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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Coping with Stepfamily Drama - Part Two

The holidays seem to involve more drama than usual for stepfamilies. In my last post, I shared some of our family's drama this Christmas and gave a few suggestions on how to cope with it. Today, I offer a few more ideas:

1. Stay out of the middle, when possible. If the drama occurring is between children, allow them to work it out. Our children need to learn how to manage conflict at home with other family members. If it becomes physically or emotionally hurtful, it's time to get involved. If the drama is between your spouse and an ex, let him/her deal with it. If the drama is between you and your spouse or an ex-spouse, you must confront it.

2. Resolve to take the high road every time. Be the more mature party. Someone has to be the adult during tumultuous periods - it allows for inner peace when we know we're doing the right thing.

3. Commit to pray for your family relationships and exercise patience as they develop. Stepfamily authorities say it takes seven years for a stepfamily to blend. We had more drama than I want to remember during the early years of our marriage but I'm thankful today that we persevered and have stable, loving relationships with one another (even though drama still shows up every now and then).

3. Ask for help when necessary. If conflict begins to occur more frequently without resolve, it could be time to seek professional help. Find a counselor that is familiar with stepfamily dynamics.  Or check out my coaching opportunities here.  Don't allow unresolved conflict or ongoing drama to destroy your relationships.

Have you successfully dealt with drama this holiday season? Do you have other suggestions to offer?
Related Posts:

Coping with Stepfamily Drama, Part One

Offering Forgiveness

Some Days Are Harder Than Others as a Stepparent

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Monday, December 27, 2010

Coping with Stepfamily Drama

I wish I could say that Christmas with our five kids together was perfect this year. I had been looking forward to having everyone home for several days and savoring the moments together as a family.

But, unfortunately, much of the time spent together was stressful. Since four of our five children are young adults, there were a lot of opinions and varying ideas that arose during idle conversation, leading to heated discussions at times. Hurtful words were exchanged and unanswered questions raised. We worked through our struggles, but it was not always easy.

So, as I reflect on coping with stepfamily drama, I offer a few suggestions over the next two posts to successfully manage the inevitable conflict that comes with stepfamily life.

1. Expect a fair amount of drama, particularly at the beginning of the marriage, and other stressful periods.  This is where I went wrong this holiday season. I didn't recognize the underlying stress that is affecting our family as we anticipate my husband's job ending in February. Extra money spent at Christmas, the threat of my stepson's college scholarship in jeopardy, and any conversation regarding finances put everyone at edge, leaving us vulnerable to drama.

2. Take extra care to get enough rest, eat right, and exercise during periods of high stress.  
This area is easily neglected during the holiday season. Too many Christmas parties, a congested schedule with unavoidable obligations, and never-ending shopping trips leave little room for proper diet, exercise and adequate sleep. We don't cope well with drama when we're not in a good place ourselves physically and emotionally.

3. Nurture your marital relationship. Some day the kids will be gone and the drama will be over. But if the marriage wasn't nurtured, there will be nothing left to share. Don't let the conflict of "his, hers, and ours" drive your relationship apart. Find a way to have some time alone and reconnect with one another during and after stressful periods.

...To be continued

How do you handle stepfamily drama at your house?

Related Posts:

Conquering Conflict: Let it Go

Holiday Tip: Accept What You Cannot Change

Remain Hopeful During Stressful Periods

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Friday, December 24, 2010

Keep Christ in Christmas

Merry Christmas!  As we gather with family and open gifts around the Christmas tree, it's easy to forget the meaning of the season. But without the birth of Christ, we would have nothing to celebrate.

So, amidst the hustle and bustle, take time to read the Christmas story with your family. Reflect on the gift of  Jesus Christ as you exchange gifts with another.

And take every opportunity to show Christ's love to your friends and family - even the unloveable ones.

"The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control." (Galatians 5:22, 23)

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Monday, December 20, 2010

Holiday Tips for Stepfamilies: Do the Right Thing

I worked for a dynamic leader in the corporate world years ago whose motto in business was, "Do the Right Thing." He grew his business by treating others with respect, making decisions with customers and vendors based on doing what was right.

That same motto can make a difference in stepfamilies. Doing the right thing may require sacrifices on our part and doesn't always come naturally, but it can positively affect those around us.

My girls' dad is coming to visit next week. His relationship with the girls is fragile due to his ongoing struggles with addiction. I have a difficult time being cordial when he's around. But I know that's the right thing to do.

Doing the right thing also means I get out of the way and let go of control in their relationships. My girls are young adults, mature enough to make wise choices. I want to rescue them from future heartache due to their dad's unpredictable behavior; instead, I will pray for healthy interaction and give them the freedom to determine what kind of relationship they want to have with him.

It's not always easy to do the right thing. It may require difficult choices. But it can make a positive difference in stepfamily relationships.

How can you exercise "doing the right thing?"

Related Posts:

Character That Counts

Holiday Tips for Stepfamilies: Face Your Challenges

Overcoming Difficult Feelings as a Stepparent

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Thursday, December 16, 2010

Holiday Tip: Live By Faith, Not Fear

What are you fearful of this holiday season? Managing the visitation schedule with a difficult ex-spouse? Coping with uncooperative stepchildren over a prolonged stay? Socializing with ex-in-laws?

The holiday season brings all kinds of opportunities for anxiety. But we can choose every day whether we will live by faith, or be controlled by fear.

In her book, Calm My Anxious Heart, Linda Dillow gives these thoughts on faith: "Faith is the bulwark that keeps us strong even when we're assailed by agonizing thoughts about what might happen or by what has happened. Faith enables us to be content even when life doesn't make sense."

Contrast that with fear. Fear is a self-defeating force that cripples positive action. Fear controls our mind and elicits unstable emotions. Fear drives us to an admission of defeat, giving up before accomplishing  an attainable goal.

Why would we choose fear over faith? Perhaps it's because our faith isn't strong enough to sustain us. We carry around a head full of knowledge about faith but we don't allow it to penetrate our heart. We're satisfied with a superficial level of faith.

But it doesn't have to be that way. We can commit to growing our faith through Bible study, prayer, and fellowship with other believers. We can choose to rely on the Lord for wisdom, strength, and comfort every day.

I've heard it said there are 365 fear not verses in the Bible. Isn't that interesting? God knows the stronghold of fear and gives us a verse every day to rely on for support and encouragement.

So, as you face difficult situations this season, will you rely on faith or be controlled by fear? It's a choice.

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and he will make your paths straight." (Proverbs 3:5,6)

 Are you allowing fear to creep into your heart instead of focusing on faith to overcome your struggles?    

Related Posts:

Looking for Answers?

Holiday Tips for Stepfamilies: Remain Hopeful During Stressful Periods

Holiday Tips for Stepfamilies: Accept What You Cannot Change

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Monday, December 13, 2010

Holiday Tips for Stepfamilies - Take Care of the Small Stuff

"Mom, I've been hit from behind and my car has a good amount of damage." My youngest daughter was in her first fender bender this last week. She called me in tears and asked me what to do. She wasn't hurt but I could tell she was scared. I told her to pull over and call the police.

I asked if she wanted me to come help and she said yes. I knew she was capable of handling the situation by herself, but thought she could use some emotional support.

When we take the time to help our children and stepchildren through their trials, we build stronger relationships with them. Our actions speak love when we help them. It may not be convenient or easy for us, but it shows our children we care about them.

This past week, my stepson was stressed out about his work schedule and other things he needed to do to finish his school schedule. He had just completed another semester of college and needed to get his textbooks returned. I offered to help return his books if he would bring them to me. He thanked me and was genuinely appreciative of my help.

With the holidays in full swing, there are a variety of ways we can show our stepchildren we love them through the small stuff. Attend their Christmas programs, help them shop for their siblings and other family members (including their bio parent in the other home), eat lunch with them at school (unless they're teenagers...), help them with their homework, or whatever else you can do that shows you care.

How will you show love to your stepchildren this week through the small stuff?

Related Posts:

Offering a Gift of Kindness

Take Care of the Small Stuff Before It Gets Big

Holiday Tip for Stepfamilies: Accept What You Cannot Change



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Thursday, December 9, 2010

Holiday Tips for Stepfamilies - Face Your Challenges: Lessons from Elizabeth Edwards

In the wake of Elizabeth Edward's death this week, I'm reminded of a resiliency few people possess. With unending optimism toward life's challenges, she faced her struggles head on, refusing to hide behind the curtain of her political husband.

Despite her public image as an attorney, best-selling author and health care activist, her most prized possesions were her children.  Ms. Edwards leaves behind two young children: 12-year-old Emma Claire and 10-year-old Jack along with 28-year-old Cate. Her oldest son, Wade, was killed in an auto accident at 16 years of age.

I've watched Ms. Edwards in the public light and admired her gracious and dignified attitude toward life's challenges. She courageously grieved the loss of her oldest son after a sudden accident. She fought a valiant battle with breast cancer, remaining optimistic to the end that she would beat it.

She endured a public scandal for several years when it was revealed that her husband, John Edwards, had been unfaithful and fathered a child out of wedlock. Then, at the beginning of this year, she separated from John Edwards after 33 years of marriage and filed for divorce, choosing to live the end of her life alone with her children.

Her courage resonated in every interview and I admired her attitude toward hardship: "It's easy to get through the good days. What's most important is that when bad things happen, you have the strength to face it."

Life is hard. No one gets to escape difficult times. But it is our choice as to how we will respond when bad things happen.

Will you garner the strength you need to face your stepparenting challenges this holiday season?

Related Posts:

Creating a Stable Stepfamily: Commit to the Long Run 

Stepparenting Inspiration

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Monday, December 6, 2010

Holiday Tip: Accept What You Cannot Change

The Serenity Prayer

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can, And wisdom to know the

I can list dozens of circumstances within our stepfamily I wish I could change. Instead I seek to accept difficult situations, looking for positive nuggets among the challenges.

I wish I could change the reality of my husband's job ending. Instead, I will accept the difficult circumstances and choose to believe God has a new plan for his employment, placing my faith in God's promises.

I wish I could change that my ex-husband continues to struggle with addiction, resulting in homelessness some years, negligence in his relationship with our girls, and disregard for child support payments.

Instead I choose to accept his instability, including lack of financial help, despite escalating expenses with one daughter in college and the other daughter beginning next Fall. I choose to accept that the girls need extra love and guidance from me to sort through their feelings and disappointments.

I wish I could change that my stepchildren lost their mother to cancer five years ago, resulting in painful emotions, particularly during the holiday season. I wish I could rescue them from their loss.

Instead I choose to stand beside them on good days and bad, listening to heart-wrenching feelings that children shouldn't have to experience. I choose to allow them the freedom to make good choices and not-so-good choices, praying for healing and maturity through the process.

I wish I could change that our nine-year-old son sees evidence of divorce in his immediate family everyday. I wish I could change the circumstances when he asks why his older brother and sisters have more than one mom or dad.

Instead I choose to answer his questions honestly, hoping to give him the tools he needs to engage in healthy relationships as he matures.

We make choices everyday that allow for peace and serenity or anger and anxiety. During this holiday season, I choose to seek serenity as I change what I can and accept what I cannot.

Are you trying to control circumstances you cannot change instead of accepting them?

Related Posts:

Holiday Tips for Stepfamilies: Let Go of Unrealistic Expectations

Holiday Tips for Stepfamilies: Remain Hopeful During Stressful Periods 

Positive Thinking Elicits Successful Stepparenting

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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Holiday Tips for Stepfamilies: Build Family Traditions

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 picking out a tree together or making paper chains to count down the days toward Christmas (one of my kids' favorites). The goal is to find activities that the family enjoys and will look forward to doing together.

Flexibility is the key to being successful with family traditions in stepfamilies. When our kids were younger we had a difficult time managing our visitation schedule with the other households. But we always persisted in finding time to come together and enjoy activities such as decorating the house, going to a light show, and attending special services at church. 

As our kids have gotten older, circumstances have changed and it's easier. With family traditions in place, everyone knows what to expect and works at accommodating their schedule to allow time to participate.

Family traditions create bonds with family members that are strengthened every year as activities are enjoyed together. They provide a means of expressing love and laughter together, helping protect a family from brokenness and conflict. Loyalty and commitment toward one another are gained while working for a common purpose.

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 traditions does your family participate in together?

Related Posts:

Holiday Tips for Stepfamilies: Be Flexible and Agreeable, Whenever Possible

Holiday Tips for Stepfamilies: Let Go of Unrealistic Expectations

Holiday Tips: Remain Hopeful During Stressful Periods

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