Loyalty Conflicts

loyalty conflicts, step family, blended family, stepmom, step mothers
First thing, Loyalty is a good thing. It tells us who we belong too and plants our feet on solid ground.  Loyalty offers up identity and security in the children and it is what every child needs.  The loyalty our stepchildren have towards their biological parents can be difficult especially when it involves the biological mother.  As one stepchild said to their stepmom “Is it okay if I like you when I am with you, but hate you when I am with my mom”.  That’s really a hard thing to hear when you are a stepmom, but we should focus more on the fact that they like you when they are there. Do not dwell on the negative.  Because the children have experienced a divorce and their loyalty is even stronger than children who don’t come from a divorced family. Children that do come from a divorced family, their loyalty is on “steroids”, that is how strong it is.
What can I do to break it?
There’s nothing you can do to break it.  Even children who don’t see or have any close relationship at all still have a strong loyalty towards their biological mom.
How can we earn the stepchild’s loyalty?
We can earn it by developing an emotional attachment.  An emotional attachment could be developed by taking care of them when they are sick or by listening to them when they get upset about something. Making sure all of their physical needs are met, helps it further along.
For example, my stepdaughter had a dance recital and I went to it along with my husband and mother in law. After it was over she came over to where we were standing and hugged everyone but me and just totally ignored that I was even there.  I was really hurt and felt like an outsider.  At the time I didn’t really know why she treated me like that; in fact my husband apologized to me for it.  I didn’t know until I read about loyalty and the fact that her Mom was just a few feet away from us.  I understand that since her Mom hates me, she had to pretend she hated me to for her Mom’s sake and if she would have paid me any attention it would really hurt her Mom.  Every event after that day if her Mom was there, I started to expect that she or my stepson won’t acknowledge my presence.  Did it still hurt, yes it did every time, but it did hurt a little less.
It’s natural for stepchildren to compare you to their Mom.  Early on when you become their stepmom it’s important that you have a talk with your stepchildren. When you talk to them make sure you tell them these 4 things:
  1. You are not trying to take their Mom’s place
  2. You are not like their parents, you are different from them
  3. You are going to try your best to always have their best interest at heart
  4. That if you were them, my first loyalty would be to my Mom and I understand and respect that

It does make things harder when the biological mother is bitter and full of resentment towards your husband.  The stepchildren often times cannot form a bond with the stepmom when the mom is not over the divorce.  It’s especially hard if the ex-spouse is causing PAS (Parental Alienation Syndrome) with the stepchildren.  At this point, the only thing a stepmom can do is love the stepchildren the best you can.  Us, stepmoms need to realize that, there will be days where you will get treated unfairly and get the short end of the stick.  Don’t take it out on the stepchildren because they are only acting out because of their strong loyalty to their mom. To the stepchildren, any affection the stepchildren give to you feels like to a betrayal towards their mom.  I call it the hot/cold treatment, where one minute they are nice with you and very talkative and then the next minute they don’t want anything to do with you.  Don’t take it personally; just try to understand that they are struggling with loyalty.  For stepchildren that go back telling mom things that go on in this house, the best thing you can do is when you notice this behavior is to sit down with the stepchildren and say this to them: “We know that being in the middle stinks. We also know that sometimes you feel compelled to say things to both parents in order to show your loyalty. We understand you might feel like it’s wrong siding with one parent. Is that right? [Pause for their answer] When you tell your mom inaccurate stories about the home so that she will feel better, it leads to conflict between this home and your mom. Please stop. We would rather you be honest with her and with us. If you are afraid to be entirely honest with your mom, we ask you not say negative things about us” (R. Deal & L. Petherbridge; 2009).
If you are a stepmom having problems with feeling insecure about the place you might be with your stepchildren, don’t let it affect your significance in their life.  A stepmom that competes out of being insecure will usually be thought in a negative way and end up be resisted.  Please handle your insecure feelings with God, your husband, friends or even a support group.  Your stepchildren are not responsible for your well-being. You are not responsible for the maturity of the biological mother either. Helping the stepchildren cope with the emotional tug-of-war begins when you and all parental figures, remember that you are not in competition for the child’s loyalty. The right and mature loyalty takes some time to develop. Until then, pray about it and grow a thicker skin.

Have you dealt with loyalty issues with your children or stepchildren?


References:
Ron Deal and Laura Petherbridge, The Smart Stepmom (Bloomington, MN: Bethany House, 2009), 89.

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Disengage

Disengage, stepmoms, blended family, blended families, step mothers, step family, step families
There are going to be times where us Stepmoms need to disengage or take a break away from all of the stress, disrespect, toxic ex-wife, toxic relatives or just stepfamily crises.  This doesn’t mean you’re a bad stepmom, this just means you know what’s best for your emotional health.  When necessary it’s great to take action and think of your emotional health and put it first.  I don’t recommend doing it for a long period of time, but just enough time to recharge and pray for your situation. Only you can determine how long you should disengage from someone or an activity.

How do you know when you need to disengage from an activity or situation?

If and when you feel that your anger or emotions are coming to the surface.  That’s when it is time to step away and remove yourself from the situation before you say or do something you will regret.

Where do I go when I disengage?

Pick a safe place and call it your “Safe Haven”, where no one else is at.  For example, your bedroom or if you’re at someone else’s house may be the bathroom or another room where you can just collect your thoughts and calm down. The best thing to do when you’re alone is pray. Pray about your emotions and your feelings of anger at the time. I also keep a journal where I can write all of my thoughts and feelings down, it really helps to get them out on paper sometimes.  Your Safe Haven might be a Friend’s house, wherever you can feel like yourself again is what it is all about.  Another idea is to run an errand and just leave the house for a while.  During that time, you can either call a friend to talk too.  You can also join my stepmom group on Facebook which is called: “Step Moms Are Us”, where you can post your situation within the group and within four hours, I will respond to you or maybe even others will join in and give you some great advice regarding your situation.  You don’t have to be alone in this; we can help be your support group.  When and if you do decide to call a friend make sure you are able to talk without anyone else listening into the conversation.  When I was younger anytime my Stepmom was mad at me, she would be on the phone talking to someone about me in Spanish. I didn’t know what she was saying, but I knew she was talking about me because she’s couldn’t say my name in Spanish. It used to really upset me, in fact, I told myself that I would try to learn Spanish so I can find out what she’s saying about me behind my back.  I never did learn Spanish, but I was really eager to when I was younger.


Disengaging is like a reset button for your emotions and feelings of anger.
 When you disengage from an activity you may have to tell your husband behind closed doors.  Explain yourself calmly and respectfully, express your frustrations and be sure to tell him your plans and offer suggestions as to what he should do.  For example: If you are always the one that picks up your stepchildren from the ex-wife and there have been some really bad issues between the two of you and you don’t want to pick them up anymore. Make sure you explain yourself and suggest an alternative plan.  Don’t be surprised when your husband objects to you doing this and will most likely be on the defensive side so be prepared.  Be prepared for your husband to try manipulative tactics in order to make you feel guilty and change your mind from disengaging.  Stick to your grounds and stand firm and tell him it’s for his own good and for a better relationship with his children.  If the conversation gets too heated sometimes it is best to take a break from each other until both of you have calmed down to continue the conversation. Then maybe the two of you can come to a comfortable compromise that you both find is acceptable.
Do not feel like you have to do anything in order to hold on to your husband, if he loves you, he will try to understand where you are coming from and work with you.
If you are want to be fully disengaged, you might have to tell your stepchildren when they ask for something from you “Please ask your father”. You don’t need to further explain yourself to the children; they don’t need to know that you are disengaging from them. I don’t recommend fully disengaging from your stepchildren for a long period of time.  When you start to see a difference in how they interact with you and it’s a positive one then get back involved slowly with caution. Sometimes disengaging can help preserve your relationship with your stepchildren and your husband.
Biological parents shouldn’t ever disengage from their own children that are under 18 years of age for a long period of time. It’s our responsibility as parents to keep the relationship connected.  After they are 18 years old and are living on their own, it’s their responsibility to keep the relationship connected.  But if you have to disengage from that child because of an ex-spouse, try to do your best to stay in your child’s life as much as you can.  That way down the road they can never say you didn’t try to keep in contact with them or that you didn’t try to fix the relationship with them (meaning the child).
If you’re disengaging from a toxic relative such as your mother-in-law or any in-laws sometimes its best to try to avoid as much interaction with them as possible.  For instance only see them on holidays or other special occasions.  If your husband wants to visit them, have him just go alone with the kids and you can stay home.  In my second marriage, my mother-in-law preferred a past girlfriend of my husbands and had pictures of her and my husband all around.  All she did was talk about her every time I was there.  It made me very uncomfortable and she never recognized my son on his birthday and other special occasions. So I decided to disengage from her and decided not to go over to her house, I just let my husband go with the kids and I would stay home with my son.  I refused to put myself through that and I got tired of the fake warm hellos when really she didn’t want me there.  My current mother-in-law is the best; I love her and think she’s the nicest lady I ever met.  She accepts my children as her own grandchildren and doesn’t treat them any different from her own biological grandchildren.  Anytime my husband wants to go visit with her, I go as much as I can.
Rachelle Katz says, Being involved with a toxic person damages your self-esteem and drains your energy while repeated contact can cause you to feel worn out, deflated, confused, belittled, undermined, insecure or controlled. You could even experience headaches, stomachaches, eye tics or even migraines from being involved these toxic relationships. The best thing you can do when you are around a toxic person is to walk away and steer clear of them. You don’t have to put yourself through so much anxiety just to be around them. Start putting your emotional health first and disengage from toxic people in your life. Life is too short, live it with people who can love you back and accept you just as you are. No one is perfect, and yes everyone makes mistakes from time to time, but we do strive to do the right thing in our lives.  So retreat or disengage when you feel it is necessary in order to get rest, destress, pray, replenish and touch the center of our souls, your emotional well-being deserves it. Do what’s best for you and your well-being. 

Have you ever had to disengage from someone before? How did you handle it?

References:
Katz, Rachelle. (2010). The Happy Stepmother. Stay Sane, Empower Yourself, Thrive in Your New Family. Harlequin

Boundaries

Boundaries, step family, blended family, blended families, stepmom, step mothers
Have you had difficulties with someone before whether it be the ex-wife, ex-husband, friend or a family member that you don’t get along with, where you need to establish boundaries?  To maintain your emotion well-being and to protect your privacy and personal space, there need to be boundaries. For example, maybe your husband has an ex-wife who calls multiple times of the day to talk to either the husband or the stepchildren.  Or maybe the ex-wife just walks right into the house while your home and you’re not comfortable with it; boundaries need to be set up.  Maybe the ex-wife has yelled at your husband and you stood up to her and defended him, it’s okay to be your husband’s protector against the ex-wife, but you just have to mindful around the children.  A husband should stand up for his wife and protect her against the ex-wife.
There are some Stepmoms that don’t even know how to define what their personal space is because either they are afraid to speak up or they just don’t know how to go about it.  Boundaries are important in all areas of life, whether it is through friendships, family or even on the job, but they are especially important in a blended family.  It’s very important to develop and maintain these boundaries in a respectful way that makes everyone comfortable and happy.  In order to establish these boundaries there needs to be communication between you and your husband about it, then once in agreement, you need to come up with how you want to handle everything that sounds fair to you and your husband. Then your husband needs to talk to the ex-wife and explain to her what is acceptable and what’s not acceptable. Rachelle Katz has said to ensure that we are not overpowered or overburdened by demands or interference from others, we construct boundaries that are composed of rules and behaviors that are expected of others to: 
  1. Protect our privacy, possessions and sense of autonomy
  2. Help us to recognize our uniqueness, value our own opinions and trust our own judgment.
  3. Make it possible for us to ask for help when we need it and to handle rejection when others deny our wishes.
  4. Show us when to say yes or no to requests from others.
  5. Allow us to find personal happiness and fulfillment and give us the wisdom to let others live their lives without our interference.
  6. Regulate the pace at which we get to know others, allowing us to share personal information gradually as trust develops.
  7. Most important, they protect us from physical, emotional or sexual abuse.

Everyone needs to develop their own unique set of boundaries that are created by both spouses.  An example of a good boundary that we used in our home is when a door is closed, you can’t just walk right in, you need to knock first and ask if it’s okay to go in the room.  Another one would be that ex-spouses are only allowed in the foyer and not allowed beyond that or you might have it to where they are not allowed in your house ever.  Either way it’s good to establish boundaries.  Your boundaries should be flexible to accommodate different circumstances that may come up where you might have to bend the rules a little bit. Another example of a boundary in our house is for our kids, my son was not allowed to have girls in his room at any time.  Another boundary is how many times can the ex-wife call your husband or contact the stepchildren on your scheduled weekends?  One that was very hard in our house was letting the ex-wife interfere with our discipline, you should definitely put a stop to that, and it’s your house, your rules, and your punishment. If your ex-wife or ex-husband doesn’t like them, oh well, it’s not their right to establish what rules are in your household, that’s for you and your husband to establish together.  Just like it’s not your right to disagree with the ex-wife’s rules or lack of.  We might disagree with it, but don’t say anything to the children about it.  Another example of a boundary between husband and wife is that the opposite sex is never allowed to kiss either of you on the lips.
A stepmom needs to be able to have a voice to stand up when the boundaries are being violated or taken advantage of.  Often we stepmoms have weak boundaries where we often think of our own needs as secondary compared to the needs of our children or stepchildren.  We often think it’s our responsibility to keep everyone happy, so we often forget about our own boundaries, thinking they are not as important as everyone else’s.  Your boundaries are important and they should not be secondary, they should be first.  I understand that you want your stepchildren to like you, but you also want them to respect you too.  They won’t respect you if you keep weak boundaries. While it’s great to help out our stepchildren, friends or other family members but however, it’s just as important to be able to say No when the request interferes with your job or something else that you have already scheduled in advanced to do.

When setting boundaries and limits it’s important that we learn to choose our battles wisely and learn to distinguish between a fair and reasonable rule and a power struggle.  Because limits and boundaries are to make sure everyone is safe and for the sanity of all who are concerned, whereas a power struggle is feeling the need to control and do just the opposite.  When setting boundaries or rules of the house, try to think is this rule a reasonable one and will it benefit everyone in the long run or is it a power struggle?  For example setting up curfews, it might be different for teenagers versus young children. But in my house for my son, when he was 16 years old to 18 years old, bedtime was 10:00 pm on the weekdays and 12:00 am on the weekends; however I might be flexible depending on the circumstance.  Of course, my son didn’t like the rule and often said his friends didn’t have curfew times. I have heard it all, but I stayed to the times.  After he graduated High School I became more relaxed, however, no friends were allowed to stay past 11:00 pm and he still needed to be home by midnight.  My girls’ ages 10 & 11, go to bed on weekdays at 9:00 pm, on the weekends their bed time is 11:00 pm.  As far as the rules of our household, here are the rules we made up together for all of our children to follow:

  • No Name calling of any kind
  • No Hitting/Kicking! That includes No hitting/kicking back
  • No Closing the rooms unless changing clothes or doing homework or told to do so
  • If a door is closed, knock first, wait until you are told to come in. If no one answers, DO NOT go in
  • No locking anyone in rooms or out of the house
  • Share ALL Toys, but it if it’s not a family toy, ask that person who owns it to use it first before using the toy
  • Play Fair – no gaining up against each other
  • Don’t exclude one another from playing while in a group. 
  • What happens in this house… STAYS IN THIS HOUSE!
  • Clean up after yourselves – means anything: toys, snacks, garbage, dinner and cups are put in the sink after empty.
  • After a Shower – hang up towels and put clothes in your hamper
  • What we say goes and that’s it!
  • If one parent says No, don’t go and ask the same question to the other parent.
  • All Homework must be done before any type of playing
  • No Swear Words of any kind!

I know these might not be the ones you may use, but these are our “House Rules” or boundaries/rules that my husband and I established early on in our marriage for all of the children and stepchildren to follow.  Children need structure to grow up with; else they just run the whole household.  We had them laminated and hung up on the fridge for them to see every day. We also have restrictions of their screen times meaning tablets which are two hours during the week and three hours on the weekends. We also have it to where it goes off an hour before bedtime, so even if they have time left; it locks an hour before bedtime. There is a great program that I use to help do that, which is called “Screen Time” it’s an app that you download, it works great.  It also monitors and gives us reports of what apps they are using and browsing history.  My girls do not have phones and won’t be getting their own phone until their 13th birthday. Once they get their first job, they will be required to pay for their own cell phone along with car insurance once they get their driver’s license.  This teaches them responsibility, after all when they get in the real world; they will have to pay for this on their own anyways. 
You need to establish a happy middle of boundaries and always review them for changes as the children and stepchildren get older and circumstances change over time.  Don’t let people walk all over your boundaries, they are there for a reason stand up and fight for them to be observed and protected.

Do you have boundaries established in your family? Have you ever had someone overstep your boundaries before?

References:
Rachelle Katz. (2010). The Happy Stepmother. Stay Sane, Empower Yourself, Thrive in Your New Family. Harlequin.

Holidays

Blended Family Holidays, Stepmom, Happy Holidays Not, Step Mothers, Blended Families
Warning the holidays are quickly approaching.  Are they really Happy Holidays for your family or are they difficult? As for me, it’s even harder because not only do I have my own blended family with stepchildren.  I am from a blended family myself.  So the holidays are very hard on me trying to make sure I go to everyone’s houses so my own parents don’t have hurt feelings.  Since my own parents are divorced since I was 7 years old.  My Father remarried to when I was young and so I had my own Step Mother to and then she had three children with my Father. Just a few years ago my Father and Step Mother got divorced too.  It does make the holidays very interesting, stressful and exhausting.  My mother never remarried, even though part of me wishes she has someone to share her life with. 
So let me slow down and explain my family dynamics.  My mother has been married twice, the first marriage, she had seven children (YES 7), then got divorced and married my Father and had two children, one of which is me. Then they got divorced and my Father married my Step Mother and had three children together and now they are divorced.  So on the holidays, not only do we have to figure out how we can handle sharing the holidays with my ex-husbands and my husband’s ex-wife but we have to try to go to my Mother in-law’s house, My Mother’s house and then my Dad’s house.  It’s very hard to try to accommodate everyone and make everyone happy. 
For Easter, I host dinner for my husband’s side of the family. For Thanksgiving, I host dinner at my house for my Dad’s side of the family.  So for Christmas Eve we go to my mother in law’s house with all of our children, then the stepchildren go back to their Mother’s house later that night and my two girls go to their Father’s house that night too.  Then Christmas morning my girls come back early that morning to open up their gifts from Santa and us.  Then we rush off to my Father’s house to have Christmas breakfast with him and exchange gifts. Then from there we go to my Mother’s house for Christmas dinner and to exchange gifts.  Then my ex-husband comes and gets my two girls to go back to his house.  It really bums me out when we don’t have my stepchildren on Christmas day, but I do realize their mother should have time with them too.  What an ordeal and every year I just want to stay home because it’s too crazy.

So the holidays can be very stressful trying to split up time evenly with the ex-spouses.  It makes it much harder when you don’t get along with one or both of them either.  Luckily for us we only have one ex-spouse that is difficult to deal with.  My two ex-husbands are great; we have no issues with them. I just look forward to the day where we can have our own Christmas holiday celebration where we don’t have to go over anyone else’s or split up the holiday.
Holidays can be a great time to start new family traditions or continue with old family traditions. On my Mother’s side of the family, we always play this game called, “the white elephant” game where everyone who wants to play brings a gift with them. The gifts all go in a big pile and you count how many people are playing the game and write up little slips of paper with a number on them.  Then hand out a piece of paper to each person who is playing.  They open it to see what number they are. The person with the #1 on their paper goes first and picks a gift from the pile.  These gifts can be gag gifts or his/her gift under $20.00 or whatever spending limit you give. Unfortunately, my family likes to do the gag gifts which are funny but no one ever wants to keep their gift because it’s usually junk.  Okay now, getting back to the directions on how to play the game. After #1 person opens up the gift, number 2 person can either steal number 1’s gift or pick a new gift from the pile. The gift can only be stolen twice usually, then it stays with whoever stole the gift the second time. Then you play the game until all of the people who are playing played.  It’s more fun when you play with gifts that are actually good, meaning more people steal gifts from one another.

If you struggle with the holidays and trying to get the stepchildren and the ex-spouses to work with you on making sure, you get visitation with the children.  You can try alternating the holiday meaning every other year you get them on Christmas Eve and the ex-spouse gets them on Christmas Day and then the following year your ex-spouse gets them on Christmas Eve and you get them on Christmas Day.  If there are a lot of disagreements with the holidays, you might want to consider going to court and getting it agreed on paper that way you have a legal document as a backup.  I feel bad for the children, sometimes it feels like they a bag of luggage getting moved from one house to the other house.
Another suggestion is to celebrate the holidays a week before the actual holiday that way it’s not that stressful and you can still have your day with all of your children.  I have personally done that before and it made things go a lot better and we did not care too much about when the ex-spouses had them because we already celebrated it with our family the week before.

Here are some overall tips to help with the blended holiday:

  • Do what you can do and accept what you cannot change
  • Be flexible and make sacrifices – Try to find a way where you can spilt up the time between your house and ex-spouses
  • Plan in Advanced – Start working on it now
  • Be creative – Maybe celebrate Christmas a week before and say Santa made a special early trip
  • Live and Learn – Try not to make the same mistakes or arguments you had last year with ex-spouses
  • Be Consistent – Follow through with the planned holiday and don’t change it at the last minute.
  • Maintain patience – To Learn new Traditions to incorporate.
  • Be Compassionate – As far as what children’s preferences are for the holiday.

The biggest lesson I have learned is when dealing with a difficult ex-spouse is to be supportive and don’t add any more stress.  Plan your holiday in advanced, which in turn will help more with the impact of possible rejection or neglect by step family members.  Also have consistency with your family planning, meaning make sure you follow through on what you to decide to do with the kids.  The tension your husband might be feeling about the holidays with dealing with custody arrangements is already a lot on him, try to be supportive and listen and more importantly be there and try to make it less stressful for him.  Try saying this to him “Honey, I know talking to your ex-wife about this Holidays schedule is very stressful on you.  I am aware that asking you what the plans are puts a lot of pressure on you; I do not want you to feel pressured. How can I best support you with this?” Saying that may help make him feel more understood and less pressure and defensive about it. No matter how bad the battle is about the holidays, make sure to keep the children out of it. If the ex-spouse gets the children involved, you cannot control their choices. Try to do everything you can do to keep them out of the middle of the conflict. Try to make your holidays less stressful for everyone by doing a lot of compromising with your husband and ex-spouses in order for everyone to be happy.  But sometimes, not everyone will be happy and there’s nothing you can really do about that. It’s near impossible to please everyone all of the time. Just think Christmas is only one day out of the year and it’s really all about the real reason for the season and not about who gets what kids and for how long. 

Do you struggle with the holidays or do you have an agreement that works well with your parents and ex-spouses?

Forgiveness

Forgiveness, Forgive or Not to Forgive, Blended family, stepmom, step mother
To forgive or not to forgive, which one will you choose to do? Don’t you want that sense of freedom of not feeling like you’re in a jail cell? When you chose to not to forgive someone, it’s like you’re in a jail cell without any parole.  When you chose to forgive, you’re escaping the jail or prison sentence. You feel a sense of freedom and a release.  It’s also much better for your health. Harboring resentment and forgiveness cause health problems and a lot of stress. When you allow what someone does or says to upset you, you’re allowing them to control you
There have been many things my stepdaughter has done or said to me in the past seven years which has really hurt me deeply.  She’s never once apologized for anything she has done or said to me, which makes forgiving her even harder for me. The most recent offense she did was over a year and a half ago while we were on vacation when she said out of anger that I was a terrible mother. This hurt me terribly and she’s never once apologized for it and I am not expecting her to do so anymore.  For one, she was never taught to apologize when she is in the wrong for something she has done, she’s not been taught to own up to what’s she’s done, unfortunately.  I can choose to keep the hurt and bitterness I have towards what’s she has done or I can choose to forgive her and try to understand that hurt people, hurt other people.

Forgiveness is a process of these three steps:
1. Surrender the right to get even with the person who did you wrong.
2. You need to revise your caricature of the person who hurt you so much. Meaning you need to reconstruct the image of what you see in that person.
3. You need to revise your feelings towards that person. Meaning going from feelings of rage and resentment towards that person to feelings of wanting them to be blessed.
I know it might seem that sometimes forgiveness seems unfair.  There is something unjust about a person’s dastardly deeds going unpunished.  But God says: “Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: it is mine to avenge; I will repay, says the Lord.” Romans 12:19. Forgiving someone helps you to let go of the past hurts and look ahead to the future. Forgiveness is also an act of faith. When you forgive someone you are simply trusting that God is a better justice-maker than you are.  Leave the issues of fairness up to God to work out. The wrong doesn’t go away when you forgive, but you’re not harboring it inside of you and letting it control you anymore.
The longer you wait to forgive someone the more at risk you are of becoming a person defined by your anger rather than a person who has a grievance.  People who carry hatred and resentment will invest themselves so deeply in that resentment that it gradually defines who they are. In Ephesians 4:32 it says: Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. When you forgive someone it lets the control of the offense lift out of you and you feel like a big weight has been lifted off of you.  Sometimes we need to forgive the same person over and over again. Let go, and Let God deal with the offense.  Sometimes the person that we are holding an offense with doesn’t even know that they offended you. It’s better to just let it go.  Only you can decide if you want to feel better, as Rachelle Katz said “Healing happens more quickly when you consciously initiate the process.” 
God can take what was meant for your harm and turn it around and use it to your advantage. God will give you the strength that you didn’t even know you had. He’s done it for me and he will do it for you, but the first step is forgiveness.

Have you ever been hurt by someone close to you? How were you able to forgive and move on from it?


References:
Katz, Rachelle. (2010). The Happy Stepmother. Stay Sane, Empower Yourself, Thrive in Your New Family. Harlequin

1:1 Time with Dad

Time with Dad, 1:1 time with Dad, Blended family, stepmom, step mother, blended families
One of the best things you could ever do as a Stepmom is to make sure your husband gets 1:1 time with his children. The reason being it is important that your husband gets that quality time with his children.  It’s also really important to tell the stepchildren verbally that “I will never get in the way of your 1:1 time with your Dad and I think it’s very important that you get time with just your Dad”. That way they know that you are okay with it and that you are not taking them away from their Dad.  That is one thing I have never said verbally to my stepchildren is how I have always encouraged their Dad to spend time with them 1:1.  I have regretted not saying that to them verbally because the ex-wife has put it in their minds that I have taken their Dad away from them and now they believe it.
The reason why they need that time with him is because providing that exclusive time with him makes your time with the children feels less intrusive.  It provides a sense of stability when they are feeling like they lost their own family. Then when it comes to sharing their Dad with you, they feel less anxious about it and it makes them look at you in a better light.
At the beginning of my relationship with my husband, I would make sure that at least once or twice a month; my husband was spending 1:1 time with his children.  I would suggest places or things for him to do with them because at first he didn’t know where to go or what to do with them.  But, then after a few years I got somewhat relaxed about it and assumed they didn’t need that much time with him, and then I forgot to encourage it.  To my stepchildren and the ex-wife, it made it look like I was stopping him from spending time with his kids when that wasn’t the case at all.  I was just making sure we were always doing fun family things together as a family.  I guess as my stepchildren got older, I just thought they were comfortable with spending time together as a family, I did not know they still desired the 1:1 time with just him.  But it was still there and now they blame me saying that I didn’t allow their Dad to spend time with just them when that wasn’t the case at all.  I never once told my husband he couldn’t spend time with just his kids.  And there were times when my husband would do something with just his son and I would do something with all of the girls. But I wasn’t aware that they still needed that time with just the three of them. There were times that he did do things with just them, but there were not enough of them as they used to be in the beginning.  I do feel bad about it, but there’s nothing I can do about it now.  For this past year and a half, he has been getting 1:1 times with his kids without me around. I am very happy he is spending that quality time with his kids and has always encouraged it.
When I was a child, the only time I got with my Father without my stepmom around was when we went sailing on the sailboat because my stepmom hated sailing and she always got sea-sick so she stopped going after a while.  Back then I really didn’t care that much for sailing, but what I enjoyed from it was that it was time with my Dad without my stepmom around.  There was one weekend where I, my Dad and my brother spent the night on the sailboat; it was really wonderful to have all of that time with just my Dad without my stepmom around. I too felt like my stepmom never allowed us to have time with our Dad without her around. So I can relate to my stepchildren for wanting that time with their Dad.

I just don’t want to see any other blended family go through this where the stepchildren start to think that the stepmom is getting in the way of their 1:1 time with their Dad. This time with their Dad doesn’t have to be an all-day thing either; it could just be a couple of hours.  Remember it is all about quality time not the quantity time with their Dad. Just as long as he is spending quality time with them without you around is the best thing you can do for his relationship with them and to also have a better relationship with your stepchildren.  He doesn’t even have to always make it be about spending money on them; he could just play a board game with them, take them to the park, or go for a bike ride.
While your husband is away with his children use this time to spend with your children 1:1, that way they to have a positive relationship with their Stepdad. Or use this free time to spend time with friends and do something for yourself. If you haven’t been encouraging your husband to have time with his kids, it’s never too late and it doesn’t matter how old they, they still desire that time with just him.
Does your husband get quality time with his kids without you around? 

Discipline Stepchildren

discipline stepchildren, discipline in blended family, blended families, blended family, stepmom

For any new blended marriage, I would recommend not getting involved with the disciplining of your stepchildren within the first couple of years into the relationship; leave that to your husband.  The reason why I am saying is, is because the stepchildren need to respect and trust you in their life. The stepchildren need time to first develop a warm and friendly interaction with you.  Once the foundation of respect and affection is established, then stepmoms can slowly attempt to be an authoritative parent to the stepchildren.  If you do it too early in the development of the relationship with the stepchildren it could result in a bad relationship which is sometimes very hard to recover from.  Children often never forget things that happen early on in the relationship.  So it’s best to leave the discipline to your husband until you have established a close positive relationship with them.
Early on in my marriage with my husband, I made the mistake of trying to step in and help my husband who was having trouble disciplining my 11-year-old stepdaughter.  My stepdaughter kept pushing my husband and yelling at him trying to get her away about playing with some neighborhood kids in which we said they couldn’t play with because the kids were just not good kids for them to play with.  She kept arguing with him and I was right there trying to let him handle the situation but I can clearly see he was getting worn out from it all and he wasn’t making any head way with her.  So I stepped in which I totally regret to this day and told her that her Dad said No, you cannot play with them, this needs to stop because he’s not changing his mind. No means no, is what I told her.  Well, she stopped yelling and looked at me and gave me the middle finger.  When she did that it totally shocked me and told me she doesn’t have to listen to what I say. I didn’t even know what to do or say.  My husband then told her to go into her room.  She ended up going back to her mother’s house for the rest of the weekend as punishment.  However, she never once had to apologize for doing what she did.  The next time I saw her, she just acted like it never happened.  It was very hard on me when it happened.  My husband apologized to me for her behavior that day.  After that day happened it seemed our relationship meaning my stepdaughter and me just took a turn for the worst and things were different between us.  I will always regret stepping in like that and I should have walked into the house and let him deal with my stepdaughter, but I wanted to help him out, but it only ended up hurting me.
This is a good example of knowing when to say something or when not to say anything. Since it was our first year into the marriage, I should have let him handle it until I had a good solid relationship with my stepdaughter. Then later on after a year or two there were some other times that I stepped in and said something only to help my husband out that I regretted doing. After a few years into our marriage, we finally came to the conclusion that it was best if he handled discipline with his own kids and I would handle my kids.  It’s best that in the first few years to maintain an emotionally non-threatening, distant relationship is key for the stepparents.  After a couple of years, stepparents can begin to be more involved in the rules settings and discipline area. When that time is right, it should be agreed upon between both you and your husband until then try to enjoy being the “cool” stepmom.  Because with discipline they tend to forgive their Father about it more easily than they will forgive their stepmom for disciplining them. The relationship between you and the stepchildren is always on a rocky road the first two years that is why it is very crucial that you leave the discipline area up to your husband. It’s very hard to recover if you step in too soon and start disciplining your stepchildren.  Sometimes your relationship doesn’t ever recover after you have overstepped your authority to early with your stepchildren.  With that being said, you should never be alone with your stepchildren during the first year of marriage, that way to avoid having to be the disciplinary in the house. The ability to lead and influence stepchildren comes the old fashioned way.. you earn it! (Ron Deal; 2002) With that, it takes time just like any new relationship.  You need to build that trust, respect and honor from them, there’s no quick way to get it either, everything takes time to grow and mature. discipline stepchildren, stepmom, step mothers
When it does come time to discipline you and your husband should negotiate rules together behind closed doors and must always seek unity in every decision.  Makeup consequences of when a rule is broken and follow through on it and be consistent.  When giving the “house” rules as I would like to call it make sure you do it together and say that you both came up with these rules together.  But each of you has to take the lead role with their own children.  You cannot have two separate set of rules for the children and stepchildren.  All of the rules need to be the same across the board.
If you don’t agree with the way your husband is disciplining your children or stepchildren, do not say something right in front of the children or stepchildren.  Wait until you can get the time to go behind closed doors and talk with them about it.  If you talk in front of the children or stepchildren they will most likely hate you or think that your parenting is weak between the two of you and end up using it to their advantage. Discuss the circumstances often with one another and work together to make changes over time if need be.  What we have done is post a list of the “house” rules on the fridge along with the consequences that way they know what they are because having two sets of rules for both houses can be confusing at times for the all of the children.

Have you ever had issues with getting involved in the discipline too soon with your stepchildren?

References:
Deal, Ron. 2002. The Smart Step-Family. Seven Steps to a Healthy Family. Bethany House.