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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.

 

 

 

Sisterhood of Stepmoms Retreat

Why Attend a Sisterhood of Stepmom Retreat?

Sisterhood of Stepmoms (SOS) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping any woman dating, engaged or married to a man with kids find help, hope, and healing. We walk alongside women to offer answers to the challenges that accompany the journey.

Our SOS team is making plans for our 4th annual retreat at the Dallas Cooper Hotel and Spa September 22-23, 2017. We have some wonderful speakers joining us and will have workshops on topics that include:

      • The Ex-Wife: How to Cope with a Difficult Relationship
      • Parental Alienation Syndrome
      • What About the Kids:  The Effects of Loss
      • What Healthy Boundary Setting Looks Like
      • When You Want a Baby of Your Own
      • The Full-Time Stepmom
      • First Aid Kit for Your Marriage
      • Adult Stepchildren
      • Your Emotions Don’t Define You
      • And More!

 

Here are a few comments from women who have attended our retreats in the past:

“It meant the world—meeting the other stepmoms was life-saving!”

“I have felt so alone but this gave me tools to use to better the environment in my home.”

“It is priceless to know women who understand your heart and your hurt.”

“The stepmom retreat experience means hope to me.”

I hope you’ll consider joining us! You’ll find all the details at Sisterhood of Stepmoms. 

I’d love to meet you there!

When Disharmony is the Norm by Gayla Grace

When Disharmony is the Norm

 

When Disharmony is the Norm by Gayla Grace

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I wanted a peaceful home. Harmony and order. Randy and I were newly married, and I’d hoped our kids would get along and be kind to each other.

I soon realized that was more like a dream. And achieving it, a tall order.

A VERY tall order.

We were parenting four kids from two different homes. Two different backgrounds. Two sets of rules. Two sets of expectations.

And we were all learning to live together. Conflict, accompanied by heightened emotions, erupted all too often. Most of the time, there was little warning.

Peace and harmony were not the norm. Getting along and treating each other with kindness…uh, not so much.

Then I attended a stepfamily conference. I heard stepfamily expert Ron Deal speak.

“In a stepfamily, you must learn to endure disharmony.” he said.

His words gave me hope. They relieved my guilt about the lack of peace in my home.When Disharmony is the Norm by Gayla Grace

When we join two families and begin to untangle the emotions, the circumstances, and the history that brought everyone together, it’s not unusual to have minor (or major) emotional eruptions.

In the beginning, I thought we were failing in our relationships when we couldn’t get along. Ron’s words made me realize that instead of failing we were normal!

That didn’t mean we shouldn’t pursue peaceful relationships. But it helped to remember we were only responsible for our efforts, not the outcome.

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

It’s not usually just ONE thing that contributes to the emotional disruptions. It’s MANY things.  The behavior in our stepchildren’s other home, teenage emotions, stepsibling rivalry, a difficult ex-spouse, loss from death or divorce—they all have a tremendous impact on the climate in our home but are out of our control.

Even if we do everything right as stepparents, there will likely be tension and days of little peace in the early years of a stepfamily.

Is your stepfamily in the midst of disharmony? Hang in there! This season will pass.

“…but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26b

Look for ways to get the support you need to walk this rocky road. Find other stepmoms or friends who can encourage you while your stepfamily works out its kinks. Look for ways to take care of yourself that allow you to recharge and renew your spirit.

Attend our upcoming Sisterhood of Stepmoms retreat and find hope and encouragement!

But don’t give up! Stepfamily life gets easier with time.

Is your stepfamily in the midst of disharmony? Will you share how you cope with it?

Finding Faith and Hope When Circumstances Look Bleak

Finding Faith and Hope When the Circumstances are Bleak by Gayla GraceWhen it comes to the stepparenting journey, the path is often full of potholes. Some so deep they’ll swallow us whole if we let them. In my own journey, there have been times when I wanted to give up.

To quit.

To move on.

But I didn’t.

I chose to continue. I chose to find a way to navigate the path and press on through the valley.

Today I share a resource on how to live by faith with courage, passion, and purpose, even when life is hard.

When I Lay My Isaac Down, by Carol Kent, is a story of overcoming. Of moving on. Of doing more than just enduring the difficulty and existing.

Stepparenting has challenges and we want to do more than just endure and exist. We want to overcome.

To thrive.

Learn how to live and grow in our faith.

In her book, Kent shares her story of growing in her faith after her son, a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and a man with an impeccable military record was convicted of murder. Kent chose to accept the unwelcome event that abruptly changed her future, and walk by faith.

To find purpose in her suffering.

She shares how this life-altering event brought her to a new understanding of faith.

She writes “I have found that the greatest power of faith lies not in how we think we might use it to conquer challenges we’re sure a loving God would not put in our path,

but in how we live–with courage, passion, and purpose–in the midst of unresolved, and sometimes immovable, obstacles.”

Sadly, her story doesn’t have a happy ending. Her son is serving a life sentence for murder. But Kent chooses to live with passion and purpose anyway.

As stepparents, we often live in the midst of unresolved, and sometimes immovable obstacles. At times, we experience unhappy endings.

Change knocks on our door as an unwelcome visitor through custody battles, unending schedule modifications, parental alienation, or many other difficult circumstances. But we can choose to live with “courage, passion, and purpose” as we face unwelcome change with a steadfast faith.

Finding Faith and Hope When the Circumstances are Bleak by Gayla Grace

Kent has a new book, Unquenchable: Grow a Wildlife Faith that Will Endure Anything. One reviewer of the book said, “You will find joy and peace even in the midst of the most horrific storms. The book is full of stories of people who’ve traveled through the darkest of days, and found peace, forgiveness, and hope.”

If you’re burdened with the circumstances in your stepfamily, I encourage you to pick up one of Kent’s books and find Hope!

How do you cope with unwelcome change or challenge in your stepfamily?

Join our community on the Sisterhood of Stepmoms Facebook page for additional support.

Change is Inevitable. Can We Learn to Trust God and Adapt?

One phone call. That’s all it took to change our stepfamily forever.

“I just got the news. She passed away earlier today,” my husband said. The finality of the words stung.  I thought about my teenage stepchildren facing life without their mom. Saddened, my heart ached.

I knew it would affect all of us. Like the ripples after tossing a stone into a lake, the effects would soon make their way into our home.

We had weathered some rocky storms as a stepfamily in the nine years my husband and I had been married. We were finally settling into a comfortable relationship, finding what worked for our family. I felt blessed for our newfound harmony.

Losing their mom left a cavernous hole in the hearts of my stepchildren. My relationship with them suffered as they dealt with their grief.

It’s easy for me to trust God when things are going well. Yet, when I face circumstances I don’t understand and that I cannot change, my faith tends to waver. You too? My husband and I had been praying for his ex-wife to be healed. That was not God’s plan.

Change is inevitable. Can we learn to trust God & adapt? by Gayla Grace

My mind was bombarded with questions that had no answers.

  • Would the children move across state lines and come live with us?
  • Could our home accommodate two more?
  • How would they cope as they struggled to accept their mom was gone?
  • What could we do to help with their troubled emotions?

The path before me was unchartered and unknown. I would have to trust God with what lay ahead.

Solutions were not easily or quickly found.

Tension mounted in our home.

Tempers occasionally flared.

We waded through months of confusion and anxiety.

At times, my husband and I did not see eye to eye.

Yet, when we let go and surrendered to God’s plan, peace engulfed us.

Soon after her mother’s death, my stepdaughter began college and didn’t relocate. My stepson lived with his stepdad and younger half-brother for a while longer before moving in with us. For healing to begin, we had to give up control and trust God with the outcome. Then and ONLY THEN did we begin to experience peace and begin to see positive changes.

It’s been more than ten years since my stepchildren lost their mom. Now, as young adults, both of them live out of state and are thriving. I’m thankful for healthy, loving relationships with them.

These days my own mother’s health is waning as she struggles with late-stage dementia. My stepchildren understand the sadness that accompanies the loss of a parent and offer compassion toward me.

I still struggle with God’s plan at times, particularly as I watch Mom suffer.

I want it to be my way, and I have a hard time letting go of control. But I know His ways are sovereign.

“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord.  “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9

Trusting God’s plan is hard. Have you learned to trust His plan with your stepfamily? Will you share it with us? 

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.