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Thursday, September 29, 2011

Stinkin' Thinkin' Creates Bitter Quitters in Blended Families

Are you guilty of stinkin' thinkin' - do you know what it looks like?

Here are some examples:

- 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.

Have you had those thoughts? Can you list others? It's easy to get tangled in a web of negative thinking about our blended family. But we can make a choice to think differently and have positive outcomes.

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 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 propitious 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 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'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. Leave a comment and let me know the results.

Will you make an intentional effort to focus on positive thinking with your stepchildren and re-marriage? 

Related Posts:

Is it a Privilege to be a Stepparent?

When Stepparenting Feels Too Hard: 4 Tips for Overcoming Discouragement

It's Always Too Early to Quit

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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

How Do You Cope When Your Season of Life Takes an Abrupt Turn?

I knew our move out of state would be a difficult change for me. But I didn't recognize the change of season I would experience at the same time.

I had a comfortable life in Conway, Arkansas. I was actively involved in the community as a fellow parent, school volunteer, local magazine writer, piano instructor, and active church member.

I spent most of my time involved with our children's activities and community events. But when we moved, everything changed.

It changed because my season changed. We had two children already in college who were living away from home, but it was easy to connect with them on week-ends or evenings.

Our fourth oldest child graduated from high school last Spring and made plans to begin college in the Fall. And like her brother and sister, she began her college education in Conway.

So, we moved to Shreveport, Louisiana with one child. Our 10-year-old, Nathan, is the only child we have left at home. It creates a lump in my throat as I realize we have begun the descent to empty nest.

How did this happen? How did we go from four children at home, frequent teen-age struggles, frustrating stepchild rebellion, and unexpected late-night crises to a quiet, easy-going environment with a compliant elementary child who rarely ripples the water? 

How did our home move from one that had constant activity with countless children coming and going to a home controlled by the activity of one? 

Suddenly, I recognize the brevity of our child-rearing season of life.

I know it feels like your stepchildren will never leave home and you will always be in an unending struggle with them -- but it really does change.

I know it's hard to recognize that someday you won't need to have frequent conversations with your difficult ex-spouse about the children's visitation schedule -- but it really does change.

I know it seems like you will never get the laundry finished, house cleaned, and meals cooked on time because there are simply not enough hours in the day -- but it really does change.

And when your season of life takes an abrupt turn, how do you cope?

Lean into your faith, and rely on those you love.

Seek help from someone else who has gone through it. Because at some point, we all experience new seasons of life. 

But in our new season, we can find meaning with purposeful involvement in other's lives around us. We can leave behind the struggles of our stepparenting years and move forward with a renewed faith in maturing relationships with our stepchildren.

So, if you're in a child-rearing season with difficult stepchildren that seems to have no end, be encouraged. It will not last forever.

But in the midst of it, nurture the relationship with your spouse. Because when the children leave home, and your season of life takes an abrupt turn, your spouse will be there to pick up the pieces with you. 

"To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven." (Ecclesiastes 3:1)

Where are you in the seasons of life? Will you share your experience in the comments below?

Related Posts:

There's Beauty After the Pain

Finding Hope in the Midst of Uncertainty

The Valley of the Unknown

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Friday, September 16, 2011

National Stepfamily Day!

Did you know today is National Stepfamily Day? It's a day to celebrate your victories as a stepfamily and affirm your role as a stepparent.

A report from the Pew Research Center that came out in January of this year, reported that 42% of American adults have at least one step-relative in their family. There are now 29.5 million stepparents in the United States, and that number continues to grow.

But are stepparents confident in the role they play? Are there adequate resources to help stepparents on their stepparenting journey?

Stepfamily life is not easy. If your stepfamily is struggling, I want to recommend a few resources. Stepfamily counseling/support saved our marriage during the early years. Don't wait to get help if you need  it.

Smart Stepfamilies  Ron L. Deal offers the absolute best resources for stepfamilies. He has written several books, conducts nationwide conferences, and offers intensive counseling for stepparents.

The Smart Stepmom workshops  Laura Petherbridge has written a book with Ron Deal titled, "The Smart Stepmom," and offers workshops on stepfamilies, divorce recovery, and navigating relationships.

Opportunities Unlimited   Gordon and Carrie Taylor offer personal experience and expertise as a resource for relational development in the stepfamily through conferences, counseling, communication skills training and coaching.

Instep Ministries  This non-profit organization offers practical resources to support single, divorced, and remarried individuals.

These are just a few of the many resources available for stepfamilies but I particularly recommend them because they are faith-based.

I hope you will take the time to enjoy your stepfamily on National Stepfamily Day. I affirm your commitment to your stepparenting role and pray you will thrive as a stepfamily.

What will you do to honor your stepfamily today? Please share your ideas in the comments.

Related Posts:

What is our Role as a Stepparent?

Encouraging Ebook for Stepmothers

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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Creating Healthy Boundaries with your Ex-Spouse

In my post last week on boundaries, I said I would post about creating healthy boundaries with your ex-spouse. So I'm re-posting from a previous blog post that gives some examples of what healthy boundaries look like. These boundaries may not be applicable for you if the relationship with your ex is amicable. But for those dealing with a difficult ex-spouse, I hope these are helpful. Many of them apply to my own personal situation. (I'm using "he" for simplicity in each example).

1. Discuss only issues relating to the children with your ex-spouse. If he diverts the conversation to past events or other personal matters, steer it back toward matters of the children.

2. Use e-mail and texting if face to face discussions or personal phone calls are confrontational. Do not argue in front of the children.

3. Keep your meeting places public when possible. If you're swapping children from your home and expect conflict, don't allow your ex-spouse to come into your home.

4. Make sure your ex-spouse is clear on your expectations. Put it in writing and provide support for what you're asking, if needed. For example, when my stepson was younger, he suffered terribly with allergies. I took him for allergy testing and it was determined he was allergic to cigarette smoke but we knew my husband's ex-wife and her husband smoked around him constantly. We provided a prescription note from the doctor that requested there be no smoking around my stepson.

5. Don't allow verbal abuse of any kind - toward you or the children. If the conversation gets emotionally charged, tell your ex-spouse you will hang up unless the matter can be discussed calmly.

6. Separate issues of child support and visitation. If your ex-spouse is late or delinquent on child support, don't deny visitation. However, follow through with the court process regarding current payments.

7. Learn to recognize manipulative behavior and don't allow it to influence your relationship with your ex.

Boundaries can be set and then adjusted, as necessary, in your relationship  They give you the freedom to allow healthy interaction without fear of being taken advantange of or manipulated. But it is our responsibility to set boundaries that work for us without alienating our ex spouse in the process.

What boundaries do you set with your ex-spouse? Leave a comment if you're willing to share your success with others.

Related posts:

Setting Boundaries with an Ex-Spouse

Your Ex Spouse and Boundaries: Part Two

How to Co-Parent Successfully with your Ex 

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Saturday, September 10, 2011

In Honor of 9/11 - One Survivor's Story

It seems appropriate at this time to honor those who suffered and gave their lives in the Twin Tower attacks  on 9/11 ten years ago.

I just finished reading a book, Unmeasured Strength, by Lauren Manning, who survived the 9/11 attacks. It's an incredible story of her survival and transformation from the fire that nearly killed her.

Lauren was running late to work that morning due to an unexpected phone call. As she leaves her apartment at 8:30, she quickly catches a cab to carry her to the World Trade Center. Upon arrival, she enters the building to begin her elevator ascent to her 105th-floor office at Cantor Fitzgerald. But she never makes it to the elevator.

She recalls feeling "an incredible sense of otherworldliness" as she veers toward the elevators. "It's an odd, tremendous, quaking feeling, and everything...moves. The entire 110-story tower is trembling," she writes.

"With an enormous, screeching exhalation, the fire explodes from the elevator banks in to the lobby and engulfs me, its tentacles of flame hungrily latching on. An immense weight pushes down on me, and I can barely breathe. I am whipped around. ... I see people lying on the floor covered in flames, burning alive.  
Like them, I am on fire."

Lauren suffered burns on more than three quarters of her body. It was a miracle she survived - very few doctors believed she would. But Lauren had to learn that "the journey through a harsh and unforgiving landscape of pain and disability was mine alone to make. That I lived, that I narrowly escaped the fate of so many others that day, is a humbling reminder of both the extreme fragility and the surprising courage that exist within all of us." 

It's a beautiful, but heart-wrenching story. It's also a reminder of the responsibility that each of has to make the best of whatever circumstances come our way. It's not okay to give up. It's not fair to quit trying. It's not God's plan to surrender.

Have you felt like giving up lately? Can you apply Lauren's story to your circumstances?

Related Posts:

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Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Recognizing the Need for Boundaries with a Difficult Ex-Spouse

When I married my husband, Randy, I told him my ex-husband would not be a problem because he would eventually drop out of our lives. He had struggled with drug and alcohol addiction for years and although he was a medical doctor, he was a most unstable person.

However, I was wrong.

Sixteen years later, Randy and I converse regularly about how to cope with the tension my ex-husband creates. His interaction with my daughters frequently results in confusion and anger for the girls. 

 I have spent hours on the phone with my ex-husband, trying to explain how his behavior alienates his children from him, creating a wall of divide that will probably never come down. 

Despite every effort to have a healthy relationship with him, I have concluded that we simply cannot maintain a mature, thriving relationship. And in order to protect myself from an emotional entanglement, it's necessary to  set appropriate boundaries regularly. 

Now I'm not suggesting this is the case with every ex-spouse. I know many divorced parents who maintain an amicable relationship and successfully co-parent their children together. I strongly encourage healthy interaction with your ex-spouse. But I know from experience, that isn't always possible.

So, how do you create healthy boundaries with a difficult ex-spouse? I'll tackle that in my next post but first, I want to explain what boundaries look like.

In their book, Boundaries (which I highly recommend), Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend, define a boundary as, "a personal property line that marks those things for which we are responsbile. In other words, boundaries define who we are and who we are  not." 

Here are some examples from the book:

"Physical boundaries help us determine who may touch us and under what circumstances.

Mental boundaries give us the freedom to have our own thoughts and opinions.

Emotional boundaries help us to deal with our own emotions and disengage from the harmful, manipulative emotions of others."

Boundaries give us the freedom to create and maintain healthy relationships with others without losing ourselves in the process.

Christians are especially vulnerable to living without appropriate boundaries as we seek to demonstrate unselfish, unconditional love toward others. But Christ doesn't ask us to become doormats or spineless creatures in the process.

We are created to be in constant fellowship with Him, and that cannot occur if we're wallowing in self-pity or exploding in anger because of our lack of boundaries with those around us.

Does that make sense? Can you recognize the need for boundaries if you're dealing with a difficult ex-spouse?

Related Posts:

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