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Guilt? Dear Stepparent, Let it Go!

“At the end of the day, I’m exhausted and still worried I’m not doing it right or even good enough,” said my stepmom friend, Cindy. “I struggle with guilt constantly and don’t know how to change that.”

It’s easy to assume feelings of guilt surrounding our stepparenting journey. We struggle to accept we’re imperfect. We insist we must do everything right or our stepchildren will never love or accept us.

Perhaps society dictates perfection, particularly for stepmoms. We don’t have to accept that attitude. Striving for perfection sets us up to experience guilt—a powerful emotion.

As long as you choose to feel guilty for the things you’ve done wrong, God cannot use the things you’ve done right for His glory.

Gayla Grace on Letting Go of Guilt

In his book, Boundaries with TeensDr. John Townsend offers some wise words on guilt-centered parenting: “Guilt is a feeling of self-condemnation over doing something that hurts your child. However, guilt is not a helpful emotion. Guilt is more about the parent because guilt centers on the parent’s failures and badness rather than on the teen’s difficulty and hurt. Guilt does nothing to help the teen’s situation.”

Townsend goes on to say that we should learn to experience remorse instead. “Remorse, the healthy alternative to guilt, centers on the other person,” he says. “It is solution oriented. When you feel remorse toward your teen, you free yourself to be sad about what you have done and to repair the effects.”

Sometimes, we don’t get it right.

We let our sinful nature take over. We don’t work hard enough to love our stepchildren and overlook their annoying tendencies. We highlight their mistakes instead of praising their successes. And then we feel bad for our behavior.

We can face our feelings of guilt and accept that we will sometimes let our stepchildren down. But we shouldn’t stop there. If we do something that hurts our stepchild, we can change our focus from guilt to remorse—an attitude of how our behavior affected them. Then we can take action to make it right. Perhaps we need to offer an apology. Maybe we need to claim God’s help to change our behavior next time. We likely need to accept God’s grace and His mercy to move past our guilt.

We won’t always get it right as a stepparent.

But we don’t need to get stuck wallowing in guilt.

God wants to do “immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us” (Ephesians 3:20).

But we must do our part also. Let go of your guilt, experience remorse, ask for forgiveness, and then accept God’s grace to start again.

 

Where do you struggle with guilt and how have you overcome it? Will you share it with us?

God's Amazing Grace Show Up in Stepfamilies

God’s Amazing Grace Shows Up in Stepfamilies

As stepparents, we often feel defeated in our circumstances. We play out our role the best we can, but it doesn’t seem good enough.

Relationships stagnate.

Disharmony rules.

Tempers flare.

Guilt follows.

Grace God's Amazing Gift Shows Up in Stepfamilies by Gayla Grace

We beat ourselves up for the discord in our home.

We allow Satan to bombard our minds with negativity.

We convince ourselves that, as stepparents, it’s all our fault when our stepchildren don’t love (or even like) us.

Perhaps we do contribute to the strife. The role of a stepparent is hard.

We don’t always get it right. But we can’t wallow in our mistakes. God offers grace to try again.

We don’t deserve the grace God offers us—nor can we earn it—but He wants us to receive it anyway.

Ephesians 2:8–9 says: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.”

We find examples of grace throughout the Old and the New Testament.

Adam and Eve deserved eternal separation from God after disobeying His commands but experienced God’s grace instead.

King David committed adultery and murder yet earned the label of a “man after God’s own heart.”

Peter denied Jesus three times but experienced grace and redemption afterward.

God showed me the beauty of His grace years ago in a way I’ll always cherish. Married for eleven years with two young girls, I chose to walk away from my vows. Addiction had overtaken our home despite the recovery efforts of my then-husband. Following my divorce, I experienced feelings of defeat, failure, and guilt. My Christian beliefs and parents’ long-term marriage had taught me that marriage was forever. How could I go down the road of divorce? Yet I did.

I never saw God’s grace more clearly, however, than when He brought a new husband into my life with the last name of Grace. Randy graciously accepted my daughters as part of the package when we joined families with Randy’s two kids. Humbled, and forever thankful, my last name is a constant reminder of what God offers His children.

Grace. Second chances. New beginnings. An opportunity for a better ending.

 

Where have you experienced God’s grace in your stepfamily?

Will you share it with us in the comments?

 

 

 

 

Encouragement for the Stepparenting Journey

 Words of encouragement from Randy & Gayla

If you have trouble seeing the video, please click here.

My husband, Randy, and I recently celebrated 21 years of marriage. We’ve made it more than two decades together!

During our first year of marriage, I would have told you I wasn’t sure we would make it past year two. The challenges of blending four children together, ages 3-10, were harder than we anticipated. We did a lot of things wrong. But we did a few things right, too.

We were recently asked to share some tips and encouragement with families in our church who are walking the stepparenting road. I hope it encourages and empowers you also as you listen to what we’ve learned over 21 years as a stepfamily.

Points to remember:

  1. Be committed for the long haul.
  2. If it’s not life or death, let mercy prevail.
  3. Make the marriage relationship a priority.
  4. Manage the ex-spouse with grace and mercy.
  5. Recognize that your needs count too.
  6. Pray for wisdom…daily.
  7. Don’t take everything personally.
  8. Remember that rewards often come at the end of the journey, not the beginning.

You’ll notice at the end of the video I mention a class we’ve started here in the Shreveport area.

If you live close, we’d love to have you join us!

Do you have other tips or nuggets of encouragement? I’d love to hear them in the comments.

 

 

 

 

When You Fail as a Stepparent, Don’t Give Up

I’m including a devotional today I wrote recently for stepparents. I hope you find it helpful.

When You Fail as a Stepparent, Don't Give Up

                “…let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”  Hebrews 12:1

With tears in her eyes, the new stepmom described her recent trial. As she entered her home after a stressful day at work, her teenage stepson welcomed her with a disrespectful remark. She reacted in fury, saying words she wished she could take back before slamming the door as she exited the room. The fragile relationship spiraled further downward.

None of us like to admit that we fail from time to time. But, as imperfect beings in a sinful world, we can expect we will fail. What matters most is how we react when it happens. If we ask for forgiveness and seek a new direction, relationships can be mended. If we choose to learn from our failures and move forward, we gain strength and wisdom on the journey.

There are multiple accounts of human failure in the Bible, but the Apostle Paul’s description of failure resonates with me: “I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.” (Romans 7:18)

I have failed miserably as a stepparent at times.  I have reacted with impatience, anger, and selfishness. I have allowed my needs to come before my stepchildren’s needs. But I refused to give up on my stepparenting journey when I made mistakes. I have chosen to move past my failures, asking for forgiveness from God and from my stepchildren, while seeking to change my ways with God’s strength and guidance.

Dear Father, give us the courage to keep trying when we know we’ve failed. Give us wisdom and perseverance to continue the course you have set before us. 

 

Picture by David Castillo Dominici

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

Five Steps for Healing Stepparenting Wounds

Five Steps for Healing Stepparenting WoundsI’ve been nursing a bee sting on the bottom of my foot for weeks. I ignored it at first, thinking it would heal on its own. But it hasn’t.  Now,  I’m annoyed at the nagging pain I feel when I’m on my feet too long.

My sister suggested I puncture the wound and look for a stinger that needs to be removed. I’m not a good patient but I carefully inserted a sterile needle close to the wound and removed a small skin-like material I found. Optimistic that would help, I thought — let the healing begin.  But the nagging pain continues. I’m now soaking it daily with espson salt and keeping it covered  with antibiotic ointment and a bandaid. If that doesn’t help,  I’ll have to consider my last resort – a trip to the doctor.

I would prefer wounds heal on their own. But that doesn’t always happen. Whether it’s a physical wound or an emotional wound, the steps we take determine how quickly our wounds heal.

Stepparenting wounds come in all shapes and sizes. They occur when someone hurts our feelings or our expectations aren’t met. In the beginning stages of blending a family, wounds occur frequently.

 Some wounds resolve on their own, but most require special attention. Nagging wounds occur   repeatedly, leaving us vulnerable to anger and resentment.

So how do we resolve our stepparenting wounds? How do we prevent our wounds from negatively impacting our relationships?  Here are a few steps I suggest:

 

1. Forgive your stepchild.

You may be justified in your anger, but it’s hard to find peace when you refuse to forgive an offense. The relationship with your stepchild suffers when you hang onto your hurt. Take the high road. “Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” (Colossians 3:13)

2. Don’t allow your feelings to fester.

I allowed my bee sting to fester for weeks before I did anything about it. As a result, the wound will take longer to heal.

Emotional wounds fester when we let our feelings take over our mind. Instead of addressing the issue, we compound it by complaining to others, acting out in anger, or  stuffing our feelings deep inside.

Festering wounds erupt. Deal with the offense so healing can begin.

3.  Commit to pray daily for your stepchild and strive to think only positive thoughts about him/her.

I know that’s not easy. When my stepson made piercing remarks about me in a custody hearing years ago, I didn’t want to consider praying for him or try to think positively about him. But when I made a conscious choice to dwell on his positive aspects and pray for his well-being, my wounds began to heal.

4. Give yourself grace for your part of the offense.

Each of us plays a role in conflict. Nonverbal communication speaks loudly. Stepchildren sense disapproving thoughts and critical looks. Words fly out of our mouth we can’t stop, contributing to conflict.

But if we choose to stay defeated in our guilt, we won’t find victory with our wounds.  Recognize your part and ask for forgiveness. Then give yourself grace and move on – imperfect people make mistakes.

5. Seek help when necessary.

It’s not unusual to get stuck nursing a stepparenting wound without healing. Some wounds go deep and wide, requiring professional help. It’s not a sign of weakness to ask for help, it’s a sign of courage.

If you’re considering stepparenting coaching, I hope you’ll check out what I offer. I would love to help you heal your stepparenting wounds and restore your relationships.

What other tips can you offer to help with stepparenting wounds? I would love to hear from you.

Related Posts:

Coping with Loss in a Stepfamily

Offering Forgiveness

When Stepparenting Feels Too Hard: Four Ways to Overcome Discouragement