Don’t Let Strained Co-Parenting Steal Your Holiday Joy

I listened as the teen-age girl negotiated the schedule with her dad. It was complicated and she was stressed. I knew she was doing the work her mother should have done; instead she had been thrust in the middle.


Co-parenting often creates tension and additional stress. During the holidays, it’s even harder as we negotiate schedules during an already busy season. It requires intentional effort on our part, including sacrifices and tongue-taming, to make it work. But it’s our responsibility, not our children’s, to negotiate the details.

Co-parenting doesn’t mean we try to control what’s happening in the other parent’s home. After divorce, we relinquish control of how our children are parented when they’re not in our possession. We may not like the rules or lack of rules in their other home, but we can’t control that.

The biggest challenge of co-parenting — learning how to be amicable in a relationship with someone you couldn’t get along with in marriage — is the link to success when parenting children after divorce.  And when disagreements arise, it’s important to keep them out of range of children’s ears. Adult issues need to be confined to adults.

Successful co-parenting strategies include setting boundaries regarding how you will be treated. If you’re dealing with a hostile ex-spouse, you may need to communicate via text or e-mail. Love and respect yourself enough to avoid vulnerable situations that could lead to emotional abuse.

Strained co-parenting gives us an opportunity to practice the gifts of the Spirit as defined in Galatians 5:22-23: “…love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” I know it’s not easy but as our children watch us model kindness and goodness or patience and self-control in the midst of rude or unkind behavior, they learn the value of asserting these qualities in their own lives. And we gain the satisfaction of knowing we did the right thing, even when it wasn’t easy.

Drama, strained co-parenting, and stepfamily holidays too often co-mingle. But you don’t have to let it steal your holiday joy. Take every opportunity to conquer it with a positive perspective, peaceful interactions and determined effort to work through the challenges.

How do you handle co-parenting challenges? I would love to hear your tips.

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 create with your stepfamily.  Unwrapping The Gift of Stepfamily Peace: A Stepparent's Guide to Success

Pic by Keerati


Embrace the Uniqueness of YOUR Stepfamily

I was thankful to hear from a stepmom today who I worked with previously in a coaching relationship. I wasn’t sure if she and her husband were going to make it because they had significant kid-struggles. But I loved her optimism as she told me she and her husband had figured out what worked for them that would salvage their marriage.

Good for them! They didn’t choose to go down the road of divorce when that seemed the only route. I know it’s hard and they will endure disharmony for several more years before the kids are out of the house, but they’ve made choices in their stepfamily to compensate for the uniqueness of their relationships.

Holiday Tip: Celebrate the holidays in a fresh way that allows you to embrace the uniqueness of your stepfamily.

In other words, don’t consider how your co-worker and her nuclear family celebrates the holidays. Don’t try to emulate what your neighbor is doing with family traditions. Decide what works best for your family.

How do you do that? You seek opinions from  the members of your family regarding holiday traditions, meals, decorations, the holiday schedule, and EVERYTHING HOLIDAY. You ask what’s most important to each person regarding each aspect of the season. You find ways to compromise so each member feels he or she has a say in how you celebrate.

Evaluate what works and what doesn’t work as you celebrate the season. Set boundaries around your time to take care of yourself. Say No when you need to so you can say Yes to what’s important.

You only get one chance to celebrate the holiday season of 2013. How will you embrace it and create memories as a unique stepfamily?

Don’t strive for perfection. Strive for meaning. It’s OK if you have bumps along the way. That’s part of the uniqueness of YOUR stepfamily. Embrace it!

Pic by Stuart Miles                                           Unwrapping the Gift of Stepfamily Peace

For more holiday tips, check out our e-book, Unwrapping the Gift of Stepfamily Peace.








Unwrapping the Gift of Stepfamily Peace

A Valuable Holiday Tip for Stepparents

Some weeks seem really long and hard. Have you had one of those weeks lately?

I have. But the beauty of it was what God taught me on a particularly hard day. I heard it loud and clear: “Focus on what you do right, not what you do wrong. Focus on who you are, not who you aren’t.”

As stepparents, it’s easy to consider what we do wrong and how we’re messing up our step-relationships because of our behavior. But the reality is, we do a lot of things right too.

Successful stepparenting happens when we believe in who we are and our ability to be a positive influence for our stepchildren. As a stepparent, you play a valuable role in the life of your stepchild – even when your actions aren’t perfect. God uses imperfect stepparents every day to make a difference.

As we move into the holiday season, Heather Hetchler of CafeSmom, and I will be posting tips to help you through your stepfamily holidays. Look for a new post Mon, Wed, and Friday and share them with others.

Some are included in the e-book Heather and I co-cauthored, Unwrapping the Gift of Stepfamily Peace, and some are not. If you haven’t taken a peek at our ebook, you can find it on Amazon for only $2.99.

Holiday tip: Embrace who you are and focus on the positive influence you make in your stepchild’s life.  You can thrive this holiday season, not just survive.

I hope you’ll join us regularly as we help you find meaning and joy this holiday season.  Read Heather’s most recent holiday tip: Getting Organized for the Holidays.

Do you have a favorite holiday tip? I’d love to hear it!



Eight Steps to Easing Stepfamily Stress at the Holidays

Stepfamily holidays are complicated. And stressful, right? How do you ease holiday step stress? There are no easy answers, but there are a few things you can do to help make your h-o-l-i-d-a-y-s  more enjoyable.

stepfamily holiday

H – Help someone. Take the focus off yourself and your difficult stepfamily circumstances and offer help to someone in need. Ring bells for Salvation Army or buy a gift for an underprivileged child. There are dozens of ways to help others.

O –  Offer grace and forgiveness often. The holiday season creates additional stress for your stepchildren too. If your stepchild shoots an angry look your way, be quick to forgive and press on.

L – Let go of perfection. Don’t expect your holiday season to go perfectly; recognize there will be bumps along the way. And don’t sink into a pit when it happens–pick yourself up and start anew.

I – Ink in special days on your calendar. Plan date nights with your spouse. Go to coffee with a girlfriend. Take time to take care of YOU.

D – Delegate chores to others. If you have a house full of company coming, hire a cleaning person. If you’re hosting a party, ask others to help with food. Don’t take on all the tasks yourself and end up overwhelmed.

A – Act on your gut. If you sense a meltdown coming on from your stepchild, do something to divert it. If you’re too exhausted to attend the neighborhood Christmas party, don’t go. Use your gut instinct to make your days go smoother.

Y – Yak to a supportive friend or another stepparent. Don’t hold your emotions in or let them all out by exploding. Talk through your struggles with someone who cares.

S – Simplify.  Decorate with a few items instead of several dozen. Bake one or two special treats instead of a counter full. Shop online to avoid the grumps of the holiday rush. Enjoy the simple pleasures of the season.

It’s the beginning of the season. Commit to make it enjoyable and meaningful with a few intentional steps.

If you need a helpful resource, be sure to check out our e-book, Unwrapping the Gift of Stepfamily Peace.

Pic By feel art

Coping with Entitled Stepchildren at the Holidays

Have you purchased our holiday e-book yet? Here’s a portion from Chapter 2 that I wrote:New Ebook cover

“It’s easy to create narcissistic children who feel entitled to receive every gift they ask for when we give them too much. It’s an unhealthy practice and, as adults, our children will suffer if they’ve never had to experience delayed gratification.

Unfortunately, in many homes, entitlement is encouraged through lavish gift-giving. I know you’re thinking–I can’t control what is happening in their other home. You’re right. But you can discuss it in your own home and seek to contribute to a healthier mindset. Here’s how we seek to change entitled thinking with our kids:

During the month of October each year, we ask our children to make a list of what they want for Christmas and prioritize the gifts most important to them. We let them know that we will try hard to get at least one gift they really want but they will not receive everything on the list. We hope to make Christmas a special holiday that includes more giving than receiving.

During the months of November and December, we take our kids shopping for children who are less privileged than they. Often, we take a name from the Angel Tree at church and buy gifts for children whose parents are in prison. Many years we purchase gifts and pack boxes for Operation Christmas Child, an organization dedicated to helping the poor. Some years we have volunteered for the Salvation Army, ringing bells to collect money for the needy. We want to show our children the joy they feel in giving to others instead of focusing only on what they receive.

I know our efforts won’t change what gifts they receive in the other home or how they’re influenced regarding material possessions there. But we hope to offer another perspective that discourages entitlement. And when giving to others is modeled year after year, our children learn what it feels like to contribute to a smile on another child’s face, bringing a smile to their own face.”

If you want to read other ideas and perspectives on holiday challenges, please purchase our e-book, Unwrapping the Gift of Stepfamily Peace.  Come back and let me know what you think!

How do you cope with entitled stepchildren? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Related Posts:

How to Cope with Holiday Drama in Your Stepfamily

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


Seven Tips for Finding Balance in the Midst of Holiday Chaos



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?