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Monday, November 29, 2010

Holiday Tips for Stepfamilies - Balancing Your Time as You Consider What's Important

My parents live out of state and visited for several days over the Thanksgiving holiday. We had a wonderful visit and I enjoyed our time together. But I was mindful of my tendency to focus on my to-do list during this busy season instead of simply relaxing and enjoying their company.

I don't want to regret the way I spent my time when my children are gone from home and my parents have passed away. I want my loved ones to know they are important to me. I demonstrate that when I make time for them.

It's easy to overload our schedule this time of year with shopping, Christmas parties, and other social events. But if we fail to leave time for our family, we neglect the most important item on our list.

Balancing our time includes saying no. We don't have to go to every Christmas luncheon we are invited to or volunteer at every function we hear about. But it's important to make time for our children's Christmas programs and recitals.

Finding balance during the holiday season for me also includes taking time for exercise and watching what I eat. During the Thansksgiving break, I noticed a sluggishness toward the end of the week. I'm certain it was a result of too much sugar and not enough exercise during the break. So, I re-committed to healthier eating and consistent exercise to give me the energy I need for the holiday season.

As we begin the busiest month of the year, it's a great time to evaluate our schedules and determine what's important to us. We are given once chance to live each day. I don't want to look back with regret. I want to look forward with anticipation. How about you?

Is your schedule overloaded? How will you find balance?

Related Posts:

Holiday Tips for Stepfamilies: Live One Day at a Time

How Do You Find Balance?

Setting Goals and Your Stepfamily

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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Holiday Tips for Stepfamilies: Remain Hopeful During Stressful Periods

My husband and I married in mid-October 15 years ago, and the holidays descended upon us as we began our new life together. My expectations of a joyous  holiday season quickly faded as the reality of combining two households with different traditions and outside family members settled on us.

I wasn't prepared for the chaos and heartache that accompanied our first set of holidays together. Blending four young children, managing a harried schedule with two ex-spouses, and competing with the "other households" for time together and adequate give exchange ignited a simmering blaze that burned throughout the season, leaving behind a trail of hurt feelings and unmet expectations.

Our holidays as a family have changed considerably since that first year. We only have two children living at home and although our schedules are busy, the kids don't have competing households to contend with. We live out of state from my ex-husband and my stepchildren's mother passed away five years ago. So, the complications are significantly reduced and it's much easier to agree on a time to come together to celebrate the holiday.

We also enjoy time together comfortably, without the strain of awkward relationships and misunderstood communication. Our family has matured through difficult times and worked through angry encounters, hurt feelings and stressful situations. We can now appreciate one another's differences and love each other's uniqueness.

I'm thankful I didn't give up that first year of marriage during our difficult holiday season. We're not a perfect family, but we've learned to love and accept one another, creating loyal relationships that tie us together as a family.

I pray you'll enjoy a happy holiday season. But, even if it's less than perfect, don't give up on your family. Stepfamily relationships are complicated and stable stepfamilies are not created overnight. There's always hope for continued growth and better days ahead if you don't quit.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Related Posts:

Being Thankful for Stepchildren

Positive Thinking Elicits Successful Stepparenting

Holiday Tips for Stepfamilies: Live One Day at a Time

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Monday, November 22, 2010

Holiday Tips for Stepfamilies - Be Flexible and Agreeable With Others, Whenever Possible

During the holiday season, it's natural to see and talk with outside family members more often. It's uncomfortable to see your ex-spouse or former in-laws if communication is strained. When possible, commit to do your part to be friendly and easy to get along with.

When deciding on the visitation schedule, be willing to make sacrifices to fit everyone's schedule. Offer alternatives for special dates and activities.

Recognize that Thanksgiving and Christmas can be celebrated on alternate days and still be a memorable day. We have exchanged Christmas gifts before and after December 25th many years to allow everyone to be together and still celebrated a special day.

Try to be fair to all parties involved. Separate old marital issues from parenting issues and examine your heart for resentment or bitterness that might be keeping you from friendly interaction.

 I wish I could say that I communicate easily with my ex-husband since it has been almost 20 years since our divorce, but that is not the case. I have to consciously work at being friendly and treating him fairly when I talk to him.

If conversations become difficult, shield the children from being involved. It is not always possible to have healthy interaction when the other party is volatile or overly sensitive, but the children should not be subjected to conflict with their other parent.

It may be necessary to resort to e-mail or texting to communicate. But we can do our part to try to be at peace with those we come in contact with and protect our children from being pulled between two people they love.

Holidays will be enjoyed more when our conversations are free of conflict. There may be bumps along the way, but it helps when we make a conscious effort to get along with those around us.
"If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone." (Romans 12:18)
 Will you make an extra effort to be agreeable with others through the holiday season?
Related Posts:
Holiday Tips for Stepfamilies: Let Go of Unrealistic Expectations
Holiday Tips for Stepfamilies: Live One Day at a Time
Healthy Boundaries with Your Ex-Spouse

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Friday, November 19, 2010

Friday's Fav Scripture - "My Grace is Sufficient for You"

"But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." (2 Corinthians 12:9,10)

I don't know about you, but I often feel weak and inadequate in my parenting and stepparenting role. I love this Scripture because it speaks of the Apostle Paul's need for Christ's power to rest on him and supply the grace and strength he needs.

I can relate. I cannot adequately perform my role as a wife, mother, and stepmother without Christ's help. I'm thankful for His willingness to walk this path with me.

As we move toward the week of Thanksgiving, I want to offer thanks for the unending grace, strength and power I can access.

What about you? Do you need to recognize Christ's strength or grace today?

Related Posts:

Friday's Fav Scripture - "I Will Strengthen You"

Be Anxious for Nothing

Finding the Beauty of God's Grace in Your Stepfamily

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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Holiday Tips for Stepfamilies - Live One Day at a Time

"Anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, but only empties today of its strength." Charles Spurgeon

When emotions are high during the holiday season, it's easy to worry about the upcoming visitation or encounter with difficult family members. But if we consider each day a gift that will not be experienced again, we will make each day count.

Living one day at a time as a stepparent means we wipe the slate clean every morning of previous hurts and offenses, starting new for the day with a positive attitude. We don't burden ourselves with concerns of tomorrow that may not happen anyway, but stay focused on what we can do today to positively impact those around us.

We can remind ourselves that God will never give us more than we can handle if we choose to meet only the responsibilities of today, not yesterday or tomorrow.

If past holidays have been difficult, we may project that the next one will be also. But we determine what kind of celebration we will have and whether we will allow others to interrupt our joy. We can learn from our past and do things differently, while choosing not to place blame or wallow in self-pity.

I love the quote, "Experience is not what happens to you, it is what you do with what happens to you."

Determine to make every day of this holiday season a special one. Focus on what you can change and let go of what you can't. Begin today with a renewed commitment to live one day at a time.

"Therefore, do not wory about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." (Matthew 6:34)

Are you facing unusual challenges this season? Will you strive to live one day at a time as you meet those challenges?

Related Posts:

Holiday Tips for Stepfamilies: Let Go of Unrealistic Expectations

Healthy Stepparenting: Take Care of Yourself Physically, Spiritually and Emotionally

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Monday, November 15, 2010

Holiday Tips for Stepfamilies - Let Go of Unrealistic Expectations

As we move toward Thanksgiving and Christmas, I want to include some holiday tips I've written about previously. Holidays can be very stressful for stepfamilies and it's helpful to be aware of what we can do to make the holiday season an enjoyable one.

Tip #1: Let go of unrealistic expectations

Don't expect every day of the season to go smoothly. Recognize that children experience fluctuating emotions as they cope with the loss of their nuclear family and accept their new step family. Because stepfamilies are created as a result of loss (divorce or death), children go through a grieving process. They may act out or withdraw for periods of time.

During the holidays, emotions can heighten and memories of past holidays can prevent stepchildren from enjoying current holiday celebrations. Don't take it personally if their attitude changes from one day to the next as you're trying to decorate the house or come together for family traditions.

Keep a positive mindset when negotiating visitation. Don't expect the schedule to work out perfectly without compromise on your part. When our children were younger, we considered our children's scheduling needs with their non-custodial parents before determing how to come together with our extended family. Some years it was disappointing for my husband and me to have little time with our own parents and siblings, but we accepted the reality of too many schedules to consider to see everyone.

Stepfamilies have complicated issues to work through during the holidays. One bad day doesn't have to dictate a difficult holiday season. Even with a bump or two along the way, it can be a joyous and memorable time.
Have you worked out your visitation schedule for the Thanksgiving Break? Were you able to negotiate well with other parties involved?

Related Posts:

How to Co-Parent Successfully with Your Ex

Setting Healthy Boundaries with Your Ex

Offering Forgiveness


Friday, November 12, 2010

Friday's Fav Scripture - "Love is Patient"

"Love is pateint, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude. It is not self-seeking. It is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres." (I Corinthians 13:4)

We live in a fast paced society that believes everything should happen quickly. We don't like to wait for food to cook so we put everything in the microwave. We have instant contact with people 24/7 through text messaging. There's no need to go to the library and look things up the old-fashioned way anymore because we can find whatever we want on our computer.  

But if we try to carry that thinking over to our relationships, it doesn't work. Trust and respect take time to build, particularly in stepfamilies. If we want lasting, meaningful relationships we must be willing to put in the time and commitment required. There are no shortcuts.

I cherish this Scripture and need the reminder of what Christ-like love looks like: "Love is always perseveres."

How are you doing in your stepfamily relationships? Are you seeing the results of patience and perseverance on your stepfamily journey?

Related Posts:

Offer Love and Grace Freely

Love is Sacrificial

Let Go and Let God

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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Positive Thinking Elicits Successful Stepparenting

Well known poet, Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "A man is what he thinks about all day long." In other words, if we dwell on the negative parts of our life, every aspect of our being will reflect negativity. But if we focus on the positive nuggets of our situation, we create positive surroundings for our self.

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 propitious to the development of negative results.”

Did you catch that? Conditions are created by thoughts far more powerfully than conditions create thoughts. Dr. Peale is suggesting that we influence our situation with our thinking. So, if we want our stepchildren to respond positively toward us, 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 have 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 with them 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 today. If something negative creeps into your mind, turn it around and find a positive twist. See if it makes a difference. Leave a comment and let me know the results.
Will you focus on positive thinking today with your stepchildren?
Related Posts:
Life's Too Short to Stay Mad
Being Thankful for Stepchildren
When Our Thinking Becomes Distorted

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Monday, November 8, 2010

Being Thankful for Stepchildren

I'll never forget the counselor's words when my  husband and I began seeing a therapist at the beginning of our marriage. "You might consider it a privilege to take part in parenting your stepchildren. Could you consider that?" What??? Was he listening to my pleas for help? No, I couldn't consider what he was asking. 

As we move toward the Thanksgiving holiday, it's a great time to count our blessings and offer thanksgiving. In the early years of our marriage, I would have never given thanks for my stepchildren. But, 15 years later, I can say, "I'm thankful for my stepchildren, and the part I've played as their stepparent."

My stepchildren have taught me patience and perseverance during painful periods. I've been forced to build a character of steel and skin as thick as mud to make it through tough times. But I've learned I can endure almost anything and come out successfuly on the other side, with God's help.

My stepchildren have taught me that family isn't always blood-related. I can learn to love my stepchildren like my own. I can offer Christ-like forgiveness even when they don't deserve it. And I can be proud of earning love and respect from my them, in spite of my stepparenting blunders.

Stepparenting isn't easy, but it offers the opportunity to make a difference in a child's life. Will you embrace that privilege?

Are you thankful for your stepchildren? Will you share why you're thankful for them?

Related Posts:

Stepparenting Rewards

Five Strategies for Successful Stepparenting

How Stepparenting Compares to Marathon Running

Lowering Your Expectations While Your Family Blends

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Friday, November 5, 2010

Friday's Fav Scripture - "Pray Without Ceasing"

"Seven days without prayer makes one weak." Author unknown

"Pray Without Ceasing" (I Thess. 5:17). It's a short verse with powerful words that we often neglect. How easy it is to disregard our need to pray continually.

If you're dealing with stepfamily struggles that seem to have no answers, I suggest you "pray without ceasing." When we're in an attitude of prayer, we find peace in the midst of our trial.

As we guide two of our children through the murky waters of young adulthood, I was reminded of our need to pray for them constantly. The words of a Proverbs 31 ministry devotion by Susanne Scheppmann resonated with me:  "Sometimes, no matter how great the parenting, some children flounder in adulthood. They wander into uncharted territory to test their independence. What's a parent to do then? If the child is of legal age, the best thing a parent can do is to pray."

A good reminder. Do you agree?

Related Posts:

Looking for Hope on your Stepfamily Journey?

Let Go and Let God

Some Days are Harder than Others as a Stepparent

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Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Offering a Gift of Kindness

The little things in life can make the most difference. My daughter helping me carry in groceries on a day I'm overwhelmed with chores. A stranger offering me thanks at church for playing the piano each week. My husband putting air in my tires when he notices the dashboard light.

Acts of kindness are simple reminders that show others we care about them. They may take a few moments of our day or an entire afternoon. But they speak volumes to the one on the receiving end.

My stepson is without a car for an indefinite period of time because of his recent car wreck. I knew he was concerned about getting back and forth to school and work from his apartment. So, I sent him a text message Monday morning offering to help with rides when I could.

He responded with an appreciative message back. It wasn't a big deal on my part but it communicated to him that I care and want to help him during this stressful period.

I wish I could say I'm always willing to help and come armed with a considerate attitude. But I'm not. I'm selfish with my time and like to consider my needs first. But I realize the value of a Christ-like attitude in doing for others, especially my children.

Stepparenting takes time and sacrifice. The needs of our stepchildren while they are in our home (whether part-time or full-time) last only a season. But the rewards of a willing heart toward unselfish acts of kindness can be seen for many years as a meaningful relationship ensues.

We may not receive the appreciation we deserve for serving our stepchildren. But we will be blessed in knowing we have done our part in offering Christ-like love and kindness.

"Clothe yourself with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience..." (Colossians 3:12)

How will you show kindness today?

Related Posts:

Character that Counts

Love is Sacrificial

Reflecting Gentleness

Expressing Kindness to Your Family

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Monday, November 1, 2010

Let Go and Let God

"Dad, we've been in a wreck. We're not hurt but my car is pretty messed up." My stepson, Payton, relayed the disturbing news Friday night after he and two of his buddies were involved in a car wreck that totalled his car. Physically he wasn't hurt, but emotionally he was destroyed.

It was the final straw for Payon in a series of events that left him feeling hopeless. Recently robbed at gunpoint in his apartment, struggling in a financial management class that could jeopardize his academic scholarship, managing an unsatisfactory work schedule with a less-than-understanding boss, and now coping with the anguish of an auto accident that destroyed his car. He sat at our kitchen table with tears in his eyes, his head in his hands saying, "What do I do?"

We've all had those days. Times of complete failure and absolute hopelessness. Days when it seemed our stepfamily relationships would never get better, even though we were doing all we knew to do. Periods of outright despair.

Maybe that's where you are today. Perhaps you're tired of the struggle and ready to call it quits on your family. I urge you - don't give up. As we shared with Payton, let go and let God. He can work a miracle if you trust Him.

In Courage to Change, Al-Anon Family Groups offers good advice on the AA slogan, Let Go and Let God. "The more tightly I clutch my problems to my mind, the less opportunity I give God to help me work them out. God's help is always available; all we have to do it to make room for Him to take part in our lives and keep ourselves ready to accept His guidance."

When we let go and let God, we give up control of the problem and ask for His help in the solution. We admit our powerlessness over the situation and surrender our will to His will. 

It takes a concious effort on our part. It requires risk ... but offers freedom.

"Come near to God and He will come near to you." (James 4:8)

Do you need to let go and let God? Will you share the result of past experience with surrending to His will in your stepfamily?

Related Posts:

Finding Hope in the Midst of Uncertainty

Good Things Happen When We Wait

Trusting God with our Finances

Looking for Answers?

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