Entries tagged with “stepmom help”.


The following guest post is from April. She has lived the stepfamily life. Growing up as a stepdaughter and now as a stepmom, April has experience and heart for those of us on the journey. And I have to publicly apologize to April as it has taken longer than it should have to post it. No excuses just a heartfelt “I am sorry.” Her story needs to be shared and her heart will bless you as you read. Her words are going to stick with you and rightfully so. Thank you April.

Do You Need A Hug? One Stepmom’s Story of Love and Acceptance by April M.

“Do you need a hug?”  The man standing in my doorway was familiar to me however I was not yet comfortable at his presence.  I was three and it was the first time my mother had left us alone with her new friend.  My brother, then 8, peeked out from across the hall; he was probably just as nervous in this moment as I was.  I had wanted my Dad and this man was clearly not, but I must have really needed that hug!  All I could do was to stare back bright eyed and motion my head timidly up and down.  This embrace would be the first of many with the man I later chose to call Dad.     

My mother and he (Mike) later married and my blended family began.  Mike also had a daughter from a previous marriage, who is now my best friend and sister.  Soon after, we were blessed with a baby brother who tied us somehow all together.  This union was difficult for me to adapt to during my adolescent years.  I rebelled against change and struggled to deal with the guilt I felt towards this “happy” family and the grief for my biological father.  To this day he has never spoken an ill word concerning my mother but even at a young age I could sense his sadness at the demise of our family after she left.

From the early years I would brag to Mike about how awesome my “real” dad was and all the great things he could do; Mike would thoughtfully help me to recognize additional things I had forgotten to mention.  Into my preteens I would purposely ignore Mike or not include him in our everyday activities; he would come to all my karate tournaments, basketball games and volunteered at my school.  When I lashed out as a teenager I would make sure Mike knew he was not my “real” father and he had no “real” rights; he would discipline me anyway while reminding me how much he loved me.

When I was 18 my mother decided to leave once again and my existence was crushed at the thought of losing the man I had grown to love……my other dad!  I had always believed that I was dismal because my biological parents hadn’t raised me together, but now the thought of losing a parent who actually did and chose to raise me, was devastating.  These fears and empty insecurities were quickly diminished however as Mike and I grew closer.  Through this period and at the blessing of my biological dad, I lived with him in the family home, went to college and took a stronger role in our family business.

It was into my mid-twenties when I started to actualize that my life’s events thus far would set precedence to the full circle I was on route to completing.  During this time I met a man, Ken, who’s wife had left him and was sharing custody of their two boys, (3 & 6).  We started off slow as the boys were still healing and dealing with a step father they didn’t particularly like.  After much time together, Ken and I discussed with them, their feelings on living together.  Both boys were so excited and welcoming.  I was thrilled.  I had high expectations and failed to see some of the frustrations and compromises I would be getting or giving!  At times my relationship with the boys seemed close and warm.

Then at times after visits with their mom, they would return cold and distant.  I was tortured with these over whelming feelings of self-pity and yearned to remember what I myself had felt in similar situations as a child.  I had spent measures on sympathizing with my bio dad and though I love him dearly, lately I had really come to appreciate Mike even more and the role he still plays to this day.  I was beginning to see things from his perception.  And then one evening, I FELT things through that same perception.

I was sitting at the dinner table somewhat wallowing in my own self sorrows due to an earlier issue with Ken’s ex.  The three boys lounged in the next room in front of the television.  Then out of nowhere I could hear my oldest step son ask his father, “Aren’t you glad we’re not sad anymore?”  “What do you mean?” Ken replied quite confused.  “You know, when Mom left we were all sad and cried all the time, but now we have April and we’re a family again.”  My eyes began to swell and my chest collapsed.  Any doubts, not good enoughs or too much’s rapidly escaped my mind.  I didn’t even know how to respond.  All I could do was think back to the last time I had ever felt so complete.  I got up and went and stood in the doorway………”I need a hug!”

Step parenting didn’t suddenly get easier in that moment and I have had some tougher mountains to climb since, but it did remind me that just as they have become a part of me, I have become a part of them.  As a Step Mom, I may not always have the moments I want with the boys, but I will always have the ones I need.  I cannot and will not ever be their mother, but I am and always will be their other!

 ~~~~~~
April honestly and lovingly shared how she treated her stepfather yet how she truly felt about him. This gives great insight into our relationship with our stepkids. Often they push us away or brag about their mom yet inside they are grateful for our consistency and for being a parent in their life. April has come full circle and her experience, love and insight is a blessing to us all. Your thoughts?

The other day I was looking through a collection of poems by Blue Mountain Arts called The Heart of Happiness. As I read the words in one particular poem, my heart reflected on one of the greatest gifts from our stepmom community: the gift of friendship.  It’s a wonderful thing to see women connect on this journey, reach out, share their heart and their hurt and be there for one another. When you have a tough day, it helps knowing there are others who have gone through the same struggles and are there to listen, comfort, and help you stay positive.

The stepmom friends we have all made, both in person and via social media, are true friends. We have all gone through dark times and felt broken and alone and from those experiences come compassion and love for each other on the journey.

Sometimes the struggle that one of our stepmom sisters is going through is so tough and challenging and nothing we can do can change their circumstance yet them knowing they have a friend who cares and understands can make the world of difference.

A true friend is hope and hope is something a stepmother holds dear to her heart. Thanks to all of you who reach out to befriend another stepmom. And remember that it is strength and not weakness to reach out to others for help. Together we are strong.

I could probably write a book about my personal experience regarding the invaluable gift of stepmom sisters and the gift I see friendship bring to our community but today I simply want to say thank you and share this poem:

 

The Gift of Friendship

 Friendship is a gift

that is given so freely.

Sometimes it is wrapped in smiles,

sometimes in tears,

but always in encouragement.

When it’s given away,

time and again,

it only grows stronger,

It will be there during trials.

It will be there during joys.

It’s the gift you keep tucked away,

right near the center of your heart.

-       Donald W. Hiatt

 

What does the stepmom community mean to you? How have you been blessed by the gift of friendship?

Today, I am honored to share the heart of Cheley. She shares an event with one of her stepchildren that changed her life and the choices and decisions she makes as a stepmom. Often we aren’t sure if our stepkids are paying attention but they are – Cheley’s story is a testimony to that. You’ll be inspired by her heart and her hug therapy.

Choices and Decisions by Cheley Frazier

There was never an instruction booklet that came with “single woman falling in love with a man who had just won sole physical custody of his three children”. The first six months proved to be overwhelming but nothing I was not able to handle with three young children ages four, six, and eight that needed so much. I was fairing far better, even to my own surprise with a sickly special needs child, a young boy who did not know how to read and an eager, yet mischievous oldest boy.

With a background in Human Services, I was able to navigate through most situations as we all adjusted to living together and the new setting that had taken place, but nothing in my background could have prepared me for the life-changing meltdown I was about to witness.

To this day, I remember it vividly. It was a Thursday in March 2003, the biological mother was a no call no show again. It was a series of many no call no shows for the newly given visitation schedule that had just broke from supervised visits (in which I was the supervisor). With the history of no call no shows, we were always cautious and careful in letting the kids know mostly Romeo because it was harder on him. 

My husband had gone to work and I was to be there for the pick up. The time came, the time passed. I could see Romeo getting antsy as I was giving an extra half hour for pick up time just in case something happened. The half hour came and left. I had to tell Romeo “I’m sorry bud” in which he replied “its okay”. He appeared to be okay as I peeked out of the kitchen every few moments to watch, to see if he would be okay.  The other two children just went on about their play time, he joined them and then… I hear Romeo yell “its your fault”  and  I quickly peek out to see him standing over and yelling at his brother, ready to pounce on him. I rushed over to the kids, stopped him and let him know we talk about these things in which … he broke, dropped to his knees, and began to sob inconsolably, desperately asking why didn’t she want to see him.

[insert “I don’t know what to do face”]

I instantly dropped to the floor, sat him in my lap and did the only thing I knew to do…. Hug Therapy.  I held and rocked him while he sobbed and sobbed inconsolably for 32 minutes until he fell asleep. Here sat this eight year old boy, lost, confused, heartbroken, and couldn’t understand why things were happening this way.

My heart shattered into pieces.

This very instance changed my life.

That evening, I went through things in my head and made decisions within.

These children, not only having to go through growing pains, had to deal with this reality, not knowing if it would ever change or get better for them. How does a child comprehend this when they are still in the stages of learning skills to navigate in a typical life.

I decided that day that no matter how difficult it may be I would choose the higher road, not allow for them to be used as leverage or methods of getting to be the better parent,  and would be devoted to teaching them things in life in a positive manner, cultivate love, but most importantly sometimes … you must learn to love someone from a distance by my definition.

[My definition of learning to love someone from a distance.  When faced with a toxic or hurtful relationship whether it be short term or lifelong, its not wrong to love that person but you must put some distance within the relationship by not setting expectations within the relationship. When someone has hurt you so deeply, you need to heal, and sort out things, your own emotions. You cannot change anyone. Also, a practice that takes time to learn. ]

Have there been days when the children tested me beyond the universe, court dates, visitation schedules, “buying” the child, story telling, bad behaviors and frustration got the better of me? Yes, there have been many, many days where I needed to step outside, take deep breaths, take a walk, a hike to remember my goal, my choices I had decided on. When faced with tricky questions like what do you think of …. ?  My answer was simple, we are different people, who handle things differently just like people you meet everyday in school or at the bus stop.

Because for me, showing them anything less than they deserved i.e.; a typical childhood with two parents who loved them very much, worked through things together, and giving up was not the answer. Teaching love and life skills in the most positive manner possible even when faced with the negatives is what we believe in. No matter, what they held onto that we taught them and some days I worried nothing we worked on teaching or showing them would remain with them.

And then about a year and a half ago, Romeo eighteen at the time, was in the kitchen talking with a friend. He was listening close as the friend was discussing the difficulties she was having with a family member and that it had gone on for years. I went in to get a cup of tea quickly, but they remained talking. As I was leaving  the kitchen I heard Romeo say “sometimes … you must learn to love someone from a distance” as he went on to explain by our family definition of what that means.

 ~~~~~~

Some names and identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of the individuals involved.

~~~~~~

 

Cheley Frazier is a.k.a. istepmother and you can learn more about her at http://about.me/istepmother

Have you  ever had an event or moment during your stepfamily journey that really defined your approach or had an impact on the choices you made? How did that shape you and your family?

Unglued. The title of this new devotional by Lysa Terkeurst grabbed my attention. I had to read and see what this book was all about. Only one page in and I was hooked. The words and heart in this devotional spoke directly to my heart and continues to do so each day. 

Believe it or not, I’ve come unglued a few times in my life and my most “memorable” moments have been in my role as stepmom/second wife. I know what to do, think and say in most of my challenging stepmom situations but I don’t always take my own advice.  So when I read Lysa’s words in the intro of her devotional, I immediately felt a connection with her heart and the mission of her book:

God has taught me so much about making wise choices in the midst of raw emotions. I’m not as loud when I’m upset, and I’m less prone to stuff down bitterness when I get hurt. Here are the key words in this last sentence: “not as loud” and “less prone.” I’m making progress, but, as you’ll see in these pages, it’s very much “imperfect progress.”

Love it. I am an imperfect work in progress. Aren’t we all? There is no such thing as being perfect yet we can be the hardest on ourselves when we feel we don’t measure up. I know I am grateful for the wisdom, love and mercy God gives us and it’s my prayer that I can be an open vessel for God’s love and truth to flow through me to others.

And the term raw emotions is such an accurate way to describe our emotional state when we feel we’ve been stripped to the core by pain, hurt, and frustration. Love brings vulnerability and it hurts to be hurt. Dealing with stepchildren, your husband’s ex-wife and possibly an ex spouse of your own can bring out lots and lots of raw emotion. Lysa bares her heart and shares “if you relate to my hurt, I pray you will relate to my hope.” Based on what I’ve journeyed through this devotional so far, I believe you will.

Anyone who reads my blog regularly or follows me on Twitter or Facebook knows I’m a huge proponent of starting the day off positive. Lysa shares ”Each morning my mind is like a dry sponge. Whatever I soak up first is what I’ll be most saturated with each day.” So true and soaking in the truth of God’s word in this devotional will set your heart and mind on a positive path. As we all know, it won’t erase our burdens but it gives us the mindset and strength to persevere.

What I love most about this book is that Lysa shares her heart, her hurt, and her hope with all of us. Lysa’s words assure us “you are not trapped by the emotional cycles of your past. Hope for change is rising.”  While we all know that we are not prisoners of our past, having a devotional to inspire and encourage along the way…. brings support, strength and inspiration knowing you are not alone.

This devotional walks you through 60 days of imperfect progress. Each day blesses you with a topic, thought for the day, and ends with a prayer.

Let me give you a little sneak peek into the book. I believe you will love this book as much as I do:

Day 1: Time For A New Script. “While feeling unglued is all I’ve really known, today my life can be different.”

Day 2: Imperfect Progress. “Just because something is hard doesn’t mean it’s impossible.”

Day 15: Is My Pain Talking? “Our Lord doesn’t whisper shameful condemnations.”

Day 46: The Secret to Conflict Resolution. “Don’t let your lips or typing fingers be the first thing that walks into a conflict.”

This devotional is a companion to the book Unglued by Lysa Terkeurst. I have not read the book but it is on my (long) list of must-reads. You do not need to read the book to utilize this devotional. This devotional is designed to help handle emotional struggles. Yeah, this devotional is designed to help everyone.

Personally, it was while I was reading the fourth day of this devotional that I stopped and jumped on Amazon to order four additional copies; three for my friends in my stepfamily prayer group and one to give away on my blog. I bought four more copies because I had to share this book. It is making a difference for me and it is my heart that it may help you.

Enter to win your copy today.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: While I have not been compensated for this review, I did receive one free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Please enter above to win a copy of this book. Giveaway ends Sunday, February  3rd at midnight. As always, feel free to share any comments here.

 

“I don’t know if I can do this any more,” whispered Julia on the show Parenthood last night when asked if she wants to continue with the adoption of Victor. As a custodial stepmom who has heard the words “you are not my mom,” and countless other gems from a young, hurting heart… I felt Julia. I’ve lived her pain. I’ve walked in that “questioning” field of what am I doing????

Tuesday night is therapy night for my youngest stepdaughter. Anyone who sees a counselor or takes their child to one knows that therapy opens a person up and with that opening can come a flood of feelings. Tuesdays are hard days for her. Tuesdays are hard days for me. My stepdaughter has a tough time and if she’s hurting she typically lands her pain on me – the mom in the house. One thing I look forward to every Tuesday night is getting home, getting her tucked in and settling in to watch Parenthood and tweeting a bit with my stepmom sisters. 

I’m very intrigued with Parenthood and have been watching since it launched in 2009. They do an amazing job of depicting real life situations in a very raw and vulnerable way.

Last night really touched me. If you are familiar with the show, hold on for a few sentences so I can get the non-watchers (those missing out) up to speed. Parenthood is an hour drama on Tuesday nights that focuses on the Braverman family. There are multiple story lines but the one that has me right now is Julia and her husband Joel and their adoption of Victor. Julia and Joel have a daughter (I believe she is six/seven) and Victor appears to be about nine.

In previous episodes, Victor seemed happy to be with his new family (honestly, I’m not sure why he was in foster care) but he has changed his tune about being with his new family and treatment of his new “mom” Julia. Watching this through the eyes of a custodial stepmom who has lived some of this was both hard and easy. Saddened so many families deal with this yet grateful to the show for portraying it with heart and authenticity.

In last night’s episode, Victor’s testing of his soon to be adoptive mom was beyond rude and mean. As a fan of the show, I’m keenly aware that Victor  is a sweet and loving boy but his pain is to much for him to contain inside and so it is spilling out all over and taking aim mostly at Julia.

Victor kept telling her she wasn’t his “real” mom. He asked for chocolate chip pancakes but when she made them he refused to eat saying “my real mom got me pancakes from Burger King. I want Burger King pancakes.” She was reserved and put up a boundary telling him he could eat the pancakes or eat nothing at all. He chose nothing. It was his pain making the choice.

Victor used words he knew were not allowed in their home and he used them in front of Julia’s daughter. This prompted the sister to highlight this behavior to their mom and see what she would do. How often as a stepmom and mom do we have to balance what we allow/tolerate with our biological children with what our stepchildren do and say? This is hard. Julia’s facial expressions and sighs said it all.

Victor was rude to Julia. You could watch her be patient while his words were stabbing her heart. She was at her breaking point and wanted to give in because she wanted him to eat. Her husband offered support and lovingly told her not to give in. When they walked into Victor’s room to talk with him, they found him eating candy from a box he took from Julia’s closet without permssion. She asked him to hand it over. He refused. She took the box from him and because he chose not to let go he went with the box and fell to the floor.

Next we see two police officers arrive at their home to investigate a call regarding child abuse. A call Victor placed. The officers had to follow protocol. They had to talk to Julia and Joel’s daughter. The officers clearly saw there was no sign of abuse and left. At that point Joel asks Julia if she wants to go talk with Victor. “No,” she responds and adds that she wants to deal with their traumatized daughter and adds that she doesn’t know if she can even look at Victor at that moment. Honest words flowing from this character.

The next day, the social worker pays a visit to the home of Julia and Joel explaining that it is protocal that she visit any time there is a claim of child abuse. The social worker asks the couple “do you want to proceed with the adoption?” Joel answers right away…. “of course!” while Julia is silent. Then she speaks with a pain and fear that resonates with so many who are trying to love a child who is not their’s and who resists being loved “I don’t know if I can do this any more.” She voices her uncertainty of whether she thinks she can go through with the adoption. She voices a fear so many have in this situation.

The last scene shows Julia and Joel trying to talk with Victor. They ask repeatedly for him to stop throwing the basketball but he ignores the request. I believe it was Joel who told Victor to stop, explaining that he and his mom wanted to talk with him. Victor replies again with an anger and hurt “she is not my real mom.” Julia says nothing and turns to go inside. She may have been speechless but her face and actions speak volumes of the pain in her heart. And what happens next is something that I applaud… Joel looked Victor right in the eyes and said “She may not be your mom but she is MY wife!” He stood up for his wife. He backed her. He let Victor know he would not be disrespecting her.

Being a stepmom has it’s challenges and the support and love from your husband helps to smooth out the bumps and lets you know you have a partner on the journey.

While this is a story about adoptive parents on a fictional show, this story line touches the hearts and homes of so many blended famlies especially those of us who are custodial stepparents. As stepmoms, we do not want to replace mom – that is impossible and not respectful. As stepmoms, we seek to partner with our husband to care for and nurture his children and work towards helping them feel love, safety and peace in their heart and home.

What I love most about this story line is that it shows the pain and behavior of a child who wants desperately to have their parent back. To have their parent love and take care of them like this “stranger” wants to. It also shows the pain and struggle of a mother who has so much love to give and is crushed under the rejection of a heart that is hardened to it. Reality says too that moms are more prone to the emotional backlash than dads and this show is depicting that. And I will say again, I love that Joel is not giving up on Victor, wants to go through with the adoption but is SUPPORTING his wife and his marriage above it all.

I look foward to how this story line unfolds (only two episodes left) and most importantly, I hope that any moms struggling like Julia find hope in knowing they are not alone and I pray that Victor’s character sheds light on the pain a child feels when he is no longer “home.”

Thank you ParentHood for writing real life into a really remarkable drama! Bravo to the Bravermans!

Tuesday night I could have felt really sorry for myself. OK, correction; I did feel sorry for myself but I chose not to act on it.

I was a little blue but I knew I had a choice. And making the right choice while not always easy always brings a sense of peace and joy. You see Wednesday my son was having his tonsils removed and I wanted him to stay with me Tuesday night so I could keep an eye on him, make sure he didn’t eat or drink after midnight….. basically mother him to the ninths. But Tuesday is his dad’s night to have him and his siblings so I did the right thing….. didn’t fight it and sent him to dad’s house.

Earlier in the week, I had emailed my ex asking if our son could stay with me the night before surgery. At the time of the email, he was okay with it and said he’d like to bring him back to my house at bed time but he changed his mind and told me when he came to pick up the kids “I’ll just hang on to him tonight. I’ll meet you at the surgery center tomorrow.”While my heart did an ouchie, my head knew that the right thing to do was let the schedule be. And so I did.

Moms, Dad, Stepparents Give Good Care

I could have gone though that whole “but” thought process of “but I took him to the doctor for the consult. But I made all the arrangements for surgery. But I know what he has to do with pre-opp activity…” yet the common theme in all those thoughts always stops me: the word “I”.

Anytime, my discomfort is due to what I want and not what is best for the kids, I stop myself. Surely, my ex-husband is capable of caring for our son and going by the doctor’s guidelines. It would be selfish of me to operate on a different notion.

And those things I did for my son in preparation for the surgery, I did out of love not for a return on investment. I needed to respect the schedule and deal with my mom heart not having him Tuesday night. It was my issue not my ex-husband’s nor my son’s.

I was tweeting Tuesday night about it and was touched by how many wonderful women joined in on the conversation. I tweeted this: ….My check is to ask myself “why do I want to do this?” If it’s for me then I stop. Kids come first in co-parenting.

I’m often asked the key to working well with my ex. The answer is simple, I put the needs of my kids first.

Sadly, I think our society loves villianizing ex spouses and stepparents and they really love pitting them against one another. If all ex-spouses and stepparents were villians there wouldn’t be very many nice people walking this earth. Sure it’s true that my ex and I look at life somewhat differently and there are things he does I don’t understand and I’m sure he feels the same about me. However, I know kids need both of us. When I feel an instant tug of not liking something or wanting something different when it comes to co-parenting, I do the self-check and ask myself “why am I feeling this? Is it because I don’t like it or because it is truly not good for the kids?” I don’t quantify how often I have these feelings but I’m pretty sure when I have those heart tug mommy moments, it’s because of me and potential selfishness and not due to what is happening in the other home. Once I recongize it’s me… I know I have to do what’s right for the kids and let it go.

I challenge all co-parents to do the self-check whenever they start to feel a parenting tug that would pull the kids from the other parent or cause needless drama.

 Will you take the challenge? Will you share with others?

~~~~~

Check out my book with Gayla Grace entitled Unwrapping the Gift of Stepfamily Peace (available at all major ebook retailers). The book gives solid advice you can use at the holidays and everyday of the year.

~~~~~

On December 14, 2012 the unspeakable happened at Sandy Hook elementary school. My heart is heavy for the families impacted. The ripple effect of pain cannot even be measured or described.

I had planned that day to write and share a post on gifts to give your stepkids. When I heard the news (actually read on twitter Friday), I wept openly at the grocery store for all the parents impacted (parents, stepparents, grandparents, all those who love the victims). My heavy heart was also weighed down with worry for ALL SIX of my kids (my four biological kids and my two stepdaughters).

When the kids came home that day, I hugged them all a little tighter and loved on all of them. Love… it’s what we want all kids to feel. I unplugged all weekend to really plug into my family. Time well spent. But today rolled around and I felt prompted to sit down and share some gifts that we can give our kids (our stepkids and our biological kids).

At Christmas, we are reminded of the love God bestowed upon us when He gave us the gift of His son. We love (or want to love) this time of the year and we want our children to feel loved. We want love for all kids regardless of the blood that runs through their veins. My stepdaugthers may not have my DNA but they do have my heart.

I am saddended when I read of the struggles that many co-parents and stepparents face and how those challenges seem to get ramped up over the holidays. I recently read a tweet from a stepmom sharing how the mom of her stepdaughter ripped the shoes off of her feet because they were purchased by the dad and stepmom. I’ve received emails from stepmoms who say that gifts that are purchased are either not allowed to be brought to their mom’s house or are even taken from them when they are. I’ll never understand how any parent puts their hurt onto their child. (Please note, I’m not saying moms do this only. Parents who are hurting transfer their pain to their kids and that is not confined to moms.)

Maybe, just maybe the horror that occurred Friday will soften the hearts of all parents and not pit children between two homes when co-parenting is present.

Having said that I wanted to share some ideas for gift giving to your stepkids this season. Gifts that can grow the bond between you and your kids and that can’t be taken away…..

Give the gift of experience – a memory cannot be taken away. Unlike a toy that will eventually end up in the landfill or clothing that they will likely out grow or like, an experience will last a lifetime.

Consider planning a fun trip; a day out, or a simple activity like a cooking class, ski lesson, ice skating, etc…..

If you or your husband have frequent flyer miles, consider using them for a day trip. Find free things to do in your city or a big city you can fly or drive to. Use groupon or living social to find experiences you can give your kids.

With an experience, you are giving your kids the gift of time and of memories. That can never be taken away.

Give a Hallmark Recordable book- I love these books! Record your voice and/or your husband’s voice reading a story. Your child can have it with them and listen to you read them to sleep at night even when they aren’t with you. The only caveat I would caution is to know whether this book would be welcomed in mom’s home. Even though we don’t have control over what mom does, we don’t want to give our kids a gift that could cause an issue for them. Perhaps they could keep it at your home if you don’t believe mom will like it. Actually, you could consider purchasing two different recordable books; one that you record and one for them to give to mom and have her record herself reading. This would be a great way of “telling” your kids how much you love and support their relationship with their mom – that there are no loyalty “wars” in your mind.

Purchase Cooking Supplies/Cookbook - put together a gift basket of fun kitchen gadgets and cookbooks that your stepchild can use when they are with you. Help them plan special menus and items to make together.

Give the Gift of Family Time – give your kids a new game or purchase a family membership somewhere. Whether it be an interactive video game or a board game… playing games together builds family memories. Our family loves Apples to Apples, Bananagrams, Wii Sports and Wii Just Dance games. This year, we bought the kids Ticket to Ride! We are looking forwward to playing it with everyone.

Consider purchasing a membership to the Zoo, Science Center, Children’s Museum, etc….. and then make it a point to go when you are all together.

Sponsor a Child in their nameWorld Vision provides an amazing way to truly teach your child to give back while at the same time gaining a perspective on giving and how children in other parts of the country live. I started sponsoring a young girl from Albania when I was a single mom. I wanted my kids to give to other kids and connect with another child. Through the seven years of sponsorship, we have developed a close relationship. We love to write to her and send her small gifts and we love hearing from her. Sponsoring a child is $35.00 a month and when we think of how we can spend that friviously, it makes the amount that much more impactful.

Make a “Love You” jar or “Things To Do” jar – write out things you/your husband love about your child. Also, write down things you can do with each other; bake a cake, plan a movie night in, paint pottery, go to a local sports event, have a spa night at home…. Get creative. The child can pick something out of it and you can plan to do the item. If it’s a love jar, they can feel all warm and fuzzy inside knowing they are loved and cared for.

The Gift of Positive Messages - gift a chalkboard to your stepchild that they can hang in their room. Write positive messages on it. Let them get creative. If a chalkboard isn’t big enough, consider painting a wall with chalkboard paint or painting a dresser with iet. Get creative.

I also love Wallhogs. Last year I purchased Wallhogs of my two boys. They think it is really cool to have this larger than life cut out of themselves on their walls.

Give the Gift of You and Your Story - consider purchasing books, movies, toys, etc… that you loved when you were the age of your stepchildren. It’s a great way to connect and share an item and an experience.

Regardless of what you leave under the tree or send to them, I humbly caution you about giving a gift with expectations attached. When we have expectations and they aren’t met, we are often left feeling so disappointed. Even when we don’t make our kids “choose” between homes, they can feel such loyalty – “if I like this gift, will it hurt mom’s feelings?” And many stepmoms struggle with doing so much for their stepkids and feeling like their efforts go unnoticed or unappreciated.

In our book Unwrapping the Gift of Stepfamily Peace, Gayla Grace and I speak candidly and with wisdom regarding the joys and heartaches of stepfamily life during the holidays. As a bonus feature we share family traditions that you can start with your blended family. Traditions make memories and memories live on in the hearts of those you love.

Would love to hear what type of gifts you give your stepkids? What are your thoughts on the above listed ideas?

 

Today is 12-12-12 and I’m here to share with you the top 12 gifts you can give your stepkids. They may not be what you are expecting.

While Christmas is a time of joy, children who live between two homes can find celebrating the holidays stressful. Where will I wake up Christmas morning? Will mom or dad be mad if I’m not with them? Why can’t we celebrate our traditions as a family like we used to? are just some of the questions that run through the hearts and minds of children whose parents are no longer together.  

This year, keep in mind the pain and frustration that Christmas can trigger for your stepchild. Holidays can be even tougher if their other home isn’t cooperating with you and your spouse in sharing time and celebrations. You can’t control what your husband’s ex does but you can control how you allow it to impact you and your home. Give your stepkids the priceless gift of making their holiday as stress free as possible.

Consider these top twelve gifts for your stepchildren:

  1. The gift of positive co-parenting and a peaceful holiday schedule. Work out a schedule between the two homes in a peaceful and positive manner without the involvement of the kids. If you have to acquiesce on having the kids Christmas morning so they don’t have to choose or be shuffled between two homes, do so gracefully. While it will be a painful decision, your children will appreciate and benefit from it. Remember, the holidays are when you are all together. We may have to celebrate on a different date but we can still celebrate and make memories.
  2. The gift of patience, grace and mercy. Hurting people hurt others and often the holidays can trigger the worst in a child who is still dealing with the pain of their parents’ divorce or the death of a parent. In addition, if the mom of your stepchild is causing issues for you and your husband… your stepchild feels it and can turn and take it out on you and dad. Extend patience, grace and mercy to your stepchild and extend it to your spouse and yourself as well. Holiday time can be stressful.
  3. The gift of humor. Have a sense of humor. If schedules change or things don’t go as planned, try your best to look at the bright side and find humor. Watch funny movies as a family and watch some with just your sweetheart. Make time to laugh.
  4. The gift of self-care. Remember that self-care isn’t selfish, it’s survival. You can’t take care of others if you are not taking care of yourself. Take a few minutes every day to do something that refreshes you. Devotions, reading a book, going for a walk, having a cup of coffee in peace are all ways to re-energize your body and soul. When you take care of yourself, you are better equiped to take care of others.
  5. The gift of respecting their traditions. When two families come together they bring two sets of family cultures and traditions to the marriage. Communicate with your spouse how you celebrate Christmas and understand how they and their kids have celebrated. Work to respect everyone’s traditions. Children don’t have to participate in the “other” family’s traditions but they need to respect them.
  6. The gift of creating new family traditions. Traditions create memories and can serve to bond a family together and create your own unique identity. Think of some new traditions that you can do as a stepfamily.
  7. The gift of respecting the role of their parents. Yes! Obviously, you love your spouse and it’s important for the security of the marriage that you continue to nurture your spouse and your relationship. You also love and adore your stepkids and as hard as it may be to do, you also need to respect the role of their other parent. You may not like this person. They may say toxic things about you that come from a place of pain and bitterness inside of them but you need to respect their position in your stepchild’s life and not ever bad mouth them to the child. God commands us to “love thy mother and father.” He does not say love your honorable mother and honorable father. Children are wired to love their parents regardless of who they are. You will be seen in a positive light by your stepchildren if you accept and respect their role. (Note, you don’t need to respect them as a person but you do need to respect that they are your stepchild’s parent and not talk harshly about them to the kids.)
  8. The gift of no expectations. This is a gift you give both your stepchild and yourself. Don’t create unrealistic expectations for the holidays that stepfamily life simply can’t live up to. And don’t do things for your stepkids with an expectation in mind. If you buy all their gifts expecting a thank you and you don’t get one, you will be devastated. Buy them gifts because YOU WANT TO not because you want to get thanked or hope it will bring you closer.
  9. The gift of unconditional love and acceptance. Love and accept your stepchildren as is. You didn’t raise them from birth, you can’t control who they are or what they become. Love them for being your spouse’s child and accept them without condition.
  10. The gift of faith. The greatest gift you can give them is the gift of faith. Teach them that their self-worth is not of our culture but in God’s love for us. Children are more likely to follow what we do than what we say. Live your life the way you want your children and stepchildren to live. When a problem arises, take time to pray about it. Practice family devotions at the dinner table. And teach them God’s rules for living. That way no matter whose home they are in this holiday season, they can live and behave according to God’s commandments.
  11. The gift of time. Give your stepkids your time and attention. Give them time with dad. Give them time to adjust. We call the day that my kids come back from dad’s “detox day” where the kids have to acclimate to our rules and way of doing things. Their dad and I do things somewhat differently (neither right nor wrong – just different) and it can be hard for the kids to go between the two sets of rules. We give them time to settle back in and we give ourselves that same gift of time and grace.
  12. The gift of a strong marriage.  A strong, connected marriage blesses the children. While kids may try and push you apart…. they are seeking stability and they find that in a positive and solid marriage.

Wishing you all a wonderful Christmas. Know and accept the fact that the holidays can be a time of joy and a time of stress for stepfamilies. The reality is that life is hard and sometimes the holidays can accentuate it. Hold on to hope and press on without letting any potential toxic situations define you or your mood. You can do it and your stepchildren will be thankful for it.

What are your thoughts on this gift list? Stay tuned for my next post where I’ll share actual gift ideas that you can physically give your stepkids.

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If you are looking for more practical tools and tips on thriving at the holidays, check out my book with Gayla Grace: Unwrapping the Gift of Stepfamily Peace. Available at amazon, itunes, kobo and all major e-retailers.

 

Family Game Night. Three words that can bring sheer joy or agony to my home. Not sure about you but many of our family game nights in the past have gone awry. And I take responsibility for it.

Looking back, it was the family game nights where I imposed my agenda on the family that typically went off course. Trying to get all eight of us to sit around the kitchen table to play a classic board game from my youth sounded great in theory but things seem to get unraveled during the execution. “This is boring,” “my mom hates this game,” “this game is to hard for me to play,” and the list of complaints went on and on….

I love and believe in family game night! As a mom and stepmom, I am committed to building family memories and know that family game night helps do just that. The word “step” adds some extra complexity to plans and I knew it was important to be flexible in what I defined as family game night. Determined to make it fun, I asked the kids to plan a night. From food to games…. they got to do it all.  Guess what? It was great!

While we feasted on M&Ms and potato chips (not what I would have cooked up) we also played video games. At first, I wanted to resist as I was a die hard board game player but had committed to trying things their way so I gave in and grabbed a Wii controller. 

That first video game night was amazing! My husband and I played video games with the kids and it was fun and enlightening.

During video game night, we all take turns playing and the games adjust to levels so age isn’t as much of a factor in game choice. We are active. We are laughing. We are in the same room. We are getting exercise. Best of all…. WE ARE CONNECTING!!!! We are making memories. We are building a family history for our stepfamily.

I have to admit that I am a video game convert now. My brothers who would play pong for hours years ago would be proud of me and my conversion.

There are so many great and interactive games out there. I love the active sports games like Mountain Sports (I get to go tubing and skiing without injury and getting cold) and I love playing the games my kids like. While I don’t get Skylanders, playing with my boys is a way to connect. My girls love Puppy Luv and giggle when I do it “wrong.” My husband loves to race the kids playing Hot Wheels and Ferrari Challenge. With the holidays approaching, I’ll definitely be looking to add some games to our list. My boys have already put Giant Skylanders and an Xbox Kinect on their list.

While I love playing these games with my family, we have not abandoned the board games. My husband and I find ourselves playing board games with one or two kids and that affords us more one on one time with the kids. And we are still known to pull out Apples to Apples, Beat the Parents, Monopoly, Life and Clue for the family. Games in general are great for families and being flexible in what, when and how we play makes a difference!

Because I have come to love playing video games with the kids I was so excited to see that Activision is hosting a Family Game Summit November 13th. I will be attending and hope you will be too. Here is the info to register to attend this free online family game summit:

 

ACTIVISION FAMILY GAME SUMMIT

Activision’s Family Game Summit is an event to learn how Activision is transforming family game night with the hottest video games this holiday season. Hosted by actress, author, entrepreneur, and most importantly mom, Soleil Moon Frye! Supported by a panel of experts in their field including Nicole Armstrong from Activision, Suzanne Kantra from Techlicious.com, and Patricia Vance, President of the ESRB. You’ll walk away with a wealth of knowledge on how to use video games to bring families together.

Sign up to attend the event online and view the live broadcast at www.activision.com/family at 1 PM EST on November 13, 2012.

Please join us. As stepmoms, we are committed to our family and always looking for ways to connect. Playing video games with your kids and stepkids is a great way to laugh, connect and build memories. It is those common memories that build a family history. See you Tuesday for amazing tips and ideas on Family Game Night!!!

Note: When I saw the summit, I applied to be an online hostess. Please know I am not receiving any financial compensation for being an online hostess or for sharing this information. I will be receiving some items to test out for taking part in the summit. The views in this post are completely my own. I believe in Family Game Night!

I always love when I get to meet in person someone I have connected with via social media. This September, I had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Deborah Gilboa (@AskDrG to me on Twitter) at BloggyCon in Cincinnati. Dr. G is as wonderful in person as she is online. I was thrilled when I learned about her new book and you will be too! 

Dr. G provides us parents with an amazing tool in her mini book: Teach Resilience: Raising Kids Who Can Launch!
While this book is not written specifically for stepmoms, it is written for all parents who want to raise resilient kids. I love a lot of things about this book. Here are my top five:
  1. It’s a mini book. Seriously. It is 5 inches by 3 1/2 inches and 62 pages.
  2. You navigate by category: Errands, Self-Care, Crisis Management, Occasional Events, Around the House. 
  3. Tips are also segmented by age; 2 to 4, 5 to 7, 8 to 10, 11 to 14, 15 to 17, All Ages. 
  4. This book offers 50 opportunities to build our children’s resilience and self-esteem. 
  5. Easy to read. Straight forward. Ideas you can use every day to continue to build resilience. 

You may ask “why teach resilience?” Dr. G answers with this “Resilience means the ability to recover from adversity.” Dr. G knows we help our kids and stepkids most by giving them the tools they need to handle tough situations.

As stepmoms, we know our stepkids have walked through tough times and may still be living with adversity. We know as stepmoms that we deal with adversity. Giving our stepkids tools to navigate life is giving them a priceless gift. How often does our heart break for our stepkids as they go back and forth between two homes with two different sets of rules and “climates”? This book will bless everyone!

I carry my book in my purse and flip through it when I’m waiting in line, stuck in traffic, etc… With it’s size, it makes a great gift idea and stocking stuffer.

The book is so practical. I don’t want to give all of Dr. G’s great tips away but I will share one with you that is for all ages. I have actually done this since my oldest was two and it has made a difference with all of my kids. My stepkids were slightly resistant at first but they like to play along now.

PLAY HIGH-LOW-HIGH (For all ages)

Want more than one word answers about your child’s day? Teach resilience by finding the highs and lows of their – and your – experiences. At dinner (or in the car, etc.) ask each person for a high, a low, and a high from the day.

Kids will learn:

  • to express emotions. 
  • to evaluate their experiences. 
  • to find more good than bad. 
  • to listen. 
  • that adults have highs and lows also, and how we handle them!
Doctor G (Deborah Gilboa, MD) is a board certified Family Physician, mom of four kids and founder of AskDoctorG.com, a resource for parents and educators who are working to raise great kids. She gives parenting workshops around the country and offers great free tools for raising kids who are respectful, responsible and resilient!

If you are interested in purchasing the book, please click here: http://askdoctorg.com/buy-doctorg-book/
                                   
My twitter: http://twitter.com/AskDocG
Facebook: http://facebook.com/AskDoctorG
YouTube: http://youtube.com/AskDocG 
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What are your thoughts on teaching your stepkids resilience? Care to share any tips that work for you?
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