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Gayla Grace on how our thoughts impact our family life

Our Thoughts – We Are What We Think

“I talk to my clients five days a week about negative thinking. Our thinking creates problems for us!” said my friend, a professional therapist.

Our thoughts have more power over us than we may think.

Do you find yourself thinking any of these thoughts?

  • My stepchild will never like me so why do I bother trying to have a relationship with him/her?
  • No one understands these feelings of rejection as a stepparent – I’m living on an island by myself.
  • My husband has no idea how difficult this is – it’s useless to talk to him about it.
  • Re-marriage is just too hard – looks like I’m headed for divorce again.

You may have had these or other negative thoughts from time to time. It’s easy to get caught up in a web of negative thinking, especially when it concerns our blended family lives.

We CAN control how we think, but it requires intentional effort.

And doing so will have positive outcomes.

Gayla Grace on how our thoughts impact our family life.

Essentially, if we dwell on the negative parts of our life, every aspect of our being will reflect negativity.

Conversely, if we focus on the positive nuggets of our situation, we create positive surroundings for ourselves.

In his book, “The Power of Positive Thinking,” Norman Vincent Peale supports this thinking when he states, “Conditions are created by thoughts far more powerfully than conditions create thoughts. Think positively, for example, and you set in motion positive forces which bring positive results to pass. … On the contrary, think negative thoughts and you create around yourself an atmosphere [favorable] to the development of negative results.”

Conditions are created by thoughts far more powerfully than conditions create thoughts. I love that!

Dr. Peale is suggesting that we influence our situations with our thinking. So, if we want our stepchildren to respond positively toward us, then we need to create that scenario in our head. When we think positively toward them and expect positive behavior from them, they will begin to respond that way.

Our demeanor reflects what we are thinking.

When we have negative thoughts circling through our mind, we give off negative vibes toward those around us. Our stepchildren can feel our negativity and will react accordingly.

I’ve seen this happen with my own stepchildren. If I choose to dwell on negative thoughts toward them, I respond to them with an insensitive spirit and critical remarks. Even if I don’t say anything, my nonverbal language speaks volumes. They can sense my negativity and respond in anger or frustration.

On the other hand, if I choose to think positively toward them and my verbal and nonverbal language reflects a like demeanor, they feel loved and accepted. It’s easy for them to respond favorably toward a loving spirit.

Are you up for a challenge? Think only positive thoughts about your stepchildren and re-marriage today. If something negative creeps into your mind, turn it around and find a positive twist. See if it makes a difference. I can almost guarantee it will!

I’d love to chat about this in the comments.

Let’s Talk Stepfamily Realities, Not Myths

There are almost as many legendary stories about stepmoms, stepdads, and stepfamilies as there are stars in the sky. Yet, many of these stories are myths. Simply not true. Like the myth that stepmoms are wicked (think Cinderella!) or that the stepfamily is the same as the first marriage family. Who makes this stuff up anyway?

I think many of us believe these myths, then bring them into our new marriage and family. How long does it take us to realize they are myths? That they are not true and they do not dictate how our stepfamily will grow and develop. Believing these myths creates discontentment and unhappiness in your stepfamily.  Today I’m sharing some thoughts from one of my favorite stepfamily resources The Smart Stepfamily by Ron Deal.

1. Love will happen instantly between all family members.

Really? Have you found this to be true? I did not. My reality was watching our kids have a difficult time during our dating. My husband would say, “We’ll just love ’em through it.” But that will not always (if ever) work. Deal says, “Love in the sense of ‘love your neighbor’ is attainable; love in the sense of deep family bonds may or may not be achieved.” Deep family bonds will take time and may always look different that biological bonds.

2. We’ll do it better this time around.

It is easy to think, “I’ve been married before, I know what to do this time.” Marriage, while never easy, is made more difficult with kids. And in a stepfamily, we all have a history. Don’t compare your current marriage to a previous one. Accept the good and the bad of marriage. Live in the reality of your current marriage, recognizing it too will have challenges.

3. Everything will fall quickly in place.

Seriously? Has this been your experience? My guess is no it hasn’t. Let’s remember that “quickly” is a relative term and I am fairly certain quickly does not happen in stepfamilies. Deal says, “The stepping-stone of patience is critical to stepfamily development. Becoming disillusioned with how your family is progressing is an almost universal experience because progress never happens on your timetable. Remember, the average stepfamily takes seven years to integrate.” Seven years? Let’s bookmark that in our brains!

4. Our children will feel as happy about the remarriage as we do.

Often stepchildren are not happy about their parent’s remarriage. You need only attend a few re-marriage weddings,  to find children who are not happy about their “new family”. Stepfamily experts say kids are often a year behind the adults in accepting and progressing with a new family. Children deal with things differently than adults. We shouldn’t rush our children to catch up with us emotionally. Deal says, “What a blow it is for parents to realize that remarriage is a gain for them, but another loss to their children.” Remember, time is your friend.

5. Blending is the goal of this stepfamily.

We call ourselves blended families because we are combining people from two families into one. Think about what happens in a blender when we make a smoothie, this is NOT what we want to happen in our stepfamilies. Deal says, “More realistic is a process by which the various parts integrate, or come into contact with one another, much like a casserole of distinct parts. For example, biological parents and children will always have a stronger bond than stepparents and stepchildren, even if all goes well. This is not to say that different members of a stepfamily cannot be close. Many will develop deep emotional bonds, but there will always be a qualitative difference.”

Have you read Deal’s book? Are there myths you believed or still believe? I’d love to about chat about this in the comments.

Related Posts:

A Glimpse Into One Stepmom’s Story: The Good and the Bad

Learning How to Love My Stepchildren

 

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.

 

Stepparenting: Nine Tips to Help You Rise Above the Daily Grind

9 Tips for Rising Above the Stepparenting Daily Grind by Gayla Grace

A knot formed in my stomach as I watched my son, a high school soccer player, clutch his chest and bend over, gasping for air. Mouth wide open, he stood almost lifeless. I knew what was happening.

Asthma had struck again.

Play on the field continued; no one noticed Nathan was barely breathing. My lips quivered as tears welled in my eyes. “Take a knee, son. Flag for help,” I hollered. My heart began to race. I knew the danger of the scene.

His hand went up. Finally, the referee saw him. Nathan started walking off the field and straight to his bag. I watched every movement as he pulled out his rescue inhaler and put it to his mouth. Breathing the medicine into his lungs, I exhaled a sigh of relief. The immediate crisis was over.

Walking to the car after the game, Nathan said, “I hate asthma.” Although he works hard to take every step his doctor instructs, the daily grind of asthma won out that day. The cold winter air, the back-to-back tournament games, the overexertion on the soccer field—it was more than his body could take.

The same happens with stepparenting. We try to do everything right as we manage the challenges that come our way. But sometimes it’s not enough. Stepparenting continues to be a struggle, even after 4, 8, or 15 years together. Some things do get easier, but some things don’t.

How do you keep moving forward when you’re tired of the daily grind of stepparenting?

 

Here are a few suggestions.

  1.  Don’t assume responsibility for your stepchildren’s behavior.

Freedom comes when we recognize we can do our part to encourage good decision-making, healthy friendships, and mature behavior, but there are other influences—that we can’t control—that also play a role. Don’t take responsibility for your stepchildren’s poor choices.

  1. Steer clear of negative people – including other stepparents who choose negative thinking.

Find solutions to your challenges instead of complaining about them. Look for out-of-the-box answers. Don’t give up when the outlook seems distressing. There are always new tomorrows but we must commit to start again, try new solutions, and avoid dismal thinking.

  1. Cherish the good days and on hard days, remember “this too will pass.”

Life is hard, whether you reside in a stepfamily or not. Even after 21 years as a stepparent, I have days when I’m frustrated with my stepchildren’s choices or angry with my husband’s decisions regarding them. But we have a lot of good days together as a family. Those are the days I choose to focus on, and let go of the hard ones.

  1. Spend time away from your stepchildren.

Create your own space to retreat to for healthy self-preservation. Go to a movie by yourself. Spend the afternoon with a good book and your favorite latte. Plan a few days away with a girlfriend. Make time for You!

  1. Find a friend, minister, or counselor who will listen, without judgment or condemnation, when you feel you’re going over the edge.

You will have irrational days, no matter how long you’ve been a stepparent. Some days we just don’t cope well, or life takes a turn we don’t like. Find support to help work through your feelings.

  1. Reach out to other stepparents – find ways to support those struggling on the stepparenting journey.

We naturally take our eyes off our challenges and ourselves when we focus on others. Help another stepparent find answers to their struggles—it will likely help you with your own.

  1. Nurture your marriage.

You’ve heard me say it many times but it’s worth repeating – your stepchildren will someday leave home. Mine have both flown away and I’m thankful we didn’t neglect our marriage during the child-rearing years.

  1. Rise above your circumstances.

Create a heart of gratitude. Don’t get out of bed in the morning until you’ve listed five things you’re thankful for in your head. Do it again when you go to bed. Joy can be found in the midst of challenge, but we have to choose it.

  1. Find solace through faith.

Recognize that God knows what you’re going through and will walk though it with you if you seek Him. Meditate on Scripture. Pray. Join a Bible study. “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” James 4:8

If you’ve been a stepparent long, you understand the daily grind. But you don’t have to get stuck there. It’s a choice.

What other suggestions would you give to help cope with the daily grind of stepparenting?

 

 

 

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.

Coping with Unexpected Challenges on Your Stepfamily Journey

I sat by my phone anxiously, watching every text that came across. My niece was having a baby, and I wanted to know the details. Was it a boy or a girl?  What was the name? How big? How was my niece doing?

ID-100396479So many questions. The answers were slow to come. And then a revelation no one expected.

The baby was delivered, and all seemed to be fine. A beautiful baby girl. Eleanor Joy. My niece was doing great.

But without warning, another text crossed my screen. Something wasn’t right. A diagnosis no one suspected had surfaced.

Beautiful Eleanor Joy had Down Syndrome. The doctor was certain of it.

I shuddered as I reread the text. No! It can’t be! I thought. The extensive ultrasounds. The routine prenatal visits. How was it never discovered? How will my niece and her husband cope with this unexpected turn?

Questions without answers. They dominate life. How do you handle them?

In our stepfamily journey, we had an unexpected turn eight years into our marriage. We had moved past the hard transitions, and our family was beginning to enjoy more peaceful relationships. Our four children could sit at the dinner table without fighting (on occasion!)  and hope was on the horizon.

But the call from my husband’s ex-wife with unexpected news shook our family to the core. She had colon cancer—late stage. Read more