

Saying no to driving my car was a boundary I felt strongly about it. But doing my stepson’s laundry to help with his move was a gesture of love for me. If we can say yes we need to say yes – that’s part of building a loving relationship with our stepchildren. But when we need to say no, say no.

Our actions or inactions in setting boundaries teach others how to treat us. We can require respect from our stepchildren, even if they don’t like us. Team up with your spouse and set some ground rules (i.e. yelling is not allowed–even when you’re angry), and follow through with consequences if they’re not followed.

I like the way veteran stepmom Sue Thoele discusses boundaries in The Courage to be a Stepmom, “With practice and commitment, taking care of ourselves and setting self-nurturing limits can become second nature. Cultivating the ability to say “no” to unreasonable responsibilities and expectations makes it easier for us to say “yes” to love and laughter.”

As stepparents, we make endless sacrifices for our stepchildren with few rewards, especially in the beginning. It’s our responsibility to determine what boundaries we need to put in place to foster thriving relationships. When we allow disrespect, or behavior that goes against what we can tolerate, we invite resentment into our heart and home.

If you’re struggling with boundaries, I recommend reading Boundaries, When to Say Yes and When to Say No to Take Control of Your Life by Drs. Cloud and Townsend. Healthy boundaries impact all areas of our life and enable us to recognize our limits and seek balance as stepparents.

Are you successful in setting boundaries with your stepchildren? I would love to hear your thoughts.

Related Posts:

The Power of Boundaries as a Stepparent – Part One

The Power of Boundaries as a Stepparent – Part Two

Creating Healthy Boundaries with your Ex-Spouse

The Value of a Stepdad

 My husband, Randy, and I will celebrate 17 years of marriage this year. My youngest daughter,  Jodi  (pictured) was 2 1/2 years old when we married. I had no idea what an influence my husband    would be with Jodi.

Jodi bonded easily with Randy from the beginning. She wanted to call him “Dad” at an early age, but my ex-husband forbade it. So, she called him by his first name until she got old enough to make her own choice. Then, she called him Dad.

Jodi’s biological dad floated in and out because of a life wrecked by addiction. There were many months we didn’t know where he was or if he was still alive. But every step of the way, Randy was there for her.

Randy will readily admit he wasn’t a perfect stepparent. As we blended our four children, we experienced emotional melt-downs and parenting collisions. We faced ex-spouse pressures and co-parenting conflicts. But Randy stayed the course, through the good and bad.

During Jodi’s elementary years, Randy taught her to ride a bike, helped with homework, and carpooled her to sleepovers and birthday parties. During middle school, Randy was Jodi’s biggest cheerleader as she tried out for the track team – running with her during her training season, and attending every meet he could. And through her high school years, Randy stayed close by her side – counseling her through boyfriend dilemmas, challenging maturity in her faith, and encouraging wise choices in her every day walk.

So, it was only natural when Jodi was selected for Homecoming Court as a high school senior, that she asked Randy to escort her on the football field. It was a proud moment for him that Friday night to walk arm in arm as her dad, a reward for many years of faithful stepparenting.

The stepparenting journey takes a different route for each of us. Some get to play more active roles than others. But we can each have a positive impact on our stepchildren if we commit to the journey, persevering through the challenges, celebrating the victories, and cherishing the relationships that are developed along the way, even if they aren’t perfect.

Do you recognize your value as a stepparent? If you’re a stepdad, how will you celebrate Father’s Day? I would love to hear from you.

Related Posts:

Creating a Stable Stepfamily: Commit to the Long Run

Character that Counts

Do You Feel Like an Outsider as a Stepparent?

Learning How to Love My Stepchildren

As I continue my stepmom stories from our Stepping with Purpose e-book, I’m including one today from Laura Petherbridge, co-author of The Smart Stepmom. I think you’ll find her story encouraging.

“If I’m being totally honest there were times in my early years as a stepmom that I didn’t even like my stepsons, much less love them. To me they appeared spoiled and pampered, plus everyone in my husband’s family seemed to tip-toe around their wants and whines. This was the total opposite of the extremely strict, “children are seen and not heard,” single parent home in which I was raised.

  But as a Christian I desired to learn how to love them. I knew Christ could teach me, if I was willing. My heart’s cry was to be a loving stepmom who had a positive influence on my husband’s sons. So I prayed, and sought God’s wisdom.

The first thing God revealed to me was that I had a tainted view of the boys. They were hurting kids, not bratty villains. Their sharp, stinging comments were merely an angry response to their circumstances. They didn’t view me as a wonderful new addition to their family; to them I was the new woman rocking their boat of security. In their eyes, I was taking away their Daddy.

Plus, I had to accept that just because I was raised in a stern home with firm rules didn’t mean that was how my husband or his former wife wanted to raise their children. I was not the parent – they were. Therefore, unless the kids were being disrespectful or harmful to me, it was not my place to interfere. For a control freak like me it was extremely  hard to do, but if my marriage was to survive I had to step back, and let go of the things I could not control.

The second discovery I made was that God would use the good and the bad in my life for His glory, if I let Him. He wanted to transform my painful childhood into a channel to love. My dad remarried twice after the divorce from my mom. Therefore, I knew what it felt like to be the child who moved from the front seat in my dad’s car and life, to the back seat. This revelation stirred in me a tremendous compassion toward my stepsons. I understood it wasn’t me they were rejecting, but the circumstances. And they were afraid of more change.

Thirdly, I encountered the “Daddy Wound” to my own soul. One of the things that used to infuriate me about my stepsons was the way they treated their dad. I felt they were neglectful, rude and unappreciative. My husband was diligent to visit his kids and to pay child support on time. He would get excited and make plans for visitation, but at the last  minute the boys would cancel. I’d watch him break down and cry saying, “They don’t believe that I love them, they don’t want to spend time with me.”

I was enraged and would think to myself, “I longed to have a dad who wanted to spend time with me, but he was always too busy. You have a loving father who is willing to give his time and resources and this is how you treat him. How dare you?” The toxic thoughts would brew inside of me, until one day God broke through my wall of pain. He revealed that my fury was a “knee jerk” reaction to my own deep seated feelings of abandonment.

As my Heavenly Daddy revealed all of these things, I surrendered my anger, frustration, and the need to be in control. He began to heal the wounds in my little soul, and filled the hole of shame and loneliness that had resided there for so long with His unconditional love. The freedom and peace that followed flowed into a love for others, including my stepsons.

Each stepfamily has its own hurdles, ours is no different. Choosing and learning to love my stepsons didn’t automatically fix every problem. But it did teach me how to see them through Christ’s eyes, and  not my own. And that transforms everything.”

Laura Petherbridge is an international author and speaker who serves couples and single adults with topics on relationships, stepfamilies, singles, divorce prevention, and divorce recovery. She is the author of When “I Do” Becomes “I Don’t,” and a featured expert on the DivorceCare DVD series. Her book The Smart Stepmom, is co-authored with stepfamily expert Ron L. Deal. Her website is www.TheSmartStepmom.com

Will you please join us at our next stepmom retreat? It’s a great place for hope, healing, and camaraderie with other stepmoms walking the same journey. Details here: http://sisterhoodofstepmoms.com/

 

Other Posts You Might Like:

Celebrating Mother’s Day as a Stepmom

Affirming You in Your Role as a Childless Stepmom

Sick of Stepparenting?