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Finding Postive Ways to Deal with Toxic People by Gayla Grace

Finding Positive Ways to Cope with Toxic People

Toxic people can invade our lives and create havoc on relationships. But we can find positive ways to respond to them.

I experienced a toxic person last year who wrote an unkind comment on my blog after I posted about National Stepfamily Day. I had highlighted what being a stepparent is all about and affirmed stepparents for the important role they play. The comment came from a mom I didn’t know who was offended by my terminology. This mantra immediately came to mind:

I considered how to reply to her comment:

Being a stepparent involves knowing your role and not over stepping your boundaries!!!! Being a stepparent does not involve calling the REAL PARENT BIO. I would be very disgusted if my child came back calling me BIO MOM. You need to stop that. You’re a stepparent. It’s not your place to give the Parents names other than MOM or DAD.”

I read the comment again, wondering why she had capitalized momdad, bio, and real parent. Perhaps she wanted to emphasize the importance of being a “real parent” over a stepparent. It’s not the first time I’d seen unkind comments on my blog toward a stepparent. I don’t like them. But I can choose whether I’m offended by it. And I can do my part to promote peace in the midst of it.

When confronted by toxic people, remember:

You don’t have to give another person power over your emotions.

Mahatma Gandhi reportedly said it this way: “Nobody can hurt me without my permission.”

Finding Postive Ways to Deal with Toxic People by Gayla Grace

Stepfamilies often foster tense relationships as a result of unhealed hurts. If we spend our time trying to change our stepchildren or fretting over an ex-spouse’s behavior, we end up frustrated. With intentional effort, however, we can promote positive attitudes and behavior with unreasonable people.

Romans 12:18 says, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” If our spouse’s ex learns we’re not going to fight back when he/she invokes drama, the game ends. If we don’t react to our stepchild’s unreasonable behavior, it’s more likely to stop.

Our peace of mind is too valuable for us to allow a toxic person’s words to offend or anger us. Someone needs to be the reasonable one in an unreasonable person’s life. I’m not saying taking on that role will come naturally or that any of us would get it right every time. But with God’s help, we can take the high road.

Remember the apostle Paul’s words: “I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength” Philippians 4:13.

 

If you would like a free 8×10 printable of the “I am in control of my emotions” image, you may download it by clicking here.

5 ways to promote harmony in stepfamily relationships by Gayla Grace

5 Ways to Promote Harmony in Stepfamily Relationships

5 ways to promote harmony in stepfamily relationships by Gayla GraceI didn’t walk to the altar with my first husband with intentions of divorce. Unfortunately, the demands and strain of his profession as a physician pushed him to unhealthy means to cope. Alcoholism reared its ugly head.  Near the end of our 11-year marriage, I began to attend Al-Anon, a support group for families of alcoholics.

I memorized the AA slogans and used them to help me face everyday challenges.

After I divorced, I realized that AA slogans didn’t have to be confined to problems in alcoholic relationships.

I recognized the value of them in other ways when I married into a stepfamily.

Here are 5 of my favorite AA slogans. Powerful sayings, they can help promote harmony in your stepfamily relationships.

1) Let go and let God

To most of us in stepfamilies, problems are part of life. My stepfamily is not exempt. I recognized  I could not fix the problems myself. Oh, I tried! I wasted precious time trying to control the situation or find a solution. Peace came when I let go and let God handle the situations. The key—when I LET GO. Answers to our challenges don’t always come quickly, but waiting on God’s solutions is always better than forcing mine to work.

2) Let it begin with me and Be part of the solution, not the problem

It’s easy to point out how everyone else is contributing to a problem. Instead, I need to step up and be the example for forgiveness, kindness, patience, and goodness toward our stepchildren. Our actions speak louder than our words.

It’s also our responsibility to work toward a solution, not become part of the problem. I’m the first to admit I sometimes talk about a problem instead of look for an answer. We become what we focus on. Will you choose to focus on the problem or a solution?

3) How important is it?

Too often, we make things bigger than they really are. I clearly remember a conflict ten years ago that I created. I insisted that all our children attend my parent’s 50th wedding anniversary. My stepdaughter, who had a strained relationship with me at the time, was living with her mom and didn’t want to go. I was angry when my husband didn’t force her to be there. I made a big deal out of it, creating further conflict with my husband.

Fast forward ten years to my parent’s 60th-anniversary celebration. My stepdaughter and I had mended our ways and she wanted to participate in the celebration! I’ve finally learned that many of the battles we choose to fight will resolve themselves over time.

4) One day at a time

Building trust takes time, change takes time, healing old wounds takes time; there are no immediate ready-made solutions. This day is all I have to work with, and it is all I need. If I am tempted to worry about tomorrow’s concerns, I will gently bring my mind back to today.” (Courage to Change: One Day at a Time in Al-Anon)

Living one day at a time allows us to focus on the problems at hand, let go of the problems of yesterday and trust God with the problems of tomorrow. We can’t change the past OR the future. We can only make a change in today.

5) Keep an open mind

Stepfamily relationships evolve over time.  Sometimes they get worse before they get better. If the solution you are trying doesn’t work, keep an open mind. Remain flexible. Try to embrace the change with an eye toward long-term success in your relationships, not ready-made answers. Be open to their thoughts and ideas of your spouse. Try to stay united with your spouse.

Other slogans of AA that can be applied to the stepfamily journey include: Easy does it, first things first, just for today, keep it simple, listen and learn, live and let live, and think. 

If you’re interested in learning more about their slogans, go here.   Al-Anon resources (for families of alcoholics) are helpful also.

I love AA slogans and can find ways to apply them every day.

How will you use an AA slogan to create stronger relationships in your stepfamily or have you applied one already? Will you share it with us?

I have a printable to share with you. Click here to download and print Steps for Dealing with Difficult Situations.

 

Gayla Grace on Birth Order Angst in Stepfamilies

Birth Order Angst in Stepfamilies: How to Help Step Siblings Adjust

 

“I don’t have to mind you!” The comment spewed from my oldest daughter, Jamie, to her older stepsister, Adrianne. Jamie had been the oldest child in our family before I remarried and refused to take direction from another sibling.

Adrianne was my husband’s first-born daughter—age 10 when we married. Jamie was my first-born daughter—age 5 when we married.  Both girls held the role of “the boss” of their younger siblings (or so they thought!)

Jamie was now the middle child in her new stepfamily. And Adrianne thought SHE was the boss.

Birth order struggles are real.

When you combine two families, it’s easy to forget the effects of birth order change.

We had never considered the birth order collision that would take place between these two. We expected them to get along, but how could they when both of them were fighting for the same role?

Jamie now had a big sister and Adrianne needed help learning to relate to a younger sibling. One that resented being thrust into the middle child position.

Dr. Kevin Lehman has written an entire book on the effects of birth order in a stepfamily, titled:  Living in a Stepfamily Without Getting Stepped Helping Your Children Survive the Birth Order Blender.

Here’s one important suggestion he gives:

When a child who is born into one birth order lands in another position in his blended family, do not treat the child as something he is not. He may have to take on different responsibilities or play different roles at times, but never forget who he really is.

Time helps with the adjustment of birth order changes, just like it helps with most other stepfamily adjustments. Jamie never stopped being the oldest, but she did learn to enjoy having an older sister.

In their young adult years, pictured below, Jamie and Adrianne have found love and understanding for one another that reaches beyond the tension of their early years.

Like many changes that have to be considered when families merge, the effects of birth order changes need to be considered also.

Do you have a birth order story to share from your stepfamily? I’d love to chat with you in the comments.

Tips for an Enjoyable Stepfamily Vacation

Throwing family members together for an extended period of time can wreak havoc on even the most stable family. For a fragile stepfamily, it can be a recipe for disaster.

Tips for a Peaceful Stepfamily Vacation

So if you’re headed out for an adventure with your stepfamily, take along a few tools to keep peace. Here are some tips to consider:

1.  Ask your stepchildren for help in the planning stage.

Gather ideas and brainstorm options at a family meeting to gain participation from everyone.  Kids feel included and assume a better attitude about a vacation when they get to offer their ideas. While relationships are bonding in the early years of your stepfamily, make plans for shorter trips to prevent tension-filled days as a result of too much togetherness.

2. Make the trip fun and spontaneous by breaking a few house rules.

Bring along your sense of humor and allow the kids special privileges they don’t get at home. On our first cruise, our youngest son spotted the self-serve ice cream machine the first day. For the first few days, ice cream was only allowed after noon. But by the last day of the cruise, the ice cream rule evolved to ice cream at breakfast and other times throughout the day. The kids knew it was a special treat that would change when we returned home, but they fondly recall running to the ice cream machine together as one of the highlights of the cruise.

3. Be mindful of the kids.

A stepfamily vacation isn’t the time to insist on quality moments with your partner–that can happen on a separate trip with just the two of you. For a successful stepfamily vacation, assume a mindset of creating lasting bonds and memories. Seek to make it a special time for the kids. Even if they don’t acknowledge your efforts now, they will remember the time and energy you spent on family vacations when they get older.

4. Build in down time to rest and recuperate and maintain a flexible spirit.

 Stepfamily vacations don’t always feel relaxing, especially in the early years. Make an extra effort to find activities that promote rest and leisure without a jam-filled schedule. Sit outside and enjoy the sunset or catch the fireflies on a lazy evening. Be willing to change your schedule if plans don’t go as anticipated. Memories are created as family members spend time together doing activities they enjoy, whether simple or elaborate.

5. Keep a positive attitude and expect a few bumps along the way.

Unlikely happenings occur on vacation.  On a cross-country trip several years ago, I watched in horror as a large concrete truck backed into our Suburban, smashing the driver’s window and denting in the driver’s door before coming to a halt. I remember the screaming and sheer panic I felt as I watched the truck ram our vehicle. It screeched to a halt before injuring anyone, but our vacation spirits were dampened as we recovered from the frenzy and repaired our car enough to proceed. We drove the entire week with plastic rattling from the window in an attempt to silence the wind. We laugh with our kids about the disaster of that trip now, but my husband and I had to work hard to keep the tragic beginning from ruining our trip.

Be reasonable with your expectations, particularly in the early years of your stepfamily. Stepparents lose their patience, cars break down, step-siblings argue, kids get sick. Unrealistic assumptions create a sense of failure when plans go awry.

Stepfamily vacations play an important role in creating family identity and a sense of belonging with stepchildren. As relationships bond, it’s easier to spend extended time together. Don’t give up on a peaceful vacation, even if you experience tension-filled days.  Try again next year and the year after that. The memories you’re creating with your stepfamily are meaningful, even if they’re not perfect!

What tips would you add for a peaceful stepfamily vacation?

Related Posts:

As a Stepfamily, You Can Expect Challenges

Stinkin’ Thinkin’ Creates Bitter Quitters in Stepfamilies

The Effects of Patience in Blended Families

How to Cope with a Difficult Ex-Spouse

I’m addressing a question today I received from a reader. How do you cope as a stepmom when you’re dealing with a biological mom who is belittling to you and doesn’t want you in her children’s lives?

The stepmom role becomes harder when the bio mom makes every effort to exclude you from her children’s lives. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon. At the root of this issue lies the fear that the bio mom feels the children are going to bond with the you – the stepmom, and form a deeper relationship with you than they have with her.

It’s an unfounded fear because children almost always have a stronger relationship with their biological parents than they have with a stepparent. However, she’s reacting out of her own fear and communicating to her children that she wants their loyalty. Women are territorial when it comes to their children. If you have children of your own, you understand these feelings, but it doesn’t give the bio mom the right to act belittling or antagonistic  toward the stepmom.

To help alleviate the threat the bio mom is sensing, the stepmom needs to send a message that she has no intention of interfering with the relationship between the bio mom and her children and isn’t trying to replace her in any way. In their book, The Smart Stepmom, Laura Petherbridge and Ron Deal give an example of how to communicate this message which they call “The No-Threat Message.” They suggest doing it in person or via e-mail if the relationship is already strained.

“Dear Meghan, since we are both involved with your kids, I wanted to take a minute to communicate with you. I want to share that I totally understand and respect that you are the only mother of these children. I’m not their mom, and I will never try to take your place. They are your children. I am honored to be an added parent figure in their lives. I view my role as one of support to their father, and my desire is to be a blessing to them. I promise to speak well of you and work together for their benefit. I desire to make their lives easier, not more difficult. Please know that I pray for the entire family. If there’s anything I can do to help the situation or if you have any questions, feel free to contact me.”

Sending the no-threat message doesn’t guarantee the bio mom will accept your position in her children’s lives but it offers her some perspective on how you feel about your role. She is more likely to allow a relationship between you and her children if she doesn’t feel threatened by your behavior and sees you live out the No-threat message.

Unfortunately, some bio moms are mean-spirited and vindictive. In this case, there’s not a lot the stepmom can do to have an amicable relationship. For further insight, I suggest reading the chapter from The Smart Stepmom, “Meet Your Ex-Wife-in-Law: Friend or Foe.” It gives additional scenarios of how to cope with a difficult ex-spouse.

What suggestions would you give this reader? I’d love to hear them.

Picture by Grant Cochrane

Related Posts:

Co-Parenting with a Difficult Ex-Spouse

Creating Healthy Boundaries with Your Ex-Spouse

Recognizing the Need for Boundaries

Ten Ways to Strengthen Your Stepfamily Relationships

It’s easy to think we must be perfect in our stepfamily interactions and make huge steps every day to strengthen our relationships. But that isn’t true.

Small steps on a regular basis can result in huge dividends with your stepfamily.

steps

Here are ten easy ways to show every day love and harbor positive relationships in your stepfamily:

1) Offer grace freely and often.

2) Think positive thoughts about your stepchildren; if a negative thought pops up – replace it.

3) Say at least one nice thing to each person in your stepfamily daily or as often as you see them.

4) Live “one day at a time” and enjoy the present moment – don’t project into the future.

5) Take care of yourself: emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually.

6) Strive to keep a thankful spirit.

7) Nurture your marriage with sweet gestures, alone time, and date nights.

8) Send thoughtful text messages when your stepchildren are away.

9) Deal with conflict when it occurs in a healthy context – don’t stuff it, don’t ignore it, don’t exaggerate it.

10) Pray for each member of your family daily.

Other ideas? What suggestions can you give to help strengthen stepfamily relationships?

Related Posts:

Is Your Stepfamily in a Season of Challenge?

Five Ways to Create Stronger Stepfamily Relationships

Lessons Learned About Stepparenting from Tim Tebow

Five Practical Tips for Successful Stepparenting