Posts

3 things you can do to reduce the tension between homes

Three Ways to Help Reduce Tension Between Homes

Three things to do to lessen the tension between homes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s early August and school will be starting soon (it has actually already started for our son). The kids will have practice or lessons after school, and they may be juggling their stuff between two households.

I know there are worse things in life than heading out the door and having Joey or Susie say, “I left my trumpet at Mom’s (or Dad’s) house.”

But the morning that happens…well, it doesn’t seem like things could be much worse.

Here’s the deal…

I’ve been there.

I’ve done this.

I’ve LIVED this.

The tension in these situations is REAL.

But there IS hope. The back and forth between households was a problem my husband and I wanted to tackle. We wanted the transition between homes to be as smooth and stress-free as possible.

We came up with three important strategies that worked for us.

Maybe they will help you navigate your “between-home waters” this school year.

  1. Limit trivial conversations.  We made the kids take responsibility for books, uniforms, band instruments, whatever to avoid multiple trips between houses. We reduced our interaction over trivial matters with the exes to devote our energies to peaceful conversations on things that mattered most.
  2. Limit unnecessary interactions. As stepparents, we didn’t attend every event for every child. If the other biological parent was going to be there, there was no reason to always put ourselves through an uncomfortable situation with an ex-spouse just a few rows over. Attend the important stuff, show your support, but choose wisely when the situation allows for a choice.
  3. Limit family activities and expectations. Do everyone a favor on transition day and limit your activities. There is enough emotional turmoil in the child’s life without adding extra things to do.

What do you do to lessen the “between household” tension?

This is a revision of an article I originally wrote for Focus on the Family. You can read the original article here.

 

 

 

Conquering Back to School Challenges with Your Stepfamily

The back and forth routine that accompanies life in a stepfamily often brings exhaustion. During the school year, it can create confusion, anxiety, and turmoil for our kids.

back to schoolOur children need a stable home environment, free of tension and chaos to succeed in school. If you spend any time at your stepchild’s school, particularly middle and high school, you’ll notice the pressure and demands they face every day.  They don’t need additional mine blasts to contend with at home.

What can we do, as parents and stepparents, to ensure a successful back to school entry? One of the biggest ways you can promote success is to do your part in maintaining an amicable relationship with the other home.

I know – you’d rather eat a cockroach than talk about how to live in harmony with your ex or your spouse’s ex, right? But it’s vital to the well-being of your children and stepchildren. That doesn’t mean you have to be best friends with your stepson’s mom, but you do have to commit to working at a cordial relationship.

I will be the first to admit this didn’t come naturally for me. When my stepchildren lived with us, the relationship between me and their mom carried a competitive and confrontational tone. Instead of extending grace for her shortcomings, I harbored resentment and criticism.

I refused to consider what it must feel like to have another woman take part in raising my children. I put my husband in the middle of our tension by insisting my way. And I alienated my stepchildren when my non-verbal language spoke judgment, rather than love and tolerance for their mom and her ways of raising them.

Some days I would love to go back and offer a softer side toward my stepchildren when they’ve had a bad day at school. I’d be more understanding on transition days when they’ve just come back from their mom’s house and need some time alone. I’d extend grace more freely when they didn’t do their chores to my satisfaction.

But my stepchildren have finished school and the back to school challenges, other than with our 12-old-son, are non-existent. I no longer have to contend with a difficult relationship with my stepchildren’s mother because sadly, she passed away nine years ago after a cruel battle with colon cancer.

So, if you’re in the midst of back to school hassles, step back, take a deep breath, and consider what you can do to sow  peace with those around you. Your stepchildren deserve a fresh beginning at school, with minimal conflict at home.

Will you commit to take the high road as often as possible?

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

How do you handle back to school challenges? Please leave a comment with other suggestions.

Picture by digitalart

 

 

 

 

Back to School – Five Tips for Success with Stepchildren

Our youngest son started middle school last week as a 6th grader and has had some intimidating moments at his new school. He started off in the wrong classroom for homeroom but didn’t discover it until the teacher called roll. He left to go to the correct classroom and finally entered the right room–tardy.

The next day he innocently walked through a circle of 8th graders on his way to class and was belittled by the older kids who insisted he “Go around next time!” And later that day he discovered the bus he rides home includes a few high school students who aren’t always nice to the young ones!

bus School is tough for our kids. Their days are stressful and intimidating, especially for those starting new schools. But we can help make their school year a success. Here are a few tips I suggest:

1. Pray regularly for your children and stepchildren. In her book, The Power of a Praying Parent, Stormie Omartian says, “The battle for our children’s lives is waged on our knees. When we don’t pray, it’s like sitting on the sidelines watching our children in a war zone getting shot at from every angle. When we do pray, we’re in the battle alongside them, appropriating God’s power on their behalf.”

2. Evaluate your schedule – have you left room to help with homework? It’s easy to inundate ourselves with too many commitments. I evaluate my schedule regularly to see if I need to change/add/delete anything. Raising children requires time and energy.  Our role as stepparents is even more demanding, mentally and emotionally.  If we give all  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?

3. Resolve conflict as it occurs. Our children are impacted every day by what happens in our home. If we refuse to be cooperative with an ex-spouse regarding a new school schedule or negotiating activities, our children suffer. Here’s what Ron Deal says on this issue in The Smart Stepfamily: “An old African proverb says, ‘When two elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers.’ Biological parents who fight and refuse to cooperate are trampling on their most prized possession – their children. Elephants at war are totally unaware of what is happening to the grass, for they are far too consumed with the battle at hand. Little do they know how much damage is being done.” Someone has to be the bigger person and work to resolve conflict – will it be you?

4. Expect the best of your children. And let them know you love them. Our kids will live up to the expectations we set – they’re looking for someone to believe in them. As I drove my son to school this morning, I told him, “I’m proud of you for keeping a good attitude, even though I know your first days of middle school have not been easy.” Our stepchildren need our support. On days they’re not easy to love, ask for God’s help. “I am with you; …I will strengthen you and help you.” (Isaiah 41:10)

5. Get to know their friends. Make your house the hangout.  If we don’t know our children’s friends, we can’t help them in their relationships. Friends can directly influence what kind of school year our stepchildren/children have. If you’re raising teens, keep food around – it always works. And gently talk to your kids about friends you don’t approve of and why. Childhood friendships are a breeding ground for teaching  what healthy relationships look like.

Are you looking forward to a new school year or dreading it? Will you commit to do your part in helping your children/stepchildren have a successful year?

What other tips do you offer? I would love to hear from you.

Pic by scottchan

Related Posts:

Back to School Routines and Your Stepfamily: Peaceful or Chaotic?

The Myth of the Perfect Stepparent

Change: A Friend or a Foe in Your Stepfamily?

Learning to Accept the Things You Cannot Change

Back to School Routines and Your Stepfamily- Peaceful or Chaotic?

As another school year gets underway, many stepfamilies are adjusting to new routines. Stepchildren may be adjusting to different expectations at Mom and Dad’s house with homework and after-school activities. Stepparents may be forced to alter everyday patterns to accomodate bus schedules or after-school pickup.

The changing routines can wreak havoc on a stepfamily already struggling with fragile egos and tense emotions.

For stepparents, navigating a successful path through the back to school maze takes a calm spirit and flexible attitude. 

I recall stressful mornings of years’ past as I struggled to get out the door to my full-time job while making sure our four children had breakfast, a packed lunch, school papers signed, an after-school pickup plan, and were headed to the bus by 7:30. I recall telling a counselor during our early years of marriage, “School mornings are too stressful and I’m not sure how to change it.”

Oftentimes, the only thing we can change to make stepfamily living less stressful is ourselves. I couldn’t change the crazy schedule we lived for several years with kids navigating between households, stressful jobs, and defiant attitudes. But I could change how I reacted to the stress of the situation.

When I made an intentional effort to stay calm during the heat of a battle with one of my stepchildren, I made strides toward a positive outcome while resolving the conflict. When I chose to stay flexible through an ever-changing back and forth routine with my stepchildren, I was better able to meet the demands required of me with those routines.

I’m not saying it was easy. I like routine and I want the routine to stay the same every day. But that’s simply not possible in stepfamilies.

I like an orderly home with school papers put in place, and homework assignments completed on time. But  I learned to adjust to the erratic ways of teen-agers who seem to work best with papers scattered all around while completing a project, or head-banging music that  helps them think while they finish their paper at midnight (which was always restricted to their bedroom!)

Back to school routines create yet another stressful period as stepfamilies make adjustments to accommodate one another. But with a flexible attitude and a calm spirit, we can help our stepchildren adjust to their new routines and thrive in their new school surroundings, creating an environment in our home that benefits each one of us.

How is your back to school routine going? Does it need a dose of flexibility or an extra effort toward a calm spirit?

Pic by dan