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

As another school year gets underway, many stepfamilies are adjusting to new routines. Stepchildren may be adjusting to different expectations at Mom and Dad’s house with homework and after-school activities. Stepparents may be forced to alter everyday patterns to accomodate bus schedules or after-school pickup.

The changing routines can wreak havoc on a stepfamily already struggling with fragile egos and tense emotions.

For stepparents, navigating a successful path through the back to school maze takes a calm spirit and flexible attitude. 

I recall stressful mornings of years’ past as I struggled to get out the door to my full-time job while making sure our four children had breakfast, a packed lunch, school papers signed, an after-school pickup plan, and were headed to the bus by 7:30. I recall telling a counselor during our early years of marriage, “School mornings are too stressful and I’m not sure how to change it.”

Oftentimes, the only thing we can change to make stepfamily living less stressful is ourselves. I couldn’t change the crazy schedule we lived for several years with kids navigating between households, stressful jobs, and defiant attitudes. But I could change how I reacted to the stress of the situation.

When I made an intentional effort to stay calm during the heat of a battle with one of my stepchildren, I made strides toward a positive outcome while resolving the conflict. When I chose to stay flexible through an ever-changing back and forth routine with my stepchildren, I was better able to meet the demands required of me with those routines.

I’m not saying it was easy. I like routine and I want the routine to stay the same every day. But that’s simply not possible in stepfamilies.

I like an orderly home with school papers put in place, and homework assignments completed on time. But  I learned to adjust to the erratic ways of teen-agers who seem to work best with papers scattered all around while completing a project, or head-banging music that  helps them think while they finish their paper at midnight (which was always restricted to their bedroom!)

Back to school routines create yet another stressful period as stepfamilies make adjustments to accommodate one another. But with a flexible attitude and a calm spirit, we can help our stepchildren adjust to their new routines and thrive in their new school surroundings, creating an environment in our home that benefits each one of us.

How is your back to school routine going? Does it need a dose of flexibility or an extra effort toward a calm spirit?

Pic by dan

 

When Stepparenting Feels Too Hard – Four Ways to Overcome Discouragement

Do you have days when you want to call it quits on your stepparenting efforts? Days when it seems that no matter how hard you try, the results are not what you want?

I had one of those days recently. The challenges were not all related to stepparenting, but some were, and by the end of the day, I was not in a good place emotionally or spiritually. So, I began to consider what to do to change my negative thinking pattern. Here are some ideas that surfaced:

1. Remember that “this too will pass.” Circumstances change, relationships change, and living arrangements change. If you’re having a bad day with a stepchild, remember, he/she will eventually grow up and leave home. We had four children living at home 15 months ago and we now have one. Change is one thing we can count on, but it often brings positive results.

2.Work through difficult feelings with a friend. Allow yourself to be vulnerable with another person and consider your part in the situation. Find support through a prayer group or Bible study. But, if you cannot get past feelings of anger, rejection,or self-pity, you may need to consider stepfamily coaching  or other professional help.

3. Make an intentional effort to stay positive.  In his book, The Power of Positive Thinking, Norman Vincent Peale says, “Take charge of your thoughts. You can do what you will with them.” We can choose to think positively about our stepchild who is pushing our buttons and constructively work through conflict, or we can ruminate negatively about his/her shortcomings and create a tension-filled home. Our behavior is the result of our thoughts.

4. Find hope in the Lord. Look to the one true Source for help. Hope in the Lord brings strength, perseverance, and encouragement. Psalms 62:5-8 says, “Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from Him. He alone is my rock and my salation; He is my fortress, I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.”

Have you had a difficult day recently on your stepparenting journey? Can you offer other suggestions?

Related Posts:

When Stepparenting Isn’t What You Expected

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

Coping with Stepfamily Storms

 

Unexpected Stepparenting Moments

*Note to Readers: Our out-of-state move begins next week. My blogging will be sporadic for the next month but I hope to return to a regular schedule by late summer.

Yesterday was my 50th birthday. A milestone. I had great plans for a leisurely morning on my son’s first day of summer, while considering a movie before going to dinner with my girlfriends. (With my husband working out of state, I planned my own celebration). But my plans went completely awry.

“I’m headed to the Emergency Room,” I heard my stepson, Payton, say on the other end of the phone as I scrambled out of bed. “I’m in severe pain in my lower back and don’t know what to do.” I sensed panic in his voice and tried to calm  his fears. “Let me call the doctor and try to get you in. You will sit for hours at the ER,” I said. “Come to the house so I can help you.”

Less than an hour later we were waiting in the doctor’s office, my stepson barely able to sit on the exam table.The doctor explained that it appeared he had a kidney stone and would need to wait it out, pushing fluids and surviving on pain meds while praying the stone would pass on its own. I suspected that was the diagnosis we would hear and I think my stepson was relieved it wasn’t anything more serious. But kidney stones are not fun to deal with.

I dropped Payton at our house to rest while I picked up his pain medicine. Upon returning, I found him curled in a fetal position, trying to cope with the pain. He took the medicine and began a steady intake of fluids. As the medicine began to take effect, he dozed off quietly.

He stayed at the house most of the day while I encouraged fluid intake and resting. He expressed sincere appreciation for my help during his time of need. He knew it was my birthday and apologized for the inconvenience. But I was thankful I could help.

I reflected on the day later with my sister and she remarked, “That’s just how life goes, isn’t it?” It was okay that I didn’t get to enjoy a leisurely morning or make it to the movies. I did enjoy a special dinner with dear friends that evening as we celebrated my birthday. And I cherished the fact that I was able to help my stepson through a difficult day.

Critical stepparenting moments occur when we least expect them. But if we take the time to rise to the occasion, those are the moments most appreciated by our stepchildren.

Have you experienced unexpected stepparenting moments lately?

Related Posts:

Expect the Unexpected on Your Stepparenting Journey

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

When Stepparenting Isn’t What You Expected

When Stepparenting Isn’t What You Expected

I have a cracked tooth. I went to the dentist this morning and heard some unexpected news. Because it’s one of my front teeth and it has small cracks throughout the tooth, I was told I will eventually need to crown the tooth or consider veneers.

Instead of a simple filling to fix the tooth, I have to consider a completely different alternative – not a bad solution, just different (and much more expensive!) than what I anticipated.

The scenario reminded me of a poem my sister (stepmom of  three) mentioned to me recently. It was actually written for parents of autistic children, but is just as applicable for stepparents.

It illustrates the point that when we find ourselves in a situation that’s different than what we want, we can learn to appreciate the good about it or spend our time regretting what we wish we had.

If we’re constantly comparing our family to those around us in traditional families, we will never learn to appreciate the value and uniqueness of our stepfamily.

I hope you enjoy the poem as much as I have.

Welcome to Holland

When you’re going to have a baby, it’s like planning a fabulous vacation trip – to Italy. You buy a bunch of guidebooks and make your wonderful plans. The Coliseum, the Michelangelo David, the gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It’s all very exciting.

After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, “Welcome to Holland.”

“Holland?!” you say. “What do you mean, Holland?” I signed up for Italy! I’m supposed to be in Italy. All my life I’ve dreamed of going to Italy.

But there’s been a change in the flight plan. They’ve landed in Holland and there you must stay.

The important thing is that they haven’t taken you to some horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease. It’s just a different place.

So you must go out and buy a new guidebook. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met.

It’s just a different place. It’s slower paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you’ve been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around, and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills, Holland has tulips, Holland even has Rembrandts.

But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy, and they’re all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life you will say, “Yes, that’s where I was supposed to go. That’s what I had planned.”

The pain of that will never, ever, go away, because the loss of that dream is a very significant loss.

But if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn’t get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things about Holland.

Written by Emily Perl Kingsley

Can you learn to appreciate Holland or are you stuck in regret about Italy?

Related Posts:

Overcoming Difficult Feelings as a Stepparent

Is it a Privilege to be a Stepparent?

New ebook for Stepmothers available today!

I’m excited to announce a new e-book a fellow stepmom, Heather Hetchler, and I compiled that can be downloaded for FREE from my website home page. It’s a collection of  personal, real-life stories and struggles from seasoned stepmom authors that are designed to encourage and support you on your journey.

Here’s a sampling from a story titled “Learning how to Love,” by Laura Petherbridge, co-author of The Smart Stepmom:

“If I’m being totally honest there were times in my early years as a stepmom that I didn’t even like my stepsons, much less love them. To me they appeared spoiled and pampered, plus everyone in my husband’s family seemed to tip-toe around their wants and whines. … But as a Christian I desired to learn how to love them. I knew Christ could teach me, if I was willing.”

“The first thing God revealed to me was that I had a tainted view of the boys. They were hurting kids, not bratty villains. Their sharp, stinging comments were merely an angry response to their circumstances. They didn’t view me as a wonderful new addition to their family; to them I was the new woman rocking their boat of security. In their eyes, I was taking away their Daddy.”

Here’s another sampling from a story titled “Acceptance,” by Jackie Brown:

“Having my stepdaughter 24/7 was not what I had planned. My life became a roller coaster of angry, sad, unhappy, and at times, depressed feelings. The reality is that I suffered a loss … a loss of the way things were and the way I wanted them to be.

I learned first-hand that there are many things you have to accept in the role of being a full-time stepmom:

Accept that your time, space, and privacy are different from what they once were.
Accept that being a stepmom is unfair and lonely at times.
Accept that you may not see the fruits of your sacrifices until the stepchildren become adults.
Accept that there will be many sacrifices that often go unnoticed.”

There are great stories in this e-book. I hope you’ll hop over and download this free ebook today. Then, come back and let me know what you think.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Steps for Successful Stepparenting

If you’re joining me today from my guest post on The Stepmom’s Toolbox website, Welcome!

 My husband,  Randy, and I participated in the Little Rock Marathon events this week-end. Randy ran the full marathon, posting a faster time than his previous four marathon events. (I ran the half marathon). Pictured on the left is my husband with his HUGE medal and a friend he ran with part of the way.

On our way home from LR, we began to talk about how he improved his time this year. Many of his training methods relate to similar strategies we can use as stepparents.

1. If it isn’t working, try something different. Randy had struggled with leg cramps toward the end of each previous marathon race. This time, he sought help from a specialty running store and used some magnesium tablets that seem to have prevented the cramps, allowing him to decrease his walk breaks at the end of the race.

If you’re struggling in a particular area of our stepparenting role and don’t know a solution, it may be time to seek help. Find a pastor, trusted friend or counselor who is familiar with stepfamily dynamics to confide in and seek advice.

2.  Be willing to invest a lot of time. Preparing to run 26.2 miles in a marathon is a big deal. The training schedule involves 18-22 weeks of strenuous running, along with other cross training workouts. Attempting to run a marathon without the training leads to failure.

Successful stepparenting also involves a lot of time. Stepping into your stepchild’s life and expecting an instant relationship only leads to disappointment. Be willing to spend time getting to know your stepchild, understanding his likes/dislikes, and finding common ground on which to build a relationship.

3. Expect setbacks along the way. Long distance training often leads to injury. The workouts are hard and your body begins to break down. An unexpected weakness shows up through a muscle strain, bone fracture, or ligament tear. With adequate rest and therapy, injuries heal and the training can begin again.

Stepparents can also expect setbacks. A difficult ex-spouse, rebellious teen-ager, or unexpected conflict can lead to setback. It may take months or years to work through a difficult phase, but progress can always begin again if you don’t give up.

4. The biggest prize comes at the end but there are rewards along the journey. The medal earned for completing a marathon is placed around the runner’s neck as he crosses the finish line. However, a sense of pride and satisfaction is enjoyed throughout the training period as a runner sets and reaches goals he never dreamed possible.

The greatest reward for successful stepparenting is experienced as stepchildren leave home, appreciative of strong relationships they share with one another. However, stepparenting also has rewards throughout the journey as bonding occurs and love for one another develops.

Successful stepparenting, like marathon training, has rewards worth seeking. But the journey to the finish line can also be cherished.

What steps have led to success on your stepparenting journey? 

Related Posts:

Expect the Unexpected on Your Stepparenting Journey

Stepfamily Trap: It’s My Way or the Highway

Creating a Stable Stepfamily: Commit to the Long Run