Dear Stepparent: It’s Okay to Nurture Your Needs

I used to believe that my needs should come last. I’d stay up late to finish laundry or rise early to put a meal in the crockpot before heading to work. If you peered into our home, you’d see resentment from an unrealistic routine that boiled over into behavior that was less than Christ-like.

One day I decided my needs were important too.

I’m not saying I never do those things anymore, but it’s rare. We teach our kids to do their own laundry as teenagers and meals at our house are simpler than they used to be. If I find myself overwhelmed due to chores or a schedule I can’t manage, I ask for help.  I bet my husband would tell you I’m easier to live with now.

ID-100169128The demands of stepparenting increase with summer upon us. Long days of a surly teenage attitude or a week-long vacation with a stepchild who disses you can send even the calmest stepparent into a fit of madness.

How do you cope?

Nurture your needs. Not in a selfish way, but with proper boundaries. Determine what you need to stay healthy physically, emotionally, spiritually, and mentally through the summer months. Here are a few suggestions:

Commit to a positive mindset. We don’t have to allow our circumstances to make us Negative Nilley. Jan Silvious pens great advice on this subject in her book Big Girls Don’t Whine: “Big girls know that they have power over their minds and emotions. How you feel about something is under your control. What you think about will determine how you feel. If you don’t like how you feel, change your thinking. At some point, all Big Girls have to deal with their thinking.”

Keep a journal. Counselors recommend journaling to relieve pent-up emotions. Writing your thoughts, prayers, or blessings in a journal helps you sort through your feelings and how to cope with what’s happening. I like to keep a prayer journal and notice it helps me stay more focused on my prayers instead of allowing distractions to interfere.

Encourage your spouse and stepchildren spend time together without you. I didn’t recognize the value of my stepchildren having time alone with their dad in our early years. Comments from a stepmom friend give a good illustration of how to make this work, “When my stepson is here, he and my husband go out to breakfast every Saturday morning. It gives me time to relax and prepare for the weekend.”

Retreat to alone time or coffee with a friend when necessary. I’ll never forget the Friday morning I dragged myself into work, late, after a rough week with my stepchildren while my husband travelled out of the country. A co-worker noticed my drawn look and raised an eyebrow with a question. Tears began to fall and we retreated to the break room where I poured out the week of defiance and disrespect I’d received from my stepson. She didn’t give me pat answers or tell me everything would work out. She simply listened, let me know she cared, and encouraged me to persevere amidst the challenges.

Eat right and exercise regularly. We cope better with stress when we take care of ourselves physically. Everyone benefits when we set boundaries around our workouts and spend a little extra money to eat right. The benefits are worth the effort you invest toward a healthy diet and exercise routine.

As summer days loom on the horizon, we have a choice. We will likely experience long afternoons and less-than-perfect stepfamily vacations. But if we nurture our needs, we find peace and contentment amidst the challenges.

 “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Phil 4:8

How do you nurture your needs? Can you give other suggestions?

Photo by Sura Nualpradid.

 

 

 

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