Seven Tips for Finding Balance in the Midst of Holiday Chaos

Our family leaves on an extended holiday trip in just over 2 weeks and I keep wondering how I’m going to get everything done. So, here are a few tips I’ve created to help myself maintain balance during this busy time of year – I hope you find them helpful also.

1. Prioritze your schedule to include activities most important to you. Say no to everything else and to obligations someone else can manage.
For me, that includes attending my son’s Christmas party at school, special church services, a holiday piano performance in our hometown, a few Christmas parties, and various other events. However, it doesn’t include ladies bunko night, the symphony performance, or lunch with each of my girlfriends to exchange gifts – there simply isn’t time for all that. 

2. Start each day with a spiritual act – prayer, devotional, Bible reading, listening to songs of praise, etc. to center your mind and soul for the day.
When we start our day with God in control, it allows for a God-centered day instead of a  man-centered one.  

3. Don’t allow someone else power over your emotions (i.e. ex-spouses, children/stepchildren).
Commit to staying in control of your emotions instead of allowing someone else to take that power from you. Walk away from volatile emotions or heated conversations. Engage in communication via e-mail or texting if necessary.

4. Stay faithful to healthy eating patterns and a regular exercise routine.
Get up earlier than usual if you need to, but don’t skimp on exercise and sensible eating. You will feel better and manage your demanding schedule more competently if you maintain healthy habits through the season.

5. Break down consuming tasks into chunk-size actions that can be completed a little at a time.
For instance, I easily become overwhelmed when I think about shopping for our five children in addition to parents, siblings, nieces, nephews, etc. However, if  I choose one child to focus on until I’m finished and then move to the next child or a parent or whatever, the task seems less daunting.

6. Commit to making each day positive.
We have so much to be thankful for and if we choose to focus on the positives in our life, we will manage our schedule with greater ease. If we have a bump in the road one day, we can choose to pick ourselves up and keep moving forward instead of allowing negative thoughts to set in.

7. Read Thriving at the Holidays: A Stepparent’s Guide to Success – Unwrapping the Gift of Peace (an easy-to-read e-book) to find additional tips on maintaing balance and creating a peaceful season.  

There they are – 7 tips for finding balance during holiday chaos.

Do you another tip to add? Would you please share it with us?

Related Posts:

Holiday Tip: Balancing Your Time as you Consider What’s Important

Holiday Tips for Stepfamilies: Live One Day at a Time

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?

Coping with Difficult People

Angry. Humiliated. Disgruntled. I left our church choir rehearsal with a flood of emotions circulating through my mind. As a piano accompanist, I had been belittled in front of the choir. It wasn’t the first time it had happened but I vowed it would be the last.

I knew it was time to confront the person in charge who touted his musical knowledge in a fashion that humiliated those who worked for him. A peacemaker by nature, I don’t like conflict. But I’ve learned there are times we must confront those in our path who are mistreating us.

That doesn’t mean we recreate the conflict or nitpick issues that should be overlooked. As a stepparent, we can recognize the losses our stepchildren carry, and allow grace for their troubled emotions. As my post, Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff talks about, we want to pick our battles. But it’s important to realize that even as Christians, we do not have to allow others to mistreat or take advantage of  us.

In their book, Peacemaking Women, Tara Barthel and Judy Dabler talk about the need to confront. “As difficult as it is, sometimes we are called to go humbly to the people who have wronged us in order to help them to understand better how they have contributed to our conflicts. Of course, when appropriate, we should be quick to overlook (Prov 19:11), and we must always first confess our own sins (Matt 7:5). But if after we have confessed our own sins we cannot overlook the offense, we are called to help the person who has offended us by gently restoring her (Gal 6:1) and helping her remove the speck from her eye (Matt 7:5).

I like the way these ladies describe our responsbility in the conflict – try to overlook and confess our own sin first if that’s part of the conflict. Then, if we cannot overlook the offense, humbly confront. The Scripture they give offers additional understanding of the Biblical view on conflict.

In my conflict mentioned above, the choir director and I reached an amicable agreement in how he would treat me at rehearsal. It took courage on my part to confront his actions, but the result was worth the effort.

I pray you’re not dealing with difficult people today. But if you are, I encourage you to seek a Biblical solution to the conflict by overlooking the offense when you can, and confronting in love when you can’t.

Are you allowing a difficult person to badger or bully you? 

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

What’s stressing you today? Have the little things of life become big things because you’re having trouble letting go? Is your stepchild relationship experiencing a small leak that’s about to lead to a blowout?

How we react to what happens around us determines a hostile or peaceful outcome. If my stepson shoots a glaring look my way, I can choose to ignore it or I can let it ruin my day. If my stepdaughter challenges my thinking on something I believe in, I can spout off a defensive remark or I can stand firm in my position while shrugging my shoulders.

There are a multitude of things that happen every day in our stepfamily relationships that are not worth getting stressed about. When we identify which battles we want to fight, and leave the rest alone, we find more serentiy for our journey. 

My good friend and stepfamily authority, Ron L. Deal, says his whole perspective on life changed after he lost his son from a brief illness. He says he doesn’t stress anymore about a spilled drink in the living room or whether every paper gets put in the recycling bin. Life is simply too short to spend our days bothered over trivial matters.

In his book, Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff… and it’s all small stuff, Dr. Richard Carlson says he plays a game with himself called the “time warp.” He says, “I made it up in response to my consistent, erroneous belief that what I was all worked up about was really important. To play “time warp,” all you have to do is imagine that whatever circumstance you are dealing with isn’t happening right now but a year from now. Then simply ask yourself, ‘Is this situation really as important as I’m making it out to be? Will this matter a year from now?’ Once in a great while it may be — but a vast majority of the time, it simply isn’t.”

So, next time your stepchild leaves his laundry in the washing machine and goes to school, leaving it for you to finish, remind yourself that it won’t matter a year from now. That doesn’t mean you don’t address the issue when he comes in from school and seek to correct it from happening again, but it does mean you choose not to stew over it the rest of the day.

Are you sweating the small stuff in your stepfamily relationships?

Related Posts:

Let Go of the Guilt

Stepfamily Trap: The Danger of Denying our Feelings

Sick of Stepparenting?

Making Time for What Matters

Making Time for What Matters in Your Stepfamily

Our greatest fear as individuals and as a church should not be of failure but of succeeding at things in life that don’t really matter.” Francis Chan

I’ve always admired Tony Dungy. As head coach of the Indianapolis Colts, he was the first African American coach to achieve a Super Bowl victory. The 2007 win put him in an elite echelon of only three individuals who have won the Super Bowl as a player and head coach.

But those accomplishments aren’t what make Coach Dungy stand out from his peers. It’s his passionate desire to walk a path of significance characterized by uncommon attitudes, ambitions, and allegiances. He knows how to distinguish the important from the unimportant and fashion his time after what matters.

In his book, Uncommon, Finding Your Path to Significance, Coach Dungy says, “We have all missed too many memories and moments in our lives because of poorly ordered priorities. But even so, it’s never too late to set things straight … Start here: ‘Seek first his kingdom.’ (Matthew 6:33). Take a few moments to be quiet and spend time with God. He will lessen your worries about tomorrow and release you from the breathless pace of the world’s urgent priorities.”

Time spent on what matters most will look different to each of us. But if we aren’t intentional with our time, we find ourselves on the treadmill of busyness, focused on the urgency of the present, instead of the lasting permanence of significant moments.

Stepparenting is a time-consuming endeavor if we take it seriously. But, I believe it’s an important role and one worth making time for. Do you agree?

How do you spend your time? Are you making time for what matters?

Related Posts:

Making Your Re-Marriage Work: Embrace Flexibility

Setting Boundaries as a Stepparent

Let Go of the Guilt – Part Two

As a stepparent, do you carry around unnecessary guilt? Do you beat yourself up when you make a mistake or don’t have a perfect day with your stepchild?

Guilt is a harmful emotion. It keeps us from enjoying present-day peace and sets us up for self-defeating behavior. Unless the guilt is justified from wrong behavior, it’s time to let go of it.

I think that as stepparents we expect too much of ourselves and can never measure up. Then, we feel guilty because our expectation doesn’t match reality.

My husband, Randy, and I are both stepparents in our family. I always compared my role as a stepparent to his two kids to his role as a stepparent to my two kids. But, everytime I contrasted the stepfamily relationships, I came up short. Randy’s relationships with my children were stronger than my relationships with his. Following my comparison each time came guilt.

What I finally realized was there are completely different dynamics in the relationships. My two girls call my husband Dad and consider him their primary father figure. Their natural father has proved unstable and unpredictable during their years of growing up. Therefore, they’ve embraced Randy as their stepdad and have a healthy, loving relationship with him.

On the other hand, my stepchildren had an active mother in their lives until she passed away. I sensed that she competed with me in every way, discouraging any kind of relationship with her children.

My stepdaughter went to live with her mother as a young adolescent, creating less of an opportunity for me to bond with her. My stepson also lived with his mother for several years during the period of her terminal illness and death. Since her passing, it’s easy to recognize the loyalty conflict he struggles with that prevents him from forming an intimate relationship with me.

So, I finally decided that if I was doing my best to demonstrate unconditional love and acceptance with my stepchildren and continuing to strive toward a healthy, growing relationship, I would not feel guilty over less-than-perfect bonds with them. I realized that my stepchildren and the dynamics in their “other home” also play a role in what kind of relationship I’m allowed to develop with them.

Stepfamily dynamics are different in every home. Some stepfamily relationships form very close bonds and some never get past an acquaintance stage. But if you’re doing your part to develop healthy, loving relationships, regardless of what your relationships currently look like, let go of the guilt. It serves no constructive purpose.

What are you feeling guilty about that you need to let go of?

Related Posts:

Let Go of the Guilt – Part One

Take Care of Yourself Spiritually, Physically, and Emotionally

Setting Boundaries as a Stepparent