Facing the Challenges of Adolescent Stepchildren

I recently began teaching a Sunday School class for 13-14 year-old girls at our church. Some days I wonder why I agreed to do it. Since our youngest son is the same age, I’m seeking to invest in his youth group and get to know his peer group.

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As I observed the girls at a youth event recently, I couldn’t help but notice the drama that surrounded many of them as they related to one another. My first inclination was to step away and escape the uncomfortable feelings that began to arise as I reminisced about difficult adolescent years with my stepdaughter.

My thoughts turned to, “Do I want to re-live the drama I’ve moved past that naturally accompanies girls this age?” I could choose to bail and escape the headaches that will accompany the role I’ve taken on.

I must tell you the answer to the question I asked myself was not a resounding “Yes.” However,  I can say this is where I believe God has placed me for this season.

So I have a choice. Will I change my thinking to how I can help these adolescent girls and invest in their emotional and spiritual maturity, or will I selfishly choose to run, leaving behind a part of God’s plan for me right now?

It reminds me of the choice I made when my stepchildren were adolescents. Many days I wanted to run and escape the heartache I was experiencing as a stepparent. Rejection. Loss. Disrespect. Unfair treatment.

I considered leaving. I pondered my option of becoming a single parent again. I wasn’t sure I had the strength to endure the challenges thrown at us as our stepfamily walked through the minefield of adolescence.

But I reconsidered the vow I’d taken when I married. I knew God had placed me in the lives of my stepchildren and had a role for me to play– to invest in their lives emotionally, mentally, and spiritually, to be a light in the midst of darkness, to show them a relationship with a loving God they might not experience otherwise.

Would I run away from God’s plan for me through a difficult season? Would I choose to completely detach so I didn’t have to experience the pain of rejection again? Or would I allow God to use me to help raise two of his children and heal the wounds they had experienced, growing and maturing me in the process?

I’m thankful today I didn’t quit. It was during their adolescent years that my stepchildren unexpectedly lost their mother after a short battle with cancer. The loss further complicated our stepfamily dynamics and created challenges I didn’t know how to face.

But with the Lord’s help, we muddled through. And today I can look back and know that I played an important role in the lives of my stepchildren during a difficult season.

I’m reminded of an appropriate phrase I’ve heard stepfamily expert Ron Deal say, “Stepfamilies were not made for the emotionally fragile.” And I’d like to add: the emotionally fragile stepparent won’t make it through adolescence.

If you’re in the midst of parenting adolescent stepchildren, don’t negate the importance of effective communication and conflict resolution. If you need help in these areas,  please find a counselor, pastor, or coach who can help–one trained in stepfamily dynamics.

Adolescence can bring out the worst in stepfamilies, leaving behind a trail of destruction. Be prepared to deal with it with good communication and conflict management skills.

If you’re looking for support as a stepmom, or maybe just a few days of respite with women walking a similar journey, I hope you’ll consider joining us at our next Stepmom Retreat. You’ll find laughter, hope, healing, and friendship with others who understand the road you’re on. Come enjoy the amazing Cooper hotel and spa in Dallas. Learn more here: http://bit.ly/2j1wko6

If you’re parenting adolescent stepchildren, step back and take a deep breath. It’s not easy. They’re in the midst of significant change and so are you. But don’t give up!

There are blessings on the other side.

Can you share tips on how you’ve overcome adolescent challenges with your stepchildren? I’d love to hear them.

Pic by Vlado

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,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Overcoming the Pain of Rejection as a Stepparent

Tears began falling down my cheeks the moment the realtor left our house. I wasn’t prepared for her insensitive comments about the home our family had enjoyed for eleven years. “It won’t sell with wallpaper on the walls. I prefer only neutral colors in all rooms. Your family pictures must come down. The price will be discounted since the master bedroom is upstairs. The light fixtures are dated and must be changed out. You should consider moving your furniture around in some of these rooms.”

Geeeez. I knew our home wasn’t perfect but we shared a lot of love and laughter there, making it a special place for our family. Life with a bunch of kids didn’t allow for the time, energy, and money necessary to keep a home perfectly updated. But we were happy in our family-oriented, slightly-dated home.

So why was my spirit deflated? Rejection. The feeling was all too familiar. I had felt it many times as a stepparent. And now I was feeling it from a realtor. All she could see were the negative aspects that would keep our home from selling. She didn’t consider the sprawling front porch, the well-established neigborhood with beautiful trees, or the central location to anywhere in town. She rejected any notion of positive features of our home.

Have you felt that before as a stepparent? Your stepchildren don’t recognize the meals you cook for them every night, the laundry that gets washed every week, or the endless carpool trips to school, ballgames, and friend’s houses.

Instead they focus on the evening you lost your temper after a long day at work, the extra kids that came when you married their dad, or the uncomforable feeling that’s created when they begin to care about you like they do their biological parent. It’s easier to reject you than deal with the inner turmoil of accepting you into their life.

So, how do we deal with rejection as a stepparent? How do I come to terms with the rejection I felt from the realtor? Here are a few things I’ve done to help me cope:

1. Focus on what I can change, and let go of everything else. I can’t change the fact that our master bedroom is upstairs, but I can hire someone to strip the wallpaper and put on a fresh coat of paint. As a stepparent, you can’t change the circumstances if you brought children of your own into your marriage. But you can work hard to love your stepchildren with Christ’s love and accept them for who they are.

2. Realize that Christ loves me every day, regardless of whether my stepchildren accept me or whether the realtor approves of my house. Affirm my positive qualities in the midst of criticism. “And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ” (Eph 3:18).

3. Unite with my spouse to overcome feelings of rejection from my stepchildren or hurtful comments sent my way. Find solace in a loving, comforting relationship that can only be shared with a mate.

Other ideas? How do you cope with rejection?

Can you look past the pain of rejection and see the beautiful person God created in you? How do you cope with rejection as a stepparent? I would love to hear your comments.

Related Posts:

Marriage is Not Always Blissful, Especially in Blended Families

Stinkin’ Thinkin’ Creates Bitter Quitters in Stepfamilies

Nuggets of Wisdom from Laura Petherbridge, co-author of The Smart Stepmom

I had the privilege of attending the first “stepmom retreat” this week-end in Dallas, hosted by http://www.blendedandbonded.com/ with Laura Petherbridge speaking. It was a wonderful time of connecting with stepmoms from around the country, meeting stepmom friends I talk with on Twitter and FB, and hearing some nuggets of wisdom from long-time stepmom Laura Petherbridge, co-author of The Smart Stepmom.

 

I want to share a few thoughts I came away with that spoke to my heart in hopes of encouraging you in your stepparenting role. Many I had heard before but they were good reminders for me.

1. God can teach me how to love kids who are hurting me. I ask Him to help me see them through His eyes and He does. “Chosen” love is still love. I can choose to love my stepchildren.

2. Children are fiercely loyal to a biological parent, even if the parent is unkind, abusive, detached, or emotionally unstable. The more dysfunctional the other biological parent is, the less likely the stepchild will bond with the stepparent. I can’t control that.

3. All stepfamilies are formed due to loss. Re-marriage is viewed as another loss for children and the children are at least two years behind the parents in the grieving process. Give them time to heal.

4. Money is going to be tight. My husband is OBLIGATED by God to support his children (I Timothy 5:8). They didn’t choose a stepmother or more siblings.

5. The children who do the best after divorce are those who maintain a healthy relationship with both parents. Stepchildren need alone time with their biological parent, without the stepparent.

6. God will reward your efforts. “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

There is so much more I could share, but instead I encourage you to read Laura’s book. She has walked the path and offers reality with encouragement through her writing.

Do you need encouragement today? What nugget of wisdom spoke to you?

Related Posts:

Marriage is Not Always Blissful, Especially in Blended Families

Tip for Healthy Stepparenting: Learn to Cope with Rejection

Mantra for Stepparents: Don’t Take it Personally

Celebrating Mother’s Day as a Stepmom

With Mother’s Day only a few days away, you may be thinking about how your stepchildren will handle the celebration. It tends to be an awkward holiday for many stepmothers, including myself at times. We don’t know whether to expect anything from our stepchildren or let the biological mom get all the attention for the day.

Personally, I believe if we’ve played an active role as a stepmother, we deserve some recognition. But that doesn’t mean we will get it from our stepchildren. We may need to ask our spouse (the father of those children) to honor and acknowledge us on Mother’s Day for the difficult role we play.

Stepfamily authority Ron Deal includes a statement from a stepmom in his article, “I Dread Mother’s Day.” The stepmom says, “I get all the grief of parenting, but I don’t get to enjoy the pleasures associated with being a mom.” As a stepmom, I’ve had days I feel that way too. But thankfully, it’s not every day.

I’ve learned to enjoy Mother’s Day with no expectations from my stepchildren. If they offer me a gift or choose to honor me in some way, I’m thrilled. But if they don’t, I know my husband appreciates what I do and lets me know that regularly. I also believe God put these children in my life to care and nurture and I want to be obedient to His calling.

Another stepmom, Heather Hetchler, and I created a free e-book, Stepping With Purpose, in honor of stepmoms. If you need some encouragement as a stepmom, I know you’ll enjoy the stories.

How does your family celebrate Mother’s Day? Is is meaningful day or a difficult one?

Overcoming the Pain of Rejection

Tears began falling down my cheeks the moment the realtor left our house. I wasn’t prepared for her insensitive comments about the home our family had enjoyed for eleven years. “It won’t sell with wallpaper on the walls. I prefer only neutral colors in all rooms. Your family pictures must come down. The price will be discounted since the master bedroom is upstairs. The light fixtures are dated and must be changed out. You should consider moving your furniture around in some of these rooms.”

Geeeez. I knew our home wasn’t perfect but we shared a lot of love and laughter there, making it a special place for our family. Life with a bunch of kids didn’t allow for the time, energy, and money necessary to keep a home perfectly updated. But we were happy in our family-oriented, slightly-dated home.

So why was my spirit deflated? Rejection. The feeling was all too familiar. I had felt it many times as a stepparent. And now I was feeling it from a realtor. All she could see were the negative aspects that would keep our home from selling. She didn’t consider the sprawling front porch, the well-established neigborhood with beautiful trees, or the central location to anywhere in town. She rejected any notion of positive features of our home.

Have you felt that before as a stepparent? Your stepchildren don’t recognize the meals you cook for them every night, the laundry that gets washed every week, or the endless carpool trips to school, ballgames, and friend’s houses.

Instead they focus on the evening you lost your temper after a long day at work, the extra kids that came when you married their dad, or the uncomforable feeling that’s created when they begin to care about you like they do their biological parent. It’s easier to reject you than deal with the inner turmoil of accepting you into their life.

So, how do we deal with rejection as a stepparent? How do I come to terms with the rejection I felt from the realtor? Here are a few things I’ve done to help me cope:

1. Focus on what I can change, and let go of everything else. I can’t change the fact that our master bedroom is upstairs, but I can hire someone to strip the wallpaper and put on a fresh coat of paint. As a stepparent, you can’t change the circumstances if you brought children of your own into your marriage. But you can work hard to love your stepchildren with Christ’s love and accept them for who they are.

2. Realize that Christ loves me every day, regardless of whether my stepchildren accept me or whether the realtor approves of my house. Affirm my positive qualities in the midst of criticism. “And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ” (Eph 3:18).

3. Unite with my spouse to overcome feelings of rejection from my stepchildren or hurtful comments sent my way. Find solace in a loving, comforting relationship that can only be shared with a mate.

Other ideas? How do you cope with rejection?

Can you look past the pain of rejection and see the beautiful person God created in you?

Related Posts:

Learning to Cope with Rejection

The Sting of Angry Words