Holiday Tips for Stepfamilies – Balancing Your Time as You Consider What’s Important

My parents live out of state and visited for several days over the Thanksgiving holiday. We had a wonderful visit and I enjoyed our time together. But I was mindful of my tendency to focus on my to-do list during this busy season instead of simply relaxing and enjoying their company.

I don’t want to regret the way I spent my time when my children are gone from home and my parents have passed away. I want my loved ones to know they are important to me. I demonstrate that when I make time for them.

It’s easy to overload our schedule this time of year with shopping, Christmas parties, and other social events. But if we fail to leave time for our family, we neglect the most important item on our list.

Balancing our time includes saying no. We don’t have to go to every Christmas luncheon we are invited to or volunteer at every function we hear about. But it’s important to make time for our children’s Christmas programs and recitals.

Finding balance during the holiday season for me also includes taking time for exercise and watching what I eat. During the Thansksgiving break, I noticed a sluggishness toward the end of the week. I’m certain it was a result of too much sugar and not enough exercise during the break. So, I re-committed to healthier eating and consistent exercise to give me the energy I need for the holiday season.

As we begin the busiest month of the year, it’s a great time to evaluate our schedules and determine what’s important to us. We are given once chance to live each day. I don’t want to look back with regret. I want to look forward with anticipation. How about you?

Is your schedule overloaded? How will you find balance?

Related Posts:

Holiday Tips for Stepfamilies: Live One Day at a Time

How Do You Find Balance?

Setting Goals and Your Stepfamily

Holiday Tips for Stepfamilies – Be Flexible and Agreeable With Others, Whenever Possible

During the holiday season, it’s natural to see and talk with outside family members more often. It’s uncomfortable to see your ex-spouse or former in-laws if communication is strained. When possible, commit to do your part to be friendly and easy to get along with.

When deciding on the visitation schedule, be willing to make sacrifices to fit everyone’s schedule. Offer alternatives for special dates and activities.

Recognize that Thanksgiving and Christmas can be celebrated on alternate days and still be a memorable day. We have exchanged Christmas gifts before and after December 25th many years to allow everyone to be together and still celebrated a special day.

Try to be fair to all parties involved. Separate old marital issues from parenting issues and examine your heart for resentment or bitterness that might be keeping you from friendly interaction.

I wish I could say that I communicate easily with my ex-husband since it has been almost 20 years since our divorce, but that is not the case. I have to consciously work at being friendly and treating him fairly when I talk to him.

If conversations become difficult, shield the children from being involved. It is not always possible to have healthy interaction when the other party is volatile or overly sensitive, but the children should not be subjected to conflict with their other parent.

It may be necessary to resort to e-mail or texting to communicate. But we can do our part to try to be at peace with those we come in contact with and protect our children from being pulled between two people they love.

Holidays will be enjoyed more when our conversations are free of conflict. There may be bumps along the way, but it helps when we make a conscious effort to get along with those around us.

“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (Romans 12:18)

Will you make an extra effort to be agreeable with others through the holiday season?

Related Posts:

Holiday Tips for Stepfamilies: Let Go of Unrealistic Expectations

Holiday Tips for Stepfamilies: Live One Day at a Time

Healthy Boundaries with Your Ex-Spouse

Holiday Tips for Stepfamilies – Live One Day at a Time

“Anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, but only empties today of its strength.” Charles Spurgeon

When emotions are high during the holiday season, it’s easy to worry about the upcoming visitation or encounter with difficult family members. But if we consider each day a gift that will not be experienced again, we will make each day count.

Living one day at a time as a stepparent means we wipe the slate clean every morning of previous hurts and offenses, starting new for the day with a positive attitude. We don’t burden ourselves with concerns of tomorrow that may not happen anyway, but stay focused on what we can do today to positively impact those around us.

We can remind ourselves that God will never give us more than we can handle if we choose to meet only the responsibilities of today, not yesterday or tomorrow.

If past holidays have been difficult, we may project that the next one will be also. But we determine what kind of celebration we will have and whether we will allow others to interrupt our joy. We can learn from our past and do things differently, while choosing not to place blame or wallow in self-pity.

I love the quote, “Experience is not what happens to you, it is what you do with what happens to you.”

Determine to make every day of this holiday season a special one. Focus on what you can change and let go of what you can’t. Begin today with a renewed commitment to live one day at a time.

“Therefore, do not wory about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:34)

Are you facing unusual challenges this season? Will you strive to live one day at a time as you meet those challenges?

Related Posts:

Holiday Tips for Stepfamilies: Let Go of Unrealistic Expectations

Healthy Stepparenting: Take Care of Yourself Physically, Spiritually and Emotionally

Making Your Remarriage Work: Embrace Flexibility

My husband and I returned from a five-day anniversary trip yesterday to learn some disturbing news. My stepson, a college student living on his own with a roommate, was robbed and held at gunpoint a few days ago at his apartment. In broad daylight, the door to his apartment was kicked open, and two men ransacked his place while threatening him with his life.

I’m thankful my stepson wasn’t hurt and we believe God protected him. Feeling unsafe to stay there, we’re now faced with a decision concerning where he will live. We offered him the chance to move back home, realizing it would be an adjustment for all of us. But we want him to heal from his traumatic experience and be able to move forward without fear.

Change is an inevitable part of life. Stepfamilies encounter more change, on average, than traditional families. As children move back and forth between homes, relationships with ex-spouses and extended family members change, and jobs change to accommodate family needs, transitions seem never-ending.

If we choose to embrace flexibility, our remarriage will fare better.  We may not like the changes that occur, but if we accept them and deal with them the best we can, we will find contentment. If we fight change, we become bitter and resentful with our circumstances.

We can also be assured there will be more change as years pass. Children/stepchildren grow up and leave home, demands of the family change, and new responsibilities surface as our own parents age and the parenting roles reverse. Embracing flexibility offers a healthy outlook for our remarriage as we cope with everyday change.

What change are you currently encountering? Can you embrace a flexible attitude?

Related Posts:

Coping with Change

When a Stepchild Changes Residence

Nurture Your Marriage

Your Ex-Spouse and Boundaries: Part Two

I was raised in a conservative Christian home. I’m thankful for parents who taught me strong Biblical principles on how to live. I stand by those beliefs and raise my children on Biblical standards. However, we must consider whether “turning the other cheek” is the best action when we’re confronted with dysfunctional situations, particularly if young children are at stake. Determining how to set and maintain healthy boundaries for me and my children has been an ongoing process.

During the separation period with my husband and shortly following my divorce, I attended Al-Anon meetings (support for families of alcoholics) regularly. I learned how to take care of myself and my two girls without sacrificing their relationship with their father. I set guidelines that I shared with my ex regarding my expectations when the girls were with him and consequences if his irresponsible behavior (drinking, unhealthy choices, etc.) showed up during visitation periods. I had no guarantee that he would follow my requests, but since they were in writing, I knew I could use them in a court of law if I needed to.

When my oldest daughter reported instances of her and her sister being left alone while in his care (at 3 and 5 years old), or told to walk to the store without him, I knew I couldn’t trust his parental judgment. I pursued supervised visitation with him to protect my girls until they got older. Boundary setting with my ex-husband became a way of life for me.

When we learn to set healthy boundaries with our ex-spouse, we are less likely to have ongoing anger issues with him/her. If we don’t allow him/her to violate our “property lines” (see earlier post on boundaries), we have the freedom to develop an amicable relationship with him/her.

Boundary setting should not be malicious or revengeful. It’s not meant to alienate our ex-spouse, but rather  co-parent with him/her in a way that provides respect and stability for each party involved.

Every situation is different. If your ex-spouse is mentally and emotionally healthy, there may be little need for boundary setting. But if you’re dealing with a dysfunctional relationship, learning how to set healthy boundaries and stick to them becomes mandatory.

“Today I have the courage and faith to be true to myself, whether or not others like or agree with me. Knowing my boundaries does not mean forcing others to change; it means that I know my own limits and take care of myself by respecting them.”  Courage to Change, One Day at a Time in  Al-Anon

Do you need to consider healthy boundary-setting with your ex-spouse?

I’m working on an e-book for stepfamily holiday survival tips, including co-parenting suggestions. It will be available in November on my website. Sign up for my newsletter to stay informed.

Related Posts:

Setting Boundaries with An Ex-Spouse: Part One

Co-Parenting with Clear Vision

Setting Boundaries with an Ex-Spouse

Stepparenting issues can be overwhelming and unbearable. Then, you throw in problems with an ex-spouse, and the situation becomes toxic.

So, how do you maintain sanity when dealing with a difficult ex-spouse? The best way is to learn how to set appropriate boundaries and stick with them. 


I will be discussing boundaries and ex-spouses in the next few posts. But, the most important point I want to make today is to establish whose responsibility it is to set boundaries. That position lies with the person who was married to the difficult ex-spouse in the first place.

In their book, Boundaries, When to Say Yes, When to Say No To Take Control of Your Life, Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend describe boundaries: “They define what is me and what is not me. … Boundaries help us to distinguish our property so that we can take care of it. We need to keep things that will nurture us inside our fences and keep things that will harm us outside.”

If an ex-spouse is being difficult, we need to learn how  to keep him/her out of our property line. That doesn’t mean we exclude him/her completely, but we learn to set limits on how often and to what degree he/she is allowed to interfere in our lives.

For instance, if an ex-spouse is repeatedly late when picking up the children for visitation, we establish a boundary and put a consequence on the behavior. We might say to our ex-spouse, “If you are more than 15 minutes late in picking up the children, you’ll need to make different arrangements regarding visitation that day.” Always have another plan to fall back on so you can follow through with your consequences.

It’s not easy to set boundaries in the beginning and your ex-spouse won’t like it, but it’s necessary for the wellness of your current spouse and your stepfamily.

More on  boundaries and ex-spouses next time.

How do you manage boundaries with your ex?

Related Posts:
How to Co-Parent Successfully with your Ex

Co-Parenting Collisions 

Co-Parenting with a Difficult Ex-Spouse