Why Reality Triumphs in Your Stepfamily

My son has strep throat. As he whined about his symptoms while picking at his breakfast yesterday, 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, another trip to the pharmacist, and a sick child at home for two days.

But it didn’t matter what I was imagining in my head. My son was sick. If I had sent him to school, the virus lingering in his body would have continued to attack his healthy cells, creating more and more symptoms of illness. Eventually, I would have heard from him and the trip to the doctor would have been later in the day, which would have included even more time in the waiting room with too many germy, screaming kids to count!

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 their 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 April near St. Louis and find hope, camaraderie with other stepmoms, and fun! Details here: http://sisterhoodofstepmoms.com/

 

  

Tips for an Enjoyable Stepfamily Vacation

Throwing family members together for an extended period of time can wreak havoc on even the most stable family. For a fragile stepfamily, it can be a recipe for disaster.

Tips for a Peaceful Stepfamily Vacation

So if you’re headed out for an adventure with your stepfamily, take along a few tools to keep peace. Here are some tips to consider:

1.  Ask your stepchildren for help in the planning stage.

Gather ideas and brainstorm options at a family meeting to gain participation from everyone.  Kids feel included and assume a better attitude about a vacation when they get to offer their ideas. While relationships are bonding in the early years of your stepfamily, make plans for shorter trips to prevent tension-filled days as a result of too much togetherness.

2. Make the trip fun and spontaneous by breaking a few house rules.

Bring along your sense of humor and allow the kids special privileges they don’t get at home. On our first cruise, our youngest son spotted the self-serve ice cream machine the first day. For the first few days, ice cream was only allowed after noon. But by the last day of the cruise, the ice cream rule evolved to ice cream at breakfast and other times throughout the day. The kids knew it was a special treat that would change when we returned home, but they fondly recall running to the ice cream machine together as one of the highlights of the cruise.

3. Be mindful of the kids.

A stepfamily vacation isn’t the time to insist on quality moments with your partner–that can happen on a separate trip with just the two of you. For a successful stepfamily vacation, assume a mindset of creating lasting bonds and memories. Seek to make it a special time for the kids. Even if they don’t acknowledge your efforts now, they will remember the time and energy you spent on family vacations when they get older.

4. Build in down time to rest and recuperate and maintain a flexible spirit.

 Stepfamily vacations don’t always feel relaxing, especially in the early years. Make an extra effort to find activities that promote rest and leisure without a jam-filled schedule. Sit outside and enjoy the sunset or catch the fireflies on a lazy evening. Be willing to change your schedule if plans don’t go as anticipated. Memories are created as family members spend time together doing activities they enjoy, whether simple or elaborate.

5. Keep a positive attitude and expect a few bumps along the way.

Unlikely happenings occur on vacation.  On a cross-country trip several years ago, I watched in horror as a large concrete truck backed into our Suburban, smashing the driver’s window and denting in the driver’s door before coming to a halt. I remember the screaming and sheer panic I felt as I watched the truck ram our vehicle. It screeched to a halt before injuring anyone, but our vacation spirits were dampened as we recovered from the frenzy and repaired our car enough to proceed. We drove the entire week with plastic rattling from the window in an attempt to silence the wind. We laugh with our kids about the disaster of that trip now, but my husband and I had to work hard to keep the tragic beginning from ruining our trip.

Be reasonable with your expectations, particularly in the early years of your stepfamily. Stepparents lose their patience, cars break down, step-siblings argue, kids get sick. Unrealistic assumptions create a sense of failure when plans go awry.

Stepfamily vacations play an important role in creating family identity and a sense of belonging with stepchildren. As relationships bond, it’s easier to spend extended time together. Don’t give up on a peaceful vacation, even if you experience tension-filled days.  Try again next year and the year after that. The memories you’re creating with your stepfamily are meaningful, even if they’re not perfect!

What tips would you add for a peaceful stepfamily vacation?

Related Posts:

As a Stepfamily, You Can Expect Challenges

Stinkin’ Thinkin’ Creates Bitter Quitters in Stepfamilies

The Effects of Patience in Blended Families

Finding Success Through the Bumps on Your Stepparenting Journey

As I listened to my husband on the other end of the phone with his daughter, I knew something bad had happened. He handed the phone to me and said, “She wants to talk to you.”

1170300_important_callThrough tears, my stepdaughter, Adrianne, relayed that her boyfriend of six years had broken up with her. When she was home over Christmas, she had told us she thought they would be getting engaged in 2013. Obviously, that’s not going to happen.

My heart is breaking for her. I know she’ll work through her sadness but at 27 years old, she’s invested a lot of time in a relationship that’s come to a halt.

I’m thankful she has reached out to us during her difficult hour. She asked if she could come spend next week-end with us. Of course, we’re happy to have her drive the three hours to our place and visit any time.

Here’s the paradox of stepparenting. During her adolescent years, we had the typical stepmom-stepdaughter relationship — highly strained the majority of the time. Research shows the stepmom-stepdaughter relationship is often the most difficult. Our relationship was no different.

However, as she matured through her young adult years, Adrianne began reaching out to me more often.  She began asking my opinion on issues and calling us more regularly. She made it a priority to attend family vacations with us and create stronger relationships with her stepsisters.

Well into the second decade of our marriage, Adrianne and I have a wonderful relationship. I’m thankful we’ve been able to connect and can now enjoy our time together, instead of walking on egg shells when she’s around.

Does it have to take that long to bond with your stepchild? No! Some stepparents connect easily and find stepparenting a joy. But many do not.

The adolescent years of stepparenting are tough. It’s easy to slip into thinking that the relationship will always be strained.

The teen-age years may take a heavy toll on your relationship. But kids do grow up and often recognize the value of their parents when they leave the nest.

Don’t give up on finding success on your stepparenting journey. Maybe you won’t find it in the first decade of your marriage. Maybe it won’t happen until your stepchildren leave home.

But it’s never too late to enjoy the success of a thriving stepfamily relationship when it happens.

Is it taking longer than you hoped to find success on your stepparenting journey? Will you share about it?

Related Posts:

Learning How to Love my Stepchildren

Is It A Privilege to be a Stepparent?

Are You Willing to go the Distance as a Stepparent?

 

How to Cope with Holiday Drama in Your Stepfamily

A portion of a new chapter from our e-book this year:

“Drama and stepfamily holidays seem to go together. With so many variables in play it’s likely than an event, unexpected circumstance, or family member will spark a conflict. Emotions become heightened and angry words are hurled. Before the shopping even begins, the holiday season carries an unpleasant damper.

cruise decorBut the season doesn’t have to be perfect to be meaningful. Unexpected drama can be extinguished if we don’t ignite the flame. A bumpy day can end with a beautiful sunset. But it requires intentional effort toward positive solutions when drama arises.

Holiday drama comes in many forms. Below are a few suggestions on how to conquer common stepfamily themes with a positive perspective.

Negotiating the Schedule:

‘My husband allows his ex to control the holiday schedule and I don’t even want to discuss it this year,” a new stepmother moaned. “I have very little say in how we celebrate because it has to go her way.’

Not discussing the schedule doesn’t solve the problem. Pro-actively negotiating with the ex-spouse does. But it takes calculated effort.

I’ve watched stepparents procrastinate the holiday discussion because they know it creates tension. When the unresolved schedule hangs over everyone’s head, the tension is already there. The best approach starts with supporting one another by: discussing your desire regarding the schedule in your home first, attempting a positive discussion with your ex-spouse, and negotiating the schedule until it is agreeable.

I have more success negotiating the schedule with my ex-spouse when I go into the conversation expecting to find success for both our homes. If I assume he will be disobliging the meeting is immediately tension-filled, resulting in disagreement. Small successes can lead to big victories over time. If I establish a positive pattern, it creates an environment that allows better negotiating year after year.

If your ex is especially difficult, you can preface the conversation with, ‘I want to interact peacefully with you as we discuss the schedule and will do my part to work out the details with you as fairly as possible.” You can’t control his/her interaction, but you can begin the conversation amicably be offering a sincere and humble heart. If the conversation turns confrontational, take a break and reconvene another time. … ”

Go here to buy the e-book and read on:http://amzn.to/SQGIJ2 

Other topics of drama included in this chapter are: coping with entitled stepchildren and strained co-parenting.

I hope you’ll check it out and let us know what you think.

How do you cope with holiday drama? Please share.

Related Posts:

Holiday Mantra for Stepparents: Don’t Take it Personally

Coping with Difficult Emotions Through the Holidays

Holiday Tip: Live by Faith, Not Fear

 

 

 

 

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?

Step-Relationships Change as Time Passes

Our family enjoyed a long Easter week-end with four of our five children home. As I watched our kids interact, I couldn’t help but reminisce of times past when we encountered constant bickering and conflict among them. But now, with four of our children in their young adult years and only one child at home, the relationships have matured and grown beyond what I could have ever expected.

In the Easter picture of the kids, it’s interesting to take note of how they arranged themselves. My two biological daughters are on each end with my stepdaughter in the middle. In early pictures of our family, my bio children always stayed close to each other and stood side by side. But as years have changed their relationsips, they easily assume positions next to their step-siblings.

I would love to give easy, pat answers on how to mold relationships in blended families. But there are no easy answers.

It requires time, perseverance, and unending prayer. It requires constant nurturing of your marriage.  It requires going the extra mile when you don’t feel like it. It requires sacrificing some of your needs and wants for the sake of others.

But I can tell you from experience, the rewards are worth the effort.

I know there are days you want to quit. I’ve been there. Especially during the early years of our marriage, I remember thinking that single parenting was easier than trying to blend our family. If my first divorce hadn’t been so painful, I would have probably walked out. But after 16 years as a stepparent, I’m thankful I didn’t give up.

I’m also thankful that step-relationships change as time passes. It’s worth investing your time.

How have your relationships changed? Will you share it with us?

“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

Related Posts:

Are You Willing to go the Distance as a Stepparent?

Nuggets of Wisdom from Co-Author Laura Petherbridge: The Smart Stepmom

Coping with Change