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Gayla Grace sharing ways to get through the bumpy holidays as a stepfamily

The Holidays – 3 Ways to Make Them Better

3 ways to make the holidays better by Gayla Grace
This is my first holiday season without Mom. After a long hard road with Alzheimer’s, she passed away in August. Although I’m thankful she’s no longer suffering, I think about her every day. I’d love to go back and have just one more conversation with her, even if she doesn’t complete a full sentence or know my name. I want to see her beautiful smile and hear her laugh.
But that can’t happen.
My heart aches.

Challenges and loss at the holidays create heightened emotions.

We want to experience the happiness and light-heartedness of the season, but sometimes our circumstances don’t allow it.

What holiday difficulties are you facing? Yours will look different than mine, but I’m sure you have some. In stepfamily situations, grief often creeps into our homes.

Maybe you’re grieving the loss of what you’d like your holiday to look like but know it won’t. Or maybe you’re unhappy with the schedule that’s been arranged with your kids or your stepkids.

Many stepparents grieve because of the outsider feeling they sense during the holiday season.

If you’re struggling with grief for any reason, seek to fill up your love tank. Look for ways to offer love to those around you or ask for love from others, such as your spouse. Let your spouse know when you’re having a difficult day. Ask for what you need—don’t expect others to read your mind.

  1. Take another stepparent to lunch or connect with someone who needs a friend. Don’t ruminate over your problems. “Talking about our problems is our greatest addiction. Break the habit. Talk about your joys,” says author Rita Schiano.
  2. Accept the situation and make the best of it. This too will pass. The sun always shines again after the rain.
  3. Count your blessings. Look for things to be thankful for. Although Mom is gone, I’m thankful to have more time with Dad and will enjoy having him in our home this Christmas.

Maybe you won’t be with your stepkids over Christmas, but you can send a note or a special text to let them know your heart is still with them.

You can expect bumps as part of your holiday journey. It probably won’t go exactly as you hope or plan. But holidays can still be meaningful, even when they’re not perfect.

“Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord.” Psalm 31:24

How do you trudge through the bumps? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

For more stepmom encouragement, check out our devotional book written just for you!

Ask a family member to give it to you as a gift this Christmas!

Click the image to order from Amazon.

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Five Ways to Find Peace During the Holidays by Gayla Grace

Five Ways to Find Peace During the Holidays

Today my friend, Barb Goldberg, shares her thoughts on celebrating the holidays as a stepfamily.

 

 

What is the first thing that crosses your mind when you think about stepfamilies and holidays?

I’m guessing it isn’t peace!

Stepfamilies have an advantage over other families. We know that we have to practice our mediation skills. And we know that we have to establish our peace processes now.

Stepfamily or not, holidays are stressful! But a stepfamily holiday experience can be holiday stress on steroids.

In addition to the everyday chores of a holiday, we get to juggle divorce agreements, children’s schedules, ex-wives, extended family, egos, and gifting. All within a 24-48 hour time frame.

Although it may sound like a nightmare, peace is within our grasp.

Here are five tips that can take your holidays from a war zone to a haven of thankfulness and serenity.

  • Generosity of time
    Be flexible with the schedules. It’s important to keep those agreed-upon commitments, but if a parent runs late, let it go. Relatives may be visiting and holiday events can make you forget about time. Roll with it. Children hate to hear those arguments. It completely stresses them out.
  • Fight the urge to compete
    It’s easy to fall prey to gift wars. In a subconscious battle to win your stepchildren’s love, don’t start buying expensive presents to impress them. The only person who will be impressed is the executive who runs your credit card company. Children know what you’re doing and it’s a bad lesson to teach. Keep the gifts thoughtful regardless of what the other ‘side’ is giving.
  • Write the ex a note
    Holidays are a great time to be grateful and thankful. Write your stepchildren’s parent a note and let them know how much you appreciate their children and the time you spend with them. If you have any other lovely things to express, please do so. There is still nothing like getting a written note.
  •  Act the way you want the holiday to be.  If you still feel like ‘humbug’ when you envision your holidays, act the way you would like them to be. Human behavior is contagious and you will spread cheer when you pretend. Even if you are miserable, don’t show it on the outside. You will be shocked at how you will be convinced by your own show.
  • Swallow your tears and volunteer!
    Volunteering is the best way to spend your time. If you are without your children this holiday, it is the best distraction. If you are with your children, it is the best lesson. Helping others will put your stepfamily woes in perspective. They really are not very serious when you look at the grand picture.

Stepfamily life is a precious gift because it truly does teach us how to celebrate holidays with the perfect spirit. We are lucky. Happy holidays!

Barbara Goldberg

Saving the World, One Stepfamily at a Time

Barb is the author, blogger, speaker, and teacher for The Evil Stepmother Speaks. Barb teaches the art and science of stepfamily management.

Her book, The Evil Stepmother Speaks: A Guide for Stepfamilies Who Want to Love and Laugh is a funny, must-read.

For additional holiday tips, check out our holiday e-book,

Unwrapping the Gift of Stepfamily Peace,

 co-authored with Heather Hetchler of CafeSmom. 

It’s packed with proven tools, tips, personal stories, and new holiday traditions you can create with your stepfamily. And a list of recipes!

It’s a great way to help you find peace at the holidays.

 Unwrapping the Gift of Stepfamily Peace by Gayla Grace & Heather Hetchler

A fresh holiday resource for stepfamilies

Affordable, Helpful Resource to Reduce Stepfamily Holiday Stress

At Stepparenting With Grace, we share the stress that goes along with life in a stepfamily.

In recent weeks, we’ve talked about co-parenting stress and  reducing tension when kids live in two homes.

Stress is not unusual for stepfamily relationships. We must learn to navigate the occasional (or not so occasional) rough waters.

Add the upcoming holidays and we could be moving into a very stressful season.

But help is on the way.

Laura Petherbridge, The Smart Stepmom, has a new holiday resource available that is both helpful AND affordable. This downloadable pdf is full of insights, inspiration, and humor designed to help navigate the holidays. From “Juggling the two-home schedule” to “Traditions” and “The Ghost of Christmas Past” you will find helpful ideas.

Ideas designed to relieve the stress of the holidays.

Providing 30 days of inspiration, it might be just what you need to make it through the season!

And at an affordable $4.29, you can’t go wrong. This useful resource is available only on

Laura’s website.

Check it out today and start preparing for your stress-less holiday season.

 

 

 

 

Gayla Grace with Three Reasons Stepfamilies Need Traditions

Traditions – Three Reasons a Stepfamily Needs Them

 

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“Family traditions are a great way for stepfamilies to connect with one another. Family members come together and work toward a common goal in a non-threatening environment. Traditions can be as simple as making paper chains to count down the days toward Christmas (one of my kids’ favorites) or more involved such as helping serve a meal at the homeless shelter. The goal is to find activities that the family enjoys and will look forward to doing together.”

It’s been seven years since I originally penned those words. Little has changed except now the kids are older and we don’t make a paper chain. Some of the kids are now married, so we’ve adjusted our traditions to include spouses and to accommodate the schedules of these new families. Well, now that I think about it, maybe more has changed than I realized. But I still believe family traditions are one of the keys to successfully navigating the holiday season as a stepfamily.

With traditions, everyone knows what to expect and works at accommodating their schedule to allow time to participate.

There are three benefits to creating traditions.

  1. Traditions create bonds. Bonds are strengthened as the family does something together. Think of the strands of a rope. One strand by itself is weak, but when woven together with more strands, the rope becomes stronger. Creating bonds makes your stepfamily stronger.
  2. Traditions provide a means of expressing love and laughter. These emotions help protect a family from brokenness and conflict. Working for a common purpose creates a sense of loyalty to each other and the family.
  3. Traditions create special memories. Memories that will be cherished long after family members pass on. Reminiscing of times’ past with loved ones can help ease the loneliness that creeps in when celebrating the holiday without that special someone.

Traditions are important and flexibility is key to making them work in stepfamilies.

Continuing traditions already in place also helps to provide routine and predictability.  Routine during the hectic holiday time just might offer some stability to otherwise unstable emotions that seem to surface this time of year.

It’s never too late to start family traditions. They offer a sense of belonging that can help cement relationships. Bring your family together and enjoy some new traditions this year!

What are some of your family traditions?

Holiday Tips for a Merry Christmas with Your Stepfamily

Christmas is just a few days away. Here are a few ideas on how to make the most of that special day.

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M – Mind your expectations. Lower them when necessary.

E – Expect bumps along the way.

R –  Refuse to take everything personally – it’s probably not about you.

R – Relax when you’re about to go over the cliff.

Y – Yield toward kindness as often as possible.

 

C – Choose to stay calm in the heat of conflict.

H – Have a Plan B for your schedule.

R – Remember the Reason for the season.

I – Include grace every day.

S – Settle for good enough instead of insisting on perfection.

T – Tell your spouse you love him/her every day.

M – Make memories with your stepchildren.

A – Admit when you fail and ask for forgiveness.

S – Seek to do your part toward loving relationships in your stepfamily.

Merry Christmas!

For more holiday tips, check out our holiday e-book, Unwrapping the Gift of Stepfamily Peace.  It’s a great tool to help you and all stepparents find peace during the holidays and beyond. It’s packed with proven tools and tips, personal stories and a list of recipes and new holiday traditions you can start with your stepfamily.   Unwrapping the Gift of Stepfamily Peace

 

 

 

 

Pic by David Castillo Dominici

 

Experiencing Conflict in Your Stepfamily? Tips to Help

Holidays are stressful! Are you feeling it yet? Add the complexities of a stepfamily and it can quickly get out of control.

blogHow we manage conflict dictates how healthy our relationships are and oftentimes, whether we head to divorce court or not. However, when done correctly, conflict—with healthy, fair disagreements—can actually encourage stronger relationships.

In their book, The Remarriage Checkup, stepfamily authority Ron Deal and researcher David Olson discuss the differences in how couples handle conflict. “Research has suggested that happy and unhappy couples alike share the same number of conflicts. Unhappy couples just can’t get through the differences – they get stuck in them. Healthy couples, by comparison, are much more likely to find creative solutions to their differences and work them out (80 percent versus only 28 percent of unsatisfied couples).”

Conflict doesn’t have to be bad. It’s simply a sign that something needs to change in the relationship. It turns bad when we attack the person, in the midst of conflict, instead of attacking the problem.

Stepfamily conflict often centers around the kids. One of the most frustrating areas for stepmoms includes a passive husband who doesn’t properly discipline his kids and so she steps in, becoming the bad guy. This situation creates conflict in the marriage that’s ongoing if it’s not addressed and managed properly.

So how do you address conflict properly? How do you fight fair? Here are twelve tips to help:

  • For starters, both parties must agree to remain in control. When emotions are escalated and nasty words start flying, resolve never occurs. If the situation proves to be too volatile at the moment, take a time out and come back when both of you can discuss the matter calmly.
  • Commit to be fair and flexible with solutions as you work through the issue. Come to the discussion with both ears open to hear your partner’s take on the disagreement. Don’t insist your way is the only way, even if you think it’s the right way.
  • State the problem clearly—be specific. Use “I” statements instead of “you” statements. “I statements” take ownership of our feelings and needs and communicate them to others without placing blame. It’s easier to hear, “I feel insecure when you ignore me,” rather than “you make me angry when you don’t listen to me.”
  • Address conflict as it occurs. Don’t let issues pile up until you’re ready to explode. If your partner neglects to address your stepson’s lack of respect, don’t let it go on ten times before discussing it.
  • Keep conflict away from the ears of your stepchildren, especially if it’s about them. If you’re seeking to bond with your stepchildren and they hear you fighting about them, you take huge strides backward.
  • Be a team player. Your partner is your ally. If you insist you must win for a successful outcome, that means your partner has to lose. It’s not a competition, it’s a partnership.
  • Don’t try to resolve conflict through e-mail or texting. Give your relationship the respect it deserves and take time to confront conflict face-to-face. If you begin a disagreement while texting, stop. Resolve to finish the discussion in person.
  • Don’t bring up old issues that have nothing to do with the current conflict. Put boundaries around the subject at hand to find resolve with one thing at a time, preventing explosive arguments.
  • Pick your battles. Particularly if you’re raising teen-age stepchildren, mine blasts can occur at any moment; however, you don’t have to engage at the slightest misbehavior. If your stepdaughter had a bad day and rolls her eyes at you, remember, it’s probably not about you.
  • Steer clear of name calling or character assassination. Hurtful words create deep wounds that don’t heal easily. Stick to the issue instead of diverting to the person.
  • Listen more than you talk. I’ve heard that women speak about 20,000 words per day, close to 13,000 more than the average man.  I’m convinced God gave us one mouth and two ears so we would listen more and talk less.
  • Offer grace freely. Be quick to apologize and slow to hold grudges. When we don’t forgive, we suffer mentally, emotionally, and physically. Forgive and let it go.

It’s also important to recognize our part of conflict. It takes courage and humility to take a personal inventory and consider how we contribute to conflict. But it’s important!

When conflict comes knocking at your door, don’t despair. If you commit to practice healthy conflict management, you’ll find your relationships deepen through resolve. You don’t have to get stuck arguing about the same ‘ole thing.

Are you up for a challenge? Pick your weakest link when it comes to conflict. Where could you improve? Then determine to do conflict differently and watch what a difference it makes in your relationships!

For more holiday tips, check out our holiday e-book, Unwrapping the Gift of Stepfamily Peace. It’s a great tool to help you find peace during the holidays and beyond. It’s packed with proven tools and tips, personal stories and a list of recipes and new holiday traditions you can create with your stepfamily.  Unwrapping the Gift of Stepfamily Peace

Pic by by imagerymajestic

*Originally published in Stepmom Magazine October 2013