Celebrate the Highs and Lows of Stepparenting

 

Africa homecoming

My oldest daughter just returned home after spending eight months in Mozambique, Africa on a long-term missions opportunity. We’re excited to have her back and I couldn’t help but celebrate our stepfamily journey as I saw her reunite with her sister and stepsister at the airport.

(Jamie is in the middle, stepsister on left, sister on right).

Jamie and her stepsister, Adrianne, had little love or even like for each other during Jamie’s teen years. It was difficult to even have them in the same room together for long.

Thankfully, today, that relationship is different. The girls have grown up and matured. They accept each other’s differences and love each other despite their imperfections. They may not get along perfectly, but they seek to have a good relationship with one another.

Without the struggles of yesteryears, I wouldn’t appreciate the relationship today. I’ll be forever thankful for the growth in their relationship.

Our stepfamily journey, however, is far from perfect. But today I choose to celebrate the highs of our journey instead of dwelling on the lows.

Expect a revolving door of lows and highs on your stepfamily journey. But don’t stop persevering through the challenges. Some day you will look back and celebrate the growth in your relationships.

Here’s an excerpt from an article I wrote on perseverance as a stepparent, published in Lifeway’s Parenting Teens. For the complete article and other great reading, pick up a copy of the publication here.

“Perseverance is a foreign word in too many homes. [As a stepparent] without a firm commitment to trudge through the challenges that come your way, you won’t make it. It’s tough. Very few stepfamilies escape what stepfamily authority Ron Deal calls the ‘wilderness wanderings.’ The wanderings will look and feel differently for every stepfamily, but just as the Israelites wandered aimlessly through the wilderness for 40 years, you will endure days, and possibly years, of hardship and suffering in your stepfamily.

If you don’t determine ahead of time that you will persevere when it gets tough, you will turn back. You won’t find the blessings that accompany your journey in the end. Stepfamily statistics confirm that.”

Will you share some highs or lows of your stepparenting journey? How are you celebrating them?

 

Journey Through the Stages of Remarriage with Success!

As we consider a new year, I think it’s important to look at where we’re at in our stepfamily relationships. I wrote an article earlier this year that includes how to navigate the stages of remarriage. I hope you find it helpful as you seek to move through your current stage with success and embark on the next one. Happy New Year!

“It’s harder than I thought it would be,” my friend commented of her new marriage. “I don’t understand his kids and we’re not on the same page when it comes to parenting. I hope it gets easier with time or I don’t know if we’ll make it.”

Remarriage, when children are part of the package, creates unique challenges. Surviving the first few years of remarriage proves to be the hardest. Stepfamily authority Ron Deal reports that 25% of step-couples divorce within the first two years; 50% divorce within the first three.

Stepfamilies don’t have to fail. But step-couples must understand the difficulties facing them. Parents and their biological children come to the remarriage with emotional “blood bonds,” stronger than those of the new step-couple.

Children join a stepfamily while often grieving the loss of a parent to death or divorce and experience major adjustments with crippling emotions. But with intentional effort, a willingness to grow as relationships evolve, and plenty of time and patience, remarriage with children can result in harmonious relationships.

New Faces in the Frame, a workbook created by Dick Dunn to guide remarried couples with children, outlines six stages that stepfamilies often experience. If a family gets stuck in one stage for an extended period, it easily results in failure for the marriage. Navigating the stages requires healthy communication by the step-couple, the ability to adapt to change, and the resolve to solve conflict as it occurs.

The first stage of infatuation occurs when two people fall in love and decide to marry. Many couples at this stage are blind to the difficulties they will encounter as a stepfamily. They negate their children’s feelings about their relationship and refuse to listen to others’ opinions. It doesn’t take long, however, for infatuation to give way to reality.

The questioning stage follows next as the step-couple begins to recognize the difficulties of blending their new family. One or both partners begins to seriously question if remarriage was a good choice. I remember clearly the questioning stage of my remarriage and reflecting on how it seemed easier to be a single parent than cope with the daily challenges in our new family. I considered going back to my single parenting days. However, I had committed to my marriage, “for better or for worse,” and chose to continue the journey. For many remarriages, the questioning stage sends a step-couple toward divorce court.

The most critical stage: the crisis stage comes next. Levels of crisis vary from minor bumps to major explosions, but this stage represents a turning point in which family members seek change. Challenges build until someone reaches for help. It’s a productive stage if families confront the problems and begin to find solutions. Unfortunately, too many couples give up and call it quits during this period. Those who persevere, however, will turn the corner and look toward easier days ahead.

The last three stages usually occur somewhere between the second and fifth year of remarriage. Complicated stepfamilies with children from both partners will likely take longer. It’s also not unusual for stages to be re-visited. But as families reach the latter stages, hope begins to surface and tensions begin to ease.

The possibility stage offers positive thinking toward improved relationships. Following the crisis stage, the step-couple emerges with renewed energy to seek family harmony. After struggling for years, the family begins to unite. Broken relationships begin to heal and day-to-day life seems easier.

The growth stage follows on the heels of possibility. Although there has been some growth from the beginning, families in this stage recognize a steady pace of growth, with more steps forward than backward. Family members feel accepted by one another and problems are resolved quickly when they arise. Stepparents feel comfortable in their roles and tension with ex-spouses has eased.

The last stage: the reward stage is reached only after years of intentional effort. For many stepfamilies, it is never reached because they give up. But for those who persevere, the reward of harmonious relationships and sense of accomplishment from a united family outweighs the burden of what it cost to get there. Once reached, the rewards continue for years as family members treat each other with unconditional love and respect, erasing the memories of difficult years and replacing them with hope and anticipation for the future.

Stepfamilies offer children a chance to heal from broken relationships while learning how healthy relationships relate to one another. Researcher James Bray published results from a ten-year study with stepfamilies that indicated a healthy, stable stepfamily can help overcome some of the negative psychological effects of divorce.

Step-couples can break through the stages of remarriage with success. Remarriage with children creates unique challenges; but with intentional effort, perseverance, and commitment, a stepfamily will find satisfaction and reward in the long run.

What stage of remarriage are you at? What success can you celebrate as you begin a new year?

Pic by jscreationzs

 

When Stepparenting Days Turn Dark

I’ve spoken with several stepparents recently struggling with dark days. One stepmom described her life as “hopeless.” Another spoke of daily, overwhelming challenges with her stepdaughter.

I started my blog four years ago this month after coming through some difficult years with my own stepchildren. I’m thankful to be a better place now as my stepchildren are young adults and our relationships are good.

But, I understand dark days.

My devotional this morning was titled, “When We’re in the Dark.” It gives a powerful illustration of the beauty of dark days. I hope you find it helpful on hard days.

“In the famous lace shops of Brussels, there are certain rooms devoted to the spinning of the finest and most delicate patterns. These rooms are altogether darkened, save for a light from one very small window, which falls directly upon the pattern. There is only one spinner in the room, and he sits where the narrow stream of light falls upon the threads of his weaving. “Thus,” we are told by the guide, “do we secure our choicest products. Lace is always more delicately and beautifully woven when the worker himself is in the dark and only his pattern is in the light.”

May it not be the same with us in our weaving? Sometimes it is very dark. We cannot understand what we are doing. We do not see the web we are weaving. We are not able to discover any beauty, any possible good in our experience. Yet if we are faithful and fail not and faint not, we shall some day know that the most exquisite work of all our life was done in those days when it was so dark.

If you are in the deep shadows because of some strange, mysterious providence, do not be afraid. Simply go on in faith and love, never doubting. God is watching, and He will bring good and beauty out of all your pain and tears.—J. R. Miller.

The shuttles of His purpose move

To carry out His own design;

Seek not too soon to disapprove

His work, nor yet assign

Dark motives, when, with silent tread,

You view some sombre fold;

For lo, within each darker thread

There twines a thread of gold.

Spin cheerfully,

Not tearfully,

He knows the way you plod;

Spin carefully,

Spin prayerfully,

But leave the thread with God.

—Canadian Home Journal.”

“I will give you the treasures of darkness.” Isaiah 45:3

Devo from Streams in the Desert by L.B. Cowman

For more holiday tips, follow my blog and  Heather Hetchler’s blog at CafeSmom  as we share tips from our holiday e-book, Unwrapping the Gift of Stepfamily Peace, every Mon, Wed and Friday. Our e-book is a great tool to help you and all stepparents find peace during the holidays and beyond. It’s packed with proven tools and tips, personal stories and a list of recipes and new holiday traditions you can start with your stepfamily.A Stepparent's Guide to Success

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pic By Photokanok

 

 

 

 

 

Is Your StepCouple Marriage Worth Celebrating?

My husband and I celebrate 18 years of marriage this week! We consider it worth celebrating because in the early years, we weren’t sure we would make it to our next anniversary!

Blending four kids and managing difficult ex-spouses didn’t make for an easy start with our stepfamily. 

But today, we feel so blessed to celebrate how far we’ve come in our stepfamily relationships and the love we share as a step couple.

Are we perfect? No! My husband and I still squabble at times and might even disagree about how to handle a situation with one of the kids. But we no longer get defensive when we talk about each other’s children or question the motive behind one another’s actions.

The love we feel for our stepchildren has grown deeply through heart-wrenching experiences we’ve worked through together. I would never want to walk many of those roads again but overcoming challenges cemented our relationships as a stepfamily.

Our kids are now spread across three states, and two countries, but we stay in contact with each one of them almost weekly. It’s hard to get them all together but my husband and I still devote a lot of time to nurturing the relationships in our stepfamily.

family pic

Would I change the hard times? No. I’m stronger as a result of them. And that strength will carry me through what lies ahead.

Our challenges are different now. My husband and I travelled 1200 miles this past week-end to make some hard decisions regarding care for his dad. Our parents are aging and we’re facing painful emotions as we care for them in their last season of life.

Our young adult children don’t always make choices we’re proud of or want to support. But as a step couple who has weathered a lot of storms, we will face whatever comes down our path and work through the challenge together.

If you’re struggling on your stepfamily journey, don’t give up. There are better days ahead. Some day your stepchildren will leave home and be out on their own supporting themselves. And life gets easier!

But in the meantime, nurture your marriage so it can stand the tests that come your way. Don’t let your stepfamily challenges smother your love for one another. Your stepcouple marriage is worth celebrating!

If you need some extra hope today, check out this video and lyrics to a great song: The Words I Would Say by Sidewalk Prophets

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1bItzgw7OAU

What will you do this week to nurture your marriage? I’d love to hear about it!

 

 

 

 

Coping with Unexpected Challenges on Your Stepparenting Journey

Today marks the nine year anniversary of the loss of my stepchildren’s mother after a fierce battle with colon cancer. It’s always a hard month for them as they reflect on life without her.

When I married my husband, I had no way of knowing such a tragedy would occur. We could have never prepared ourselves for the difficult season that followed her death.

But unfortunately, it happened. And it’s not the only difficult issue we’ve dealt with in our stepfamily. I’m sure there have been challenging circumstances in your family too, that you could have never foreseen when you married. So, how do you cope when the unexpected happens?

For me, I seek to live by faith instead of allowing fear to control me. I know that fear and faith don’t go together. If I’m allowing faith to guide me, I won’t be controlled by fear.

In her book, Calm My Anxious Heart, Linda Dillow says, “Faith enables us to be content even when life doesn’t make sense. Faith is the bulwark that keeps us strong even when we’re assailed by agonizing thoughts about what might happen or by what has happened. …Faith is believing God is true to His word when my feelings are screaming out something different. Faith is completing my small part of the picture/puzzle without being able to see the finished product.”

Faith allows me to take the next step that seems right for me, even when I don’t have all the answers, trusting God will guide me. Fear paralyzes me from making any kind of move, convincing me every move will be the wrong one.

If I focus on the challenge that seems insermountable instead of focusing on the reality of God’s provision to meet my needs, I invite stress into my home. I love the quote I read recently by Joyce Meyers, “The person who really understands the grace of God will not worry. Worrying is trying to figure out what to do to save yourself rather than trusting in God for deliverance.”

When my husband lost his job two years ago, once again we faced the unexpected. Re-locating out of state, leaving three children behind in college, has not been easy. But I take intentional steps every day to allow faith to guide me instead of letting fear paralyze me.

I’ve heard it said there are 365 “fear not” verses in the Bible. Isn’t that interesting? God knows the stronghold of fear and gives us a verse every day to rely on for strength and comfort.

Have you faced the unexpected on your stepparenting journey? How did you cope? I’d love to hear your comments.

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10)

Pic by digitalart

Original post 8/2012

When Stepfamily Pain Overshadows Holiday Joy

The facebook status of my friend was heart-breaking:”After 25 years of working for the same company, my wonderful hard working amazing husband was told he does not have a job. Our world has turned upside down…” A hard situation to face at the holiday season.

sad christmasBut the reality is, we’re all dealing with tough stuff. Stepfamilies, especially, often carry pain throughout the holiday season. So, how do you cope? Here are a few suggestions:

1) Don’t dwell on the negative.  Try to find something positive about your challenging reality. The holiday season when we walked through my stepson’s custody battle was one of the hardest for me. It seemed as if I got out of bed every day with a dark cloud over my head. But I tried to focus on the blessing of the relationship with my husband and his willingness to walk a difficult road together that might not include a happy ending.

2) Trust God’s plan for your family even if you don’t understand it. I love the words of Charles Spurgeon: “When you can’t trace God’s hand, trust His heart.” God wants what’s best for you and your family. However, life is often understood backward;  circumstances don’t make sense with our finite eyes. But we find peace when we trust God’s plan, even if we don’t understand it.

3) Do your part to overcome the pain. Don’t allow yourself to be a victim, wallowing in self-pity. If you’re struggling with a stepfamily challenge that seems to have no end, seek support. Talk with other stepmoms (healthy-minded ones). Find a counselor educated in stepfamily dynamics. Use Scripture and prayer to find answers. But don’t stay stuck in your pain without reaching out.

4) Consider the joy of perseverance.  When I complete a long run as I train for running events, I find joy in the perseverance of completing a 10 or 12 mile run. I know I’ve pushed myself to the limit and I wanted to give up, but I didn’t. The same holds true with stepfamilies. We will be pushed to the limit, but the joy comes in refusing to quit. I’ve written about it more here: “Stepparenting Feels Like I’m Running a Marathon.”

5) Read our holiday e-book for encouragement. Stepmom Heather Hetchler and I wrote our e-book, Unwrapping the Gift of Stepfamily Peace, to offer hope and encouragement to stepparents. We know how difficult the holiday season can be – we’ve walked the road in our own stepfamilies. I hope you’ll consider purchasing and reading the e-book as a gift to yourself.

I don’t know what pain you’re facing in your stepfamily but I pray you don’t allow it to overshadow the joy of the holiday. I want to offer the privilege of praying for you if you share your concerns with me. I’d love to hear from you. “For nothing is impossible with God” (Luke 1:37).

I love Lysa TerKeurst’s quote from Unglued: “We can’t always fix our circumstances, but we can always fix our minds on God.”

Are you facing stepfamily pain? Will you commit to a positive perspective and intentional effort to keep it from overshadowing your holiday joy?

Related Posts:

Your Holiday Doesn’t Have to Be Perfect to Be Meaningful

Trusting God’s Plan on a Difficult Journey

Is the Heartache of Stepparenting Worth It?