Back to School Tips, Part Two – Evaluating our Schedule

With the beginning of a new school year always comes a busy schedule. I was thinking about how to change my dreaded outlook of the new school year by wondering what I could eliminate from our schedule. Since our youngest daughter is beginning her senior year of high school there are many things on the calendar already that I can’t change.

I am a strong believer in evaluating our commitments regularly and considering if we need to change/add/delete any of them. For example, my husband was asked recently to consider another commitment at church  The program is a valuable ministry within our church. But when he asked my opinion of it, we began listing  his other commitments for the Fall. Adding one more thing to his agenda didn’t seem like a good idea.

As we look at ways to help our stepchildren have a successful school year, we need to consider our schedules. Our family must be our primary ministry. There are a lot of wonderful activities to be involved in, but when we have children at home, they must be our first priority.

I am reminded of some wise words from Christian psychologist, Dr. James Dobson. “I wish parents wouldn’t commit all of their energy to the business of living, holding nothing in reserve for the challenge of raising their kids. The routine stresses of raising an adolescent can be overwhelming. Someone within the family must reserve the time and energy to cope with parenting challenges.”

Our role as stepparents is even more demanding, mentally and emotionally, than that of a biological parent,  If we give all of 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?

As a new school year begins, it’s a perfect time to evaluate our schedule. If we’re intentional with our  commitments, we’ll have more time and energy for our stepparenting roles, allowing us the chance to help our stepchildren achieve greater success at school.

How to Stay Sane in this Heat!

I woke up early thinking about the many things to do since getting back from vacation. And then I remembered how hot the forecast was for the week: 103 degrees for the next several days with the heat index at 120.

Ugh! I’m not much of a hot weather person so the heat presents a challenge for me. And then you add to that a bunch of kids at home, bored from being inside but too hot to go outside. What’s one to do?

I went through an exercise in my head of how to stay sane until school starts. Here are my thoughts:

1. Get up early to exercise so my mental state is good enough to deal with agitated kids.

2. Meditate on Scripture to find a calm place for the day.

3. Pray for peace and sweet attitudes for the kids and myself.

4. Invite friends to the house to keep the kids occupied.

5. Get out every board game we have.

6. Keep plenty of snacks around (comfort food – right?)

7. Threaten the kids with chores if they start fighting with each other (am I the only Mom who does this?)

8. Retreat to my room and close the door when all else fails….

Okay, I’m sure there’s bound to be some other options.

Any suggestions on how to stay sane in this heat?

Creating a Stable Stepfamily: Get Professional Help When You Need It

If you follow national news, you’ve probably seen the story of the stepfamily in Oregon that has been missing their seven-year-old son for more than three weeks.

The father of the boy has now filed for divorce from his wife, the stepmom, and it appears she may be a suspect in the case. The father has also removed the 18-month-old child they share together from the home, and filed for sole custody.

Overwhelmed stepparents face challenges every day that require more mental and emotional strength then they possess. Stepparenting is not an easy role. But there is help out there for those who want it.

My husband and I sought counseling within six months of our marriage. Blending four children proved more difficult then we imagined and we quickly realized we needed help. We worked with a wonderful counselor who understood stepfamily dynamics and guided us toward healthy development in our stepfamily roles. The counseling we received at that time probably saved our marriage.

In seeking a counselor, I strongly recommend you inquire about his/her training with stepfamilies. If counselors try to counsel stepfamilies the same way they counsel traditional families, it does not work! It’s important to work with someone who understands stepfamily dynamics.

It also helps to ask others in your community about counselors they recommend. Unfortunately, there are too many incapable counselors who can do more harm than good. Finding a good counselor is worth the time and effort it takes.

If you recognize that your family needs help, don’t wait to find it. There are precious children at stake who deserve the chance to be raised in a healthy home.

Do you need help coping with your stepfamily challenges?

When to Ask for Help

I spoke with two stepmoms this week who were covered up with too much to do and too little time to do it. With several kids at home, a full time job and constant household duties, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and underappreciated as a stepparent.

So, where do we find help? The first place to consider is our spouse and children. For some unknown reason, society has dictated that women are primarily responsible for the household chores. But if we’re working full-time and trying to manage the household by ourselves, we will drown.

After staying home with our kids for many years, I returned to work a few years ago. I had been accustomed to doing most of the chores at home because I was home more than my husband. But suddenly, I found myself suffocating from too much to do. I was irritable with my kids and angry toward my husband. I expected him to figure out that I needed some help.

Finally one day, with tears spilling down my face, I admitted that I was tired of being Supermom and needed someone else to pick up the slack. We held a family meeting and talked about what needed to change. We split up the chores and asked everyone to do their part to keep the household running smoothly. It took several reminders to get it going but finally worked into an agreeable schedule.

As stepparents, we cannot afford to expend all our time and energy working inside and outside the home. When we reach the end of our rope, the relationship with our stepchildren suffers. I heard a comment from Ron Deal, founder of Successful Stepfamilies, that resonates with me, “Stepparents must shave off their rough edges. Kids will love an unlikeable parent, but rarely even like an unlikeable stepparent.”

When I have too much to do, I become an unlikeable stepparent. I’m quick to snap at my stepkids and grunt at my husband. Therefore, I’m constantly aware of my need to discern what activities and extracurricular events I will be involved in. I know when to ask for help if I begin to feel overwhelmed.

How do you keep your household running smoothly? Do you need to ask for help?

Need Some Rest?

I finally went to the doctor yesterday to have my knee looked at since it refuses to get well. He gave me a steroid injection to help get the inflammation out so it can begin to heal.

He also told me to REST. The doctor is a personal friend of mine and knows that I use exercise for therapy (living with three teen-agers requires regular therapy!) He told me, “No running, no cycling, no weight training until the swelling is out.” Ugh. Resting is hard for me.

We all need rest at times. Even Jesus took time to rest. Exodus 31:17 says, “…in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day he abstained from work and rested.” Before the feeding of the five thousand, there was so much hustle and bustle among the people that Jesus asked the disciples to, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” (Mark 6:31)

Resting is good for us. We may also need to seek solitude as we rest. When we get away by ourselves, it’s easier to sort through the craziness that stepfamily life can bring and align our priorities to better cope. We can meditate on Scripture for strength and courage to persevere. And we can seek solutions to our challenges with a clear mind.

Where can you find rest today? Will you honor yourself by taking time for the rest you need?

Sick of Stepparenting?

I’m recovering from a stomach virus today and I’ve noticed I need more rest and a break in my schedule to make it through the day. I skipped my 6 AM Thursday prayer group to catch an extra hour of sleep. I also changed my usual routine to allow more time at home for rest and self-care. My eating still consists of crackers and Gatorade but I’m cautiously adding a few more items to my diet.

If we take extra care of ourselves when we get physically sick, should we treat ourselves differently when we get emotionally sick of stepparenting? If you’ve been a stepparent long, you’ve probably had those days when you’re sick of the stepparenting routine. You know the routine I’m referring to: mundane parenting tasks without regard as a parent, constant responsibility for your stepchildren with very few rights, and continuous energy toward doing the right thing with little or no appreciation.

If you’re suffering from the “sick of stepparenting” routine, maybe you need extra time for self-care. Go for a walk. Have lunch with a friend. Schedule a massage. Plan a week-end away with your spouse. Take a break from your regular routine and do something nice for yourself.

Stepparenting can be a demanding role. As stepparents, we need to decide when it’s time to take a break from the routine to refill our reservoir, enabling us to continue down the stepparenting journey again.

Do you need a break today? Do you need a week-end away from the routine? Take it! As a stepparent, you deserve it.