Is Your Stepfamily in a Season of Challenge?

I love watching the giddiness of pre-married couples in our stepfamily class. They are in love and somewhat blinded to what lies ahead. Maybe that’s a good thing. Thankfully, they’re trying to educate themselves on how to do stepfamily life before marriage. It’s a beautiful season of refreshment.

We have another couple about four years down the road and they’re definitely in the stepfamily trenches. With a few years under their belt, the kids are questioning their authority and as teen-agers, trying to separate from the family. The stepparents express frustration and bewilderment in how to move forward with their relationships.

It’s a hard period that can last several years before resolving the challenges. During this season, stepfamily authority Ron Deal says, “You must learn to endure disharmony.” I completely agree. It’s a season of challenge.

If you make it through the season of challenge, you move into the season of rewards. During this period, stepchildren decide you’re okay as their stepparent, and regardless of what the other parent might say about you, the stepchild chooses to love and respect you because of the significant role you’ve played that they’ve learned to appreciate. The relationship isn’t perfect, but it’s special. Unfortunately, many stepparents never make it to this season because they’re not willing to endure the season of challenge.

The next season is the season of celebration. The stepchildren leave home and become productive citizens. They aren’t making perfect choices in all areas of life but they’re functioning on their own without your daily assistance. They stay in touch regularly (especially when they need money :)) and the relationship is generally positive and hopeful.

Other seasons follow (like grandparenting seasons) but I’m stopping here to give thanks that we’ve made it to the season of celebration. My stepchildren aren’t perfect and I don’t agree with all their choices, but they’ve launched from the nest and at 22 and 27 years old, are coping well as young adults. My husband and I will celebrate 17 years of marriage this month and I’m continually grateful we didn’t quit during the season of challenge. Yes, there were times we wanted to, but those times are now behind us. And they will pass for you too if you learn to endure the disharmony and commit to the end.

I look forward to the years ahead with my husband. Although we worked through a lot of disharmony during our season of challenge, it’s seems a small sacrifice now for the seasons that follow.We still have one child at home but there are fewer disagreements and stressful circumstances to deal with since it’s our child together.

Are you in a difficult season? Will you commit to endure your season of challenge so you can enjoy the seasons that follow? 

Related Posts:

The Myth of the Perfect Stepparent

Change: A Friend or a Foe in Your Stepfamily?

When Stepparenting is Messy

I sent my son to bed last night with consequences for his lack of obedience on a homework issue. He wasn’t happy with me and barely said good night as I left his room. But as his mom, seeking to raise a responsible young man, I knew I needed to address the issue, even if he didn’t like it.

He bounded out of bed this morning with a smile on his face and a big good morning. The night before had become a thing of the past that he wasn’t going to hold a grudge about because as my biological child, he doesn’t stay mad at me long, even when I dole out consequences. He’s quick to forgive and let go of ill feelings toward me.

It isn’t always the same with stepchildren. I expressed my opinion several weeks ago with my young adult stepson on an issue I didn’t agree with and he let me know he didn’t like it. He hung up the phone mad and called his dad to fill him on the details, hoping his dad would side with his opinion. For two weeks, my stepson and I had little communication. I knew the conflict would strain our relationship for a short period of time.

I try hard not to compare my stepchildren and my biological children but it’s easy to notice differences in how they respond during and after conflict. The blood bond that exists with biological children gives them a connection that doesn’t easily break. But the fragile thread that exists with stepchildren, particularly in the beginning stages of relationship-building, can easily be severed.

Stepparenting is messy – there are not black and white answers. It’s easy to say we need to defer issues of conflict and let the biological parent handle them but that can’t always happen. My stepson had called me on a different issue that naturally led to the issue that caused conflict. Did I overstep my bounds in how I expressed my feelings with my stepson? Maybe. Would I have expressed it the same way to my biological child? Yes.

How do you cope when it seems you’ve been misjudged in your stepparenting role? For me, I remember that I’m more than just a stepmom seeking affirmation from my stepchildren. I’m a wife, a daughter, a sister, a writer, a loyal friend, and a child of Christ. God’s love for me is unending. I cling to His promise in Ephesians 3:18 that says, ““And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may  have power together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.” Isn’t that beautiful? We can’t escape the love of Christ.

If we allow our worth to be dependent upon how our stepchildren treat us or feel about us, we set ourselves up for hurt. But if we remind ourselves that God’s love for us is everlasting, even if we fail or others mistreat us, we make room for peace.

How do you cope when stepfamily relationships seem messy? I would love to hear your thoughts.

Related Posts:

Setting Boundaries with Your Stepchildren

Overcoming the Pain of Rejection as a Stepparent

Coping with Stepfamily Drama

When Anger Boils in Your Stepfamily

As I felt my heart begin to race, I knew I had to settle  down before I said something I shouldn’t. I said a quick prayer to calm my soul and ask for guidance. My anger was boiling. And I wasn’t sure how to proceed with the conversation.

When Anger Boils in Your StepfamilyI was in a heated discussion with my stepson on a decision he was making that I didn’t agree with. At 22 years old, I don’t meddle in his decisions and we rarely disagree, but this was a financial decision that affected me and my husband also. So I calmly stated my opinion on the subject and he balked.

I could tell we weren’t going to come to an agreement, and I knew I needed to involve my husband. So I ended the conversation with, “I can’t and won’t tell you what to do, but I’ve given you my opinion.” I ended the call and sat in silence,  stunned at how quickly I had allowed anger to overtake me.

In her book, Unglued: Making Wise Choices in the Midst of Raw Emotions, Lysa Terkeurst re-enacts a difficult day at home with her kids when everything goes wrong – including the way she handled it. She went to bed that night an emotional wreck with nothing to show for her day but regret. But she allowed a different perspective to change the way she would react in the future as she deemed:

“I can face things that are out of my control and not act out of control.”

An applicable quote for stepfamily life! How often do we face things that are out of our control? Do we act out of control as a result?

I knew if I stayed on the phone with my stepson, I would eventually act out of control. He and I didn’t agree on the subject and it wasn’t going to change. I needed to involve my husband for resolution.

When my husband came in from work, he had already heard the story. My stepson immediately called his dad to vent after leaving our conversation. I wanted my husband’s opinion on the issue and was prepared to humble myself if he didn’t agree with  the position I had taken. Thankfully, my husband supported my opinion and helped his son understand why.

Difficult interactions occur in stepfamilies frequently, especially in the early years when relationships are forming. But we have a choice as to how we will react when our anger boils or our feelings are hurt.

Terkeurst goes on to say, “Remember, feelings are indicators, not dictators. They can indicate there is a situation I need to deal with, but they shouldn’t dictate how I react. I have a choice.”

During my stepson’s teen years, I didn’t always see my feelings as indicators. Sometimes they were dictators that threw me into an angry tailspin. Instead of involving my husband for resolution, I tried to do it myself with angry words or extreme consequences. But I learned that conflict with my stepchildren was resolved more peacefully (and my anger boiled less often)when I united with my husband and we confronted the situation together.

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

How about you? How do you handle it when your anger boils in your stepfamily?


Five Steps for Healing Stepparenting Wounds

Five Steps for Healing Stepparenting WoundsI’ve been nursing a bee sting on the bottom of my foot for weeks. I ignored it at first, thinking it would heal on its own. But it hasn’t.  Now,  I’m annoyed at the nagging pain I feel when I’m on my feet too long.

My sister suggested I puncture the wound and look for a stinger that needs to be removed. I’m not a good patient but I carefully inserted a sterile needle close to the wound and removed a small skin-like material I found. Optimistic that would help, I thought — let the healing begin.  But the nagging pain continues. I’m now soaking it daily with espson salt and keeping it covered  with antibiotic ointment and a bandaid. If that doesn’t help,  I’ll have to consider my last resort – a trip to the doctor.

I would prefer wounds heal on their own. But that doesn’t always happen. Whether it’s a physical wound or an emotional wound, the steps we take determine how quickly our wounds heal.

Stepparenting wounds come in all shapes and sizes. They occur when someone hurts our feelings or our expectations aren’t met. In the beginning stages of blending a family, wounds occur frequently.

 Some wounds resolve on their own, but most require special attention. Nagging wounds occur   repeatedly, leaving us vulnerable to anger and resentment.

So how do we resolve our stepparenting wounds? How do we prevent our wounds from negatively impacting our relationships?  Here are a few steps I suggest:


1. Forgive your stepchild.

You may be justified in your anger, but it’s hard to find peace when you refuse to forgive an offense. The relationship with your stepchild suffers when you hang onto your hurt. Take the high road. “Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” (Colossians 3:13)

2. Don’t allow your feelings to fester.

I allowed my bee sting to fester for weeks before I did anything about it. As a result, the wound will take longer to heal.

Emotional wounds fester when we let our feelings take over our mind. Instead of addressing the issue, we compound it by complaining to others, acting out in anger, or  stuffing our feelings deep inside.

Festering wounds erupt. Deal with the offense so healing can begin.

3.  Commit to pray daily for your stepchild and strive to think only positive thoughts about him/her.

I know that’s not easy. When my stepson made piercing remarks about me in a custody hearing years ago, I didn’t want to consider praying for him or try to think positively about him. But when I made a conscious choice to dwell on his positive aspects and pray for his well-being, my wounds began to heal.

4. Give yourself grace for your part of the offense.

Each of us plays a role in conflict. Nonverbal communication speaks loudly. Stepchildren sense disapproving thoughts and critical looks. Words fly out of our mouth we can’t stop, contributing to conflict.

But if we choose to stay defeated in our guilt, we won’t find victory with our wounds.  Recognize your part and ask for forgiveness. Then give yourself grace and move on – imperfect people make mistakes.

5. Seek help when necessary.

It’s not unusual to get stuck nursing a stepparenting wound without healing. Some wounds go deep and wide, requiring professional help. It’s not a sign of weakness to ask for help, it’s a sign of courage.

If you’re considering stepparenting coaching, I hope you’ll check out what I offer. I would love to help you heal your stepparenting wounds and restore your relationships.

What other tips can you offer to help with stepparenting wounds? I would love to hear from you.

Related Posts:

Coping with Loss in a Stepfamily

Offering Forgiveness

When Stepparenting Feels Too Hard: Four Ways to Overcome Discouragement

As a Stepfamily, You Can Expect Challenges

Before my husband and I married, I read everything I could about stepfamilies. I was excited about joining our  families together and wanted to get a head start on how to have a happily-ever-after future.

But as I read, I was deflated by the dismal picture every book presented. I finally quit reading because I couldn’t process the negativity.  I was convinced it wouldn’t be that way in our family.

But I was wrong.

Some of our challenges were to be expected. But our biggest challenges were completely unforeseen. We could have never predicted that my stepchildren’s mother would die of colon cancer within the first decade of our marriage, leaving behind two teen-age children, angry and confused. Following her death, we never imagined facing a custody battle with my stepson’s stepfather over a child that wasn’t his, when my husband was fully capable of raising his son.

 I would have never guessed that my ex-husband would lose his complete career as a physician because of addiction, resulting in  disregard for child support payments and  feelings of detachment and confusion for my two daughters. And just as our family was finding resolution to many of our challenges, we couldn’t have foreseen the loss of my husband’s job, sending us four hours away from our three children in college – a new challenge on the horizon.

Every stepfamily I talk to has challenges. They come in different shapes and different sizes, but they’re there. In his book, The Remarriage Checkup, Ron Deal says, “…the reality of remarriage is that life in a stepfamily is much more difficult than most couples anticipate. The unique challenges of being a stepcouple work against marital success, and only those who intentionally work to overcome them find the reward they dreamed of before walking down the aisle.” (my italics)

What about your stepfamily? Are you experiencing unforeseen challenges? That’s not unusual. But here’s the question:

Are you willing to intentionally work to overcome your challenges or will you be another failing statistic?

Related Posts:

God is Enough for the Stepfamily Challenge You Face

Stinkin’ Thinkin’ Creates Bitter Quitters in Blended Families

Photo by flickr

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