The Benefits of Conflict in Your Stepfamily

I recently returned from a week long vacation with my extended family to the mountains. It was a wonderful time of relaxing and enjoying the beauty of God’s creation surrounding us.

Beauty of God's creation

But it wasn’t a conflict-free, trouble-free vacation. They never are, are they?

As I reflected on our trip after I returned, I couldn’t help but parallel the conflict that happened in my biological family-of-origin to that of what happens in stepfamilies. I was raised in a very stable, traditional home with three sisters and two parents who did a wonderful job (not perfect) rearing their four daughters and equipping us for life.

However, we are still four imperfect 50+-year-old women who sometimes have conflict amongst ourselves.

Does that mean our family is dysfunctional? No.

Does that mean we don’t love each other? No.

Does that indicate we need to quit going on vacation together? No.

Could it be we are simply an imperfect family seeking to do life together amidst stress, difficult circumstances, and changing dynamics? Yes!

And when those variables come into play, it’s not unusual that conflict follows. You see,  our family is facing the undeniable reality that my mom’s dementia is progressing much quicker than any of us want to admit. And it’s having far-reaching effects with all of us.

Stress, difficult circumstances, changing dynamics, … and as a result, conflict.

I would venture to guess it’s no different than what’s happening in your stepfamily.  What difficult circumstance are you facing? How is change affecting your family? What is the biggest stressor you’re dealing with right now? Is it creating conflict?

The good news is: conflict isn’t all bad. Conflict is an indicator that something needs to change. And it’s usually a direct result of someone speaking up in regards to something they’re unhappy about.

So, conflict in your stepfamily uncovers someone’s need to address an issue that might need to change for the benefit of the family.

Without conflict, we ignore or internalize what we’re unhappy about and it never changes. And when we internalize our issues instead of addressing them, we create other problems for ourselves that will  show up later such as a volcano of anger that spews, underlying frustration with your family, an ulcer, high blood pressure, and a host of other physical issues.

What’s important with conflict is how we handle it. I’ve addressed this issue before at Tips to Help if You’re Experiencing Conflict in Your Family and Resolve Conflict as it Occurs and several other blog posts. If you struggle with resolving conflict properly, I hope you’ll take time to educate yourself on this very important topic. I wrote a complete article on it, “Fighting Fair: 12 Tips to Help You Manage Conflict and Strengthen Your Stepfamily,” for Stepmom Magazine that can be found here. 

Use conflict in a healthy manner to solve problematic issues in your stepfamily. Don’t skirt around it or ignore it. Address it! (Properly please). And then bask in the beauty of resolve.

Can you share the benefits of conflict resolution you’ve experienced in your stepfamily? Id love to hear about it.  




Happy National Stepfamily Day! You Are Important!

National Stepfamily Day was created by Christy Borgeld, of Grand Rapids, Michigan, in 1997 to recognize and celebrate the importance of stepfamilies and is celebrated every year on September 16th. The National Stepfamily Day Foundation was also established by Christy to support and encourage stepfamilies.

I hope you will take a moment to affirm your value as a stepparent and celebrate the family you’re creating. If you want some ideas on how to celebrate the day, check out this video:

101 Things to Do on Stepfamily Day

No need to feel like you have to do something fancy. The important thing is to celebrate the relationships you’re investing in and the valuable role you play in your stepfamily.

Anne Sleeman, stepmom and President of Kids On Time, Inc.–a great co-parenting tool–offers helpful insight on what being a stepparent is and isn’t and how it impacts you:

“Being a step parent is a privilege not a right.

Being a step parent means having to make sacrifices of a biological parent knowing that you may never be rewarded or even recognized for them.

Being a step parent means making every effort to participate in the lives of the kids of the person you love as an “extra” parent/adult who loves and cares about them.

Being a step parent means sometimes being on the outside or not being included in family photos or older memories and having to choke back the tears so no one notices that it hurts.

Being a step parent means making lifestyle changes to support being the best parent figure, friend, role model and person you can be.

Being a step parent means you sometimes have to hear others speaking about how they wish your spouse and the kid’s other parent were still together…for sake of the kids. Even if their bio-parent isn’t better suited for the job.

Being the step parent means being introduced as the step-parent, which sometimes includes weird and judgmental looks.

Being a step parent means helping with homework, and talking about drugs and sex and morals and friends and bulling and finances and right from wrong and a whole host of other subjects that come up that you never would have dreamed of discussing with your parents.

Being a step parent means back to school shopping is now more important than shopping for your own wardrobe.

Being a step parent means, somehow, with all the effort along the way, being proud of the young person you have helped to shape and mold.

Being a step parent means feeling proud when your step child does something good for society, themselves or others.

Being a step parent allows you to love and be loved in one of the most unique, misunderstood and underrated relationships in our society.

So, is being a step parent worth it? YES! In more ways than you can count.”

Do you agree? What would you add? I hope you’ll consider today, and every day, the valuable role you play as a stepparent! Happy Stepfamily Day!!

How will you celebrate National Stepfamily Day? I’d love to hear about it!

Pic byphotostock








Great New Resource for Stepmoms: “Recipe for Joy–A Stepmom’s Story”

I love introducing new resources for stepmoms because as you know, if you’ve been a stepmom long, the journey isn’t easy. I’m participating in a blog tour this week and can’t wait to tell you about a new book, Recipe  for Joy: A Stepmom’s Story of Finding Faith, Following Love, and Feeding a Family by Robin Davis.

Recipe for Joy: A Stepmom's Story

Davis has been a food writer for almost 20 years and promised herself there were three things she would never do: move back to Ohio, get married, and join an organized religion. The book cites a compelling story of how her life took a turn she would have never predicted.

In a transparent, authentic voice, Davis relates a journey that begins as one seeking fulfillment through an interesting food and writing career–while running from God, but ends as one finding meaning in life through a relationship with God and two roles she would have never anticipated: a wife and stepmother who moves back to Ohio!

It’s a beautifully written story, in an easy-to-read fashion, that offers hope and inspiration for blending families. I especially related to her quest to seek perfection as a stepmother and frustration in her ability to do so. Here are a few quotes from the book I couldn’t resist sharing:

“I knew, just knew, that if I tried harder, worked harder, and loved harder, I would be a perfect straight-A mom. What that search for perfection actually gave me was an A+ bout of anxiety that turned into something more serious.”

Advice from her husband, Ken: “They don’t expect you to be perfect. They love you just the way you are.”

“Prayers. Daily prayers. …became a ray of light. I don’t mean that my prayers were answered. … But my prayers changed, and my attitude changed.”

“You need to live in the moment, not rehearse the future,” Julie [her counselor] told me. “When you try to live in the future, you’re destined for disappointment. Life will never be exactly the way you imagine it.”

Words of wisdom for anyone doing life in a blended family:

We don’t have to strive for perfection in our stepparenting role to find success.

We can learn to live in the present, enjoying the blessings of today instead of striving for something better in the future.

We can find peace and light for our journey through our daily prayers.

A Must-read book for blended families with words of encouragement and hope offered in a refreshing format. In addition, each chapter closes with a family-tested recipe to try.

Learn more out this great resource here:  Recipe for Joy–A Stepmom’s Story or visit Robin’s website at


Celebrate Mother's Day with Stepmoms

Five Great Ways to Celebrate Mother’s Day as a Stepmom

One of the hardest hurdles to cope with as a stepparent is the reality that we make the same sacrifices as a biological parent but  reap very few rewards for our efforts. In his book, The Smart Stepfamily, Ron Deal gives three reasons why the stepmother role is even more difficult than the stepfather role.

“First, children tend to maintain more frequent contact with their noncustodial mothers. Second, children’s attachment to their biological mother is believed to be stronger than their attachment to their father, making the acceptance and bonding with a stepmother even more difficult. Third, because society expects women to achieve a higher relational standard than men, stepmothers feel greater pressure to build a strong attachment with stepchildren.”

We know it’s not easy being a stepmother, right? Thus, we have every reason to celebrate and affirm ourselves on Mother’s Day for what we do for our stepchildren. But we don’t have to wait and let our stepchildren’s response control our day.

Five Great Ways to Celebrate Mother's Day as a StepmomIt’s natural for stepchildren to honor their biological mom on Mother’s Day. Unfortunately, that could mean the stepmom gets left out.

So why not choose to create your own special day? Here are a few suggestions:

1. Spend Saturday night at a Bed and Breakfast and wake up Sunday morning to a breakfast prepared for you. Re-connect with your spouse as you reminiscence and celebrate the good things happening in your stepfamily.

2. Find another stepmom who’s  having a difficult time and spend the afternoon with her. Encourage her efforts and talk through her challenges. Laugh together and affirm each other for the special role you’re playing as you’re making a difference in your stepchildren’s lives.

3. Abandon your house and spend the day at a nearby lake, beach, bike path or hiking trail. Absorb the beauty of nature and remind yourself of God’s love for you through His creation, His sovereignty over your life, and His willingness to walk with you through difficult times.

4. Attend your favorite church service with a beautiful corsage on, signifying the important role you play as a stepmom. Then spend the afternoon with your spouse creating a “God box” that outlines prayer concerns for your stepfamily on small pieces of paper. As you drop each concern in the box, pray for your family’s needs. Keep the box going for an entire year and re-visit the box next year to see how God has answered your prayers.

5. Give yourself the gift of relaxation with a good book, time at the movies or a day at the spa with a girlfriend. Eat at your favorite restaurant and tell your family you’ll be taking the day off from chores. Pamper yourself in whatever way feels special to you.

Mother’s Day doesn’t have to be a difficult day for stepmoms. Plan your own celebration! You deserve it! And if your husband’s looking for a gift idea for you, tell him to send you to the Stepmom Retreat in September. It will be a great time of fellowship with other stepmoms and a place to find help, healing, and hope on your journey. Go here for details:

How are you celebrating this week-end? I would love to hear about it!

Pic by  posterize.  This post was originally posted 5/9/2012

Related Posts:

Celebrating Mother’s Day as a Stepmom

More Mother’s Day Thoughts



Create Boundaries for Blessings in Your Stepfamily

Do you remain in a conversation with your stepchild while he/she displays disrespectful behavior? Do you continue to pick up your children’s clothes even though you’ve asked them to do it themselves? Do you allow your ex-spouse to make repeated changes to the kids’ visitation schedule without consequences? If so, it’s likely you have a boundary problem.

Create Boundaries for Blessings in Your Stepfamily

We teach others how to treat us through our actions, inactions, communication and silence. Healthy relationships require constant boundary setting. Without it, we invite confusion, frustration and resentment into our heart and home.

Boundaries can be paralleled to our physical home in which we allow some people in but keep others out. Much like a fence around our home, boundaries can be trampled on and torn down. They can also be moved and rebuilt. As owners of our fence, we decide how to manage our boundaries.

As stepparents, we make endless sacrifices for our stepchildren with few rewards, particularly in the beginning. It’s our responsibility to determine what limits we should put in place to foster thriving relationships.

If we allow our stepchildren to constantly trample over our requests, we set ourselves up for an embittered relationship and create self-centered adults in the process. But if we put boundaries in place to define our expectations and follow through with consequences when our limits are not respected, we open the door to a greater likelihood of healthy, loving relationships without feeling manipulated or disrespected.

I didn’t learn to set boundaries until well into my adult years. I wasted a lot of time always doing what others expected of me instead of considering my own needs. I was unhappy with my circumstances but afraid to do things differently.

Setting boundaries doesn’t mean we become selfish or unconcerned with other’s needs. It means we take care of ourselves first, giving us the capability to then take care of others.

I like the way Sue Thoele discusses boundaries in The Courage to be a Stepmom:. “With practice and commitment, taking care of ourselves and setting self-nurturing limits can become second nature. Cultivating the ability to say “no” to unreasonable responsibilities and expectations makes it easier for us to say “yes” to love and laughter.”

Do you need to put some self-nurturing boundaries in place?

Picture by farconville

Related Posts:

The Power of Boundaries as a Stepparent

Setting Boundaries with Your Stepchildren