Gayla Grace on praying for your stepfamily

Resolutions for Your Stepfamily: The Power of Prayer

 Gayla Grace on the importance of praying for your family

I was in a neighborhood prayer group for almost seven years before moving to Louisiana. We met weekly (at 6:00 am!)  to pray for the needs of each family represented. I joined the group when my husband and I were fighting a custody battle. It was a very difficult time—my stepson had lost his mom to cancer and his stepfather applied for custody. These ladies became my support group.  I cried when I left them, sensing I could never replace their friendships. It seemed only natural to start a new prayer group after we moved.

Year after year of praying diligently for my stepfamily has resulted in some amazing healing. My stepson has changed from an angry adolescent who wanted to isolate himself from our family to a maturing young adult who loves and cares for each family member.

This year my birthday card from my stepson had this personal inscription: ““Happy birthday. Happy to call you a part of my life and supportive figure, with all your wisdom. I love you and thank you for everything you do. May your day be blessed.”  (As the kids get older, I am getting smarter! *wink*)

 I don’t write this to brag about my relationship with my stepson. I write to encourage you and give you hope. Strained stepparenting relationships are not unique. You should know you are not alone. I’ve been there. I’ve had many days that I wanted to quit my job as stepmother! But as my stepchildren reach their adult years, they show me their appreciation more and more.
I am convinced that the hours I’ve spent praying for my stepfamily and our relationships have made a difference. Our family was broken when my husband and I married 21 years ago. Only God could have put the pieces back together.
I believe we need to spend more time talking to God about our children than talking to our children about God. I firmly believe we should talk to our children about God, but we can’t underestimate the power of praying for our children and stepchildren.

 Prayer is a powerful discipline that we often neglect.

I love Stormie Omartian’s words in The Power of Praying for Your Adult Children,

I have found that only God can give you the wisdom you need. And He will give it to you when you ask for it. But prayer is not telling God what to do. Prayer is partnering with God to see that His will is done.

Prayer changes relationships.

 What resolutions are you making for the New Year? I hope you’ll include prayer. 

If you are on Twitter, connect with me @GaylaGrace. I’d be happy to pray with you about your stepfamily needs.

Here’s a picture of our kids from my daughter’s wedding this September. I’m thankful to see our kids lock arms with big smiles. (My stepson is on the far left).
wedding-5kids-1

My Biggest Tip after 20 Years in a Stepfamily

My husband and I celebrated 20 years of marriage last week. There were many years I didn’t know if we’d make it to our next anniversary.  Today, I’m thankful for where we are as a stepfamily.

IMG_1587 725-14084337-F Centrum 5 Aft-13916_GPR

I’ve grown emotionally, spiritually, and mentally in so many ways since I began this journey. I’m thankful for what stepfamily life has taught me; I’m a different person than when I started. Last year I wrote a post on What I’ve Learned in 19 Years as a Stepmom. 

I must admit, however, that I’m most thankful our hardest years are behind us. You can read about some of our struggles here: Trusting God’s Plan for Your Stepfamily and The Myth of the Perfect Stepparent. 

There are a lot of suggestions I could give for how we’ve made it 20 years. But today I want to focus on one—or maybe it’s three :). If you asked for my biggest tip for long-term success, peace, and harmony in your stepfamily, here it is:

Make your marriage a priority, trust God through the rough patches, and don’t give up just because it’s hard.

I know—you’ve heard that before, right? Maybe it seems too simple. Maybe you don’t like it. But it’s worked for us.

When our marriage was in trouble (which happened within our first year), we began counseling. My husband and I both uncovered leftover baggage from our previous marriages and family of origin issues that affected us. It was painful to look at my part in how I wanted to be right and insisted on having the last word when we argued or how I considered my way of parenting superior to Randy’s.

I didn’t like having to consider how my 11-year marriage to an alcoholic skewed my thinking about relationships. Trust no longer came easily for me and I put one foot out the door before I gave our marriage a fair chance. I had worked hard in my previous marriage but it failed anyway. I had to dig deep and make myself vulnerable again in a marriage when I didn’t know the outcome.

I questioned our efforts constantly—what were we doing wrong?Although you hear it takes 4-7 years for a stepfamily to blend, it took longer than that for us.  There were things we could have done differently, no doubt, but the truth is, the complexities of our stepfamily life with four children and two ex-spouses made life hard. And just as we were making progress in healthy relationship-building, my stepchildren learned their mother was battling colon cancer. Her death a year later was devastating for everyone.

Your circumstances are different than mine but I suspect you have your own challenges. Days you want to quit. Relationships you want to give up on. Questions that don’t have answers.

I know. It’s hard. I’ve been there.

Will you dig deep? Will you trust a loving God who wants to hold your hand as you walk through difficult circumstances?

Will you do the hard work of looking at your own issues instead of always considering someone else needs to change? Will you persevere when the road stretches out endlessly?

The easy way out is to quit. But you’ll never experience the blessings of the long haul if you do.

I’m thankful I’ve stayed—through the good and the bad.

Make your marriage a priority, trust God through the rough patches, and don’t give up just because it’s hard.

Do you have other suggestions? I’d love to hear them.

If you’d like more nuggets of help, check out our devotional book on Amazon:

Quiet_Moments-Cover copy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Great New Resource: The Smart Stepfamily Marriage

Ron Deal understands stepfamilies! He teamed up with marriage and family expert David Olson to offer keys to success for blended families. I encourage you to grab their new resource!

make THIS marriage last a lifetime

How can you have a happy, meaningful marriage?

Ron Deal and David Olson researched over 100,000 people to discover the qualities that best predict highly satisfying relationships and the roadblocks couples must overcome in order to beat the odds of divorce. Some of their findings will validate what you already know about successful relationships; others will surprise you.

Surprising Findings about Marriage:

  1. The number one relationship problem for stepcouples is dealing with complex stepfamily issues. Making the differences between first marriages and remarriages undeniable, our research reveals that an astonishing 7 of the top 12 stumbling blocks for remarriage couples are related to a past relationship breakup (e.g., divorce) or to the complications of being a stepfamily.
  2. The remarriage divorce rate is between 10-25% higher than first marriages. Why does that occur? Fear and jealousy account for a lot of it and predict with 93% accuracy whether couples have a close, intimate remarriage or a struggling, unhappy one.
  3. People marry because they fall in love with a person, but they often divorce because of the complications of the stepfamily. Eighty-eight percent of individuals expected difficulty related to having a stepfamily and 86% thought having children from previous relationships would add stress to their marriage–and they are right. It does.

Ron Deal, FamilyLife Blended director and stepfamily author, has teamed up with marriage and family expert David Olson, PhD, to offer help, hope, and healing to couples in stepfamilies. Their new book, The Smart Stepfamily Marriage The Smart Stepfamily Marriage (formally titled The Remarriage Checkup) and is backed by research from the largest remarried study ever conducted.

Boasting over 50,000 participating remarrying couples, the National Survey of Couples Creating Stepfamilies was commissioned by Olson, the founder of Life Innovations and the PREPARE/ENRICH program.

Get the book here

Forgiveness and Your Stepfamily

As we head into the Easter week-end, I can’t help but think about forgiveness. I’m forever grateful for Christ’s sacrifice on the cross that offers forgiveness of sin.

blog

But sometimes forgiveness and how to apply forgiveness in our stepfamilies can be misunderstood.  At our stepmom retreat this past week-end, Laura Petherbridge spoke on forgiveness and gave some wonderful nuggets on what forgiveness is and what it isn’t.  These bullets are taken from her handout.

What forgiveness is:

  • A choice
  • An ongoing process
  • Admitting “I was wounded”
  • Getting healing, help and support
  • Giving the person over to God
  • Refusing to dredge up the past
  • Choosing not to seek revenge
  • Freedom from the pain

What forgiveness isn’t:

  • A feeling
  • A one-time event
  • Denying the event
  • Saying it wasn’t wrong
  • Trusting the person again
  • Excusing from the responsibility
  • Intentional punishment
  • Forgetting the offender

Forgiveness is a choice, not a feeling. It must be done repeatedly, perhaps even several times a day.

Forgiveness means we let the offense go and give it to God. But if we’ve been badly wounded, it’s not likely we will forget it. I believe God gave us a memory for a purpose–to protect ourselves and not fall prey to a vulnerable situation again.

If we choose to forgive our ex-spouse because we know it’s the right thing to do, that doesn’t mean we automatically trust him. Trust must be earned with someone’s who’s repentant about what they’ve done.

Forgiveness allows us to be honest with our feelings. If we’ve been hurt by our stepchild, we don’t act as if nothing’s happened. We acknowledge our feelings and work through our wounds as part of the forgiveness process.

Forgiveness doesn’t mean we excuse a person from their part of the interaction, but it does mean we choose to put it in the past and leave it in the past.

There’s a price to pay for the choices we make. The price of unforgiveness is a burden of resentment, a poison of bitterness, and strained relationships. The price of forgiveness is love, freedom, and peace.

Christ paid a huge price so we could experience forgiveness. His death on the cross is a powerful reminder of the sacrifice He offered us. But even Christ struggled with doing what the Father asked of him. Matthew 26:39 says, “He fell facedown and prayed, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup pass from Me. Yet not as I will, but as You will.”

Some days we’d rather say, “Not your will but mine.” My will includes justifying my hurt and wallowing in my wound. My will seeks to take care of myself instead of considering others’ needs. Unfortunately, my will also leads to a life of heartache and disappointment.

Our pastor’s words recently spoke to my heart, “Unforgiveness is demanding that other people be perfect, and that’s a standard You can’t meet!” If I fail to forgive my stepson for an imperfect action, I’m expecting he’ll never have to forgive me for a wrong. I make imperfect choices every day. Why, then, do I hold onto unforgiveness?

Forgiveness provides the key to unlock the tension in stepfamily relationships. We’re called to forgive, even when it’s not our fault. It’s not easy, but when we choose to be obedient to the call,we experience peace and joy in our relationships.

If you’re struggling with forgiveness, I encourage you to purchase Laura’s DVD on forgiveness. It can be found at her bookstore here.

What have you learned about forgiveness in your stepfamily? Can you share how you’ve seen your stepfamily changed through the act of forgiveness? I’d love to hear your comments.

Laura Petherbridge is an international author and speaker who serves couples and single adults with topics on spiritual growth, divorce prevention, divorce recovery and stepfamilies. She is a featured expert on the DivorceCare DVD series and the co-author of The Smart Stepmom and  When “I Do” Becomes “I Don’t”—Practical Steps for Healing During Separation and Divorce. She has a new book to be released May 1st, 101 Tips for the  Smart Stepmom.   Laura’s website is www.The SmartStepmom.com.

Picture By africa

 

 

.

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

Your Parenting Style: How Does it Affect Your Stepparenting?

blog picOne of the biggest struggles in stepfamilies is learning how to parent together and working through the conflict that naturally surrounds parenting.

Your parenting style plays a huge role in how much and how often you have conflict in regards to the kids so I’m going to give some detail on the three major parenting styles: authoritative, permissive, and authoritarian.

Parenting research shows the healthiest style of parenting to be the authoritative. This parent shows a high level of control in the home with a high level of warmth. Boundaries are enforced regularly but a child also feels loved and valued. Discipline is done in a way that is supportive, rather than punitive. Ideally, this would be the parenting style enforced most often by both parents in a step couple relationship.

A permissive style, as indicated by its name, is a parent with permissive standards and few demands of the children, along with a very loving, warm nature. It would seem that children thrive with this style, also known as indulgent parenting, but it naturally leads to children being in control of the home, which is never a good thing–especially as they move into their adolescent years.

The third parenting style that researchers refer to is an authoritarian style. Authoritarian parents enforce strict standards with little regard for a tender, compassionate relationship. Children raised with authoritarian parents often show signs of anger and resentment due to the heavy control and lack of relationship in the home. The danger in step couples is for a stepparent to lean toward an authoritarian style of parenting with lots of rules and a minimal relationship. Rules without relationship leads to rebellion in stepfamilies.

In a step couple, it’s natural for individuals to lean toward different parenting styles. The differences can complement each other if they’re not too extreme. However, struggles will occur frequently if the biological parent leans toward permissive and the stepparent leans toward authoritarian. This will create anger and resentment for stepchildren and high conflict for the step couple.

Parenting must be a team effort in your stepfamily. The biological parent should be the primary disciplinarian as much as possible (in an authoritative role). The stepparent, particularly in the early years, should be focused on relationship-building, not rule-enforcing. However, the biological parent must support the stepparent’s efforts when he or she chooses to play an authoritative role, which will naturally happen at times.

If you’re a stepmom parenting with a husband who leans toward a permissive style, I recommend you purchase Laura Petherbridge’s book, The Smart Stepmom and read the chapters together that address the stepparenting team. One is titled, “Dad Smart: She Can’t Do it Without You,” and “Dad Smart: Pitfalls and Good Intentions.”  There’s also good information in Ron Deal’s book, The Smart Stepfamily, on this topic.

If you’re a stepparent who leans toward authoritarian parenting, I recommend you step back and let your spouse take the lead in parenting his or her children. Give yourself a break! Your stepchildren will grow to love and respect you quicker and you will have more harmony in your home.

You CAN find compatibility as a parenting team but it takes time and perseverance. There will be times of disharmony in your home, but that doesn’t mean you’ve failed–it’s a natural progression to the process. My husband and I have determined that we will “agree to disagree” at times when we are at different spectrums on our parenting opinions. If there is little risk in the parenting choice, we let it go and allow the parent of their biological child to make the decision, even if we don’t agree with it.

Laura Petherbridge says, “Do you want to be right or do you want to have peace?” After almost 2.5 decades of parenting, I recognize there’s more than one way to parent. Keep a long-term focus: what matters in the end with parenting is the adult you’re creating in the process.

What is your parenting style? How does it affect your stepfamily?

Pic by nokhoog_buchachon