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

 

Surefire Ways to Beat Summer Burnout as a Stepparent

As the summer begins to wind down for many of us, the days are HOT and long. Stepchildren around every day can make for additional challenges.

Coping with Summer Burnout as a Stepparent

I’ve heard from several stepmoms lately who are barely treading water. Even with the best  plans for a fruitful and fun-filled summer, bickering kids with bad attitudes and not enough to do, create challenging days.

If you’re balancing work and a stepparenting role, it’s especially hard to keep your perspective on what to do next and how to stay sane! I’ve had one of those weeks lately!

Here are a few thoughts on how to make it through the rest of the summer without strangling your stepchild (just kidding, I know you’re not really planning that).

1. Check your mindset about the role you play.

Are you trying to play Super Stepmom while the kids are around for the summer, serving homemade meals every night and running them to every activity they request? Stop! There’s enough to do without heaping unrealistic expectations on yourself. Be kind to yourself and how much you’re willing to do.

2. Share your feelings with someone.

Be selective with who you talk to, but airing your feelings always helps. You don’t have to present every gory detail of drama; stick to how the situation makes you feel. Let your friend know you’re not looking for an answer or their advice–you just need to talk about what’s happening. Talking through our feelings also helps us identify our role and how we might be contributing to the situation.

3. Be careful you’re not neglecting your own needs.

If your stepchildren have spent the summer with you, or even a few weeks, reward yourself. It’s always an adjustment to have people in your home who don’t live there and it’s taxing to have stepchildren move in for the summer. Make time for a pedicure, movie with a friend, or date night with your spouse. Bitterness sets in when we constantly nurture others but neglect our own needs.

4. Plan something fun together.

What do you enjoy doing? What activities could the family do together that you would enjoy also? I took our son to the movie recently but negotiated with him on one that I wanted to see this time (that was appropriate for him also). We creates selfish hearts when we always allow our kids to dictate the activity without considering our wishes also.

5. Remember, “this too will pass.”

School will be back in session soon and your long summer days will be over. I’m looking forward to a break from our 100 degree temperatures every day and remind myself that thankfully, this season will soon pass.

Do you have other suggestions for summer burnout as a stepparent? I’d love to hear them.

Pic by digitalart

 

 

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

 

 

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

I’ll never forget the first holiday season our family celebrated together. My husband and I had married in mid-October and the holidays descended upon us before we could get settled in our new surroundings. My expectations of a joyous holiday season quickly faded as the reality of chaos and heartache took over.

Blending four young children, managing a harried schedule with two uncooperative ex-spouses while grappling with my expectations of a perfect, first holiday ignited a simmering blaze that burned throughout the season, leaving behind a trail of hurt feelings and defeat.

How could I expect it to be perfect? Because I’m a perfectionist. I wanted to prove to myself and others that, despite the odds of our new marriage and complexities, we could have a perfect, delightful holiday season. I was wrong.

In her book, Set Free to Live Free: Breaking through the 7 Lies Women Tell Themselves, Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith writes, “Perfection is not the goal on earth. … Your life is a progressive journey. There will be times of success and times of failure. There will be times of faith and times of doubt. There will be moments of joy and moments of fear. You cannot maneuver this obstacle course we call life and expect to finish the race perfectly.”

I’ve given up the idea of a perfect holiday season. But that doesn’t mean it won’t be meaningful. There may be squabbles among the kids, or sour attitudes while shopping, or a less-than-perfect decorated tree by my children, but that doesn’t mean I won’t cherish the memories of time together as a family.

You see, our time as a family isn’t the same anymore. We only have one of our five children still living at home and we will only all be together briefly on Christmas day. So, I choose to value how small or large our family gathering is and enjoy every moment we have together as an imperfect family.

In our e-book, Unwrapping the Gift of Stepfamily Peace,  Heather writes, “Life rarely goes  as planned and the tighter we hold onto expectations of the perfect Thanksgiving or Christmas, the tighter, tenser and more stressed we are likely to feel. Let the strands of Christmas tree lights, not our emotions, be the only thing that gets tangled up this holiday season. Peace in the heart leads to peace in the home.”

Have you experienced lesss-than-perfect holidays in the past? How did you cope?

Related Posts:

Holiday Tips for Stepfamilies: Create Family Traditions

Holiday Tips for Stepfamilies: Do the Right Thing

Are You Prepared for the Unexpected this Holiday?

Is Your Stepfamily in a Season of Challenge?

I love watching the giddiness of pre-married couples in our stepfamily class. They are in love and somewhat blinded to what lies ahead. Maybe that’s a good thing. Thankfully, they’re trying to educate themselves on how to do stepfamily life before marriage. It’s a beautiful season of refreshment.

We have another couple about four years down the road and they’re definitely in the stepfamily trenches. With a few years under their belt, the kids are questioning their authority and as teen-agers, trying to separate from the family. The stepparents express frustration and bewilderment in how to move forward with their relationships.

It’s a hard period that can last several years before resolving the challenges. During this season, stepfamily authority Ron Deal says, “You must learn to endure disharmony.” I completely agree. It’s a season of challenge.

If you make it through the season of challenge, you move into the season of rewards. During this period, stepchildren decide you’re okay as their stepparent, and regardless of what the other parent might say about you, the stepchild chooses to love and respect you because of the significant role you’ve played that they’ve learned to appreciate. The relationship isn’t perfect, but it’s special. Unfortunately, many stepparents never make it to this season because they’re not willing to endure the season of challenge.

The next season is the season of celebration. The stepchildren leave home and become productive citizens. They aren’t making perfect choices in all areas of life but they’re functioning on their own without your daily assistance. They stay in touch regularly (especially when they need money :)) and the relationship is generally positive and hopeful.

Other seasons follow (like grandparenting seasons) but I’m stopping here to give thanks that we’ve made it to the season of celebration. My stepchildren aren’t perfect and I don’t agree with all their choices, but they’ve launched from the nest and at 22 and 27 years old, are coping well as young adults. My husband and I will celebrate 17 years of marriage this month and I’m continually grateful we didn’t quit during the season of challenge. Yes, there were times we wanted to, but those times are now behind us. And they will pass for you too if you learn to endure the disharmony and commit to the end.

I look forward to the years ahead with my husband. Although we worked through a lot of disharmony during our season of challenge, it’s seems a small sacrifice now for the seasons that follow.We still have one child at home but there are fewer disagreements and stressful circumstances to deal with since it’s our child together.

Are you in a difficult season? Will you commit to endure your season of challenge so you can enjoy the seasons that follow? 

Related Posts:

The Myth of the Perfect Stepparent

Change: A Friend or a Foe in Your Stepfamily?

Back to School – Five Tips for Success with Stepchildren

Our youngest son started middle school last week as a 6th grader and has had some intimidating moments at his new school. He started off in the wrong classroom for homeroom but didn’t discover it until the teacher called roll. He left to go to the correct classroom and finally entered the right room–tardy.

The next day he innocently walked through a circle of 8th graders on his way to class and was belittled by the older kids who insisted he “Go around next time!” And later that day he discovered the bus he rides home includes a few high school students who aren’t always nice to the young ones!

bus School is tough for our kids. Their days are stressful and intimidating, especially for those starting new schools. But we can help make their school year a success. Here are a few tips I suggest:

1. Pray regularly for your children and stepchildren. In her book, The Power of a Praying Parent, Stormie Omartian says, “The battle for our children’s lives is waged on our knees. When we don’t pray, it’s like sitting on the sidelines watching our children in a war zone getting shot at from every angle. When we do pray, we’re in the battle alongside them, appropriating God’s power on their behalf.”

2. Evaluate your schedule – have you left room to help with homework? It’s easy to inundate ourselves with too many commitments. I evaluate my schedule regularly to see if I need to change/add/delete anything. Raising children requires time and energy.  Our role as stepparents is even more demanding, mentally and emotionally.  If we give all  our energy to outside commitments and demanding careers, what do we draw from to deal with the inevitable crises and unexpected irritants that will surely come our way?

3. Resolve conflict as it occurs. Our children are impacted every day by what happens in our home. If we refuse to be cooperative with an ex-spouse regarding a new school schedule or negotiating activities, our children suffer. Here’s what Ron Deal says on this issue in The Smart Stepfamily: “An old African proverb says, ‘When two elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers.’ Biological parents who fight and refuse to cooperate are trampling on their most prized possession – their children. Elephants at war are totally unaware of what is happening to the grass, for they are far too consumed with the battle at hand. Little do they know how much damage is being done.” Someone has to be the bigger person and work to resolve conflict – will it be you?

4. Expect the best of your children. And let them know you love them. Our kids will live up to the expectations we set – they’re looking for someone to believe in them. As I drove my son to school this morning, I told him, “I’m proud of you for keeping a good attitude, even though I know your first days of middle school have not been easy.” Our stepchildren need our support. On days they’re not easy to love, ask for God’s help. “I am with you; …I will strengthen you and help you.” (Isaiah 41:10)

5. Get to know their friends. Make your house the hangout.  If we don’t know our children’s friends, we can’t help them in their relationships. Friends can directly influence what kind of school year our stepchildren/children have. If you’re raising teens, keep food around – it always works. And gently talk to your kids about friends you don’t approve of and why. Childhood friendships are a breeding ground for teaching  what healthy relationships look like.

Are you looking forward to a new school year or dreading it? Will you commit to do your part in helping your children/stepchildren have a successful year?

What other tips do you offer? I would love to hear from you.

Pic by scottchan

Related Posts:

Back to School Routines and Your Stepfamily: Peaceful or Chaotic?

The Myth of the Perfect Stepparent

Change: A Friend or a Foe in Your Stepfamily?

Learning to Accept the Things You Cannot Change