Feel it? The tension is ratcheting up as we near Christmas and the festive season of demands, expectations, custody swaps, conflicting schedules, and hopelessly gnarled traditions.
If you’re feeling in-over-your-head, welcome to the stepfamily club! It doesn’t mean you’re a bad person or incompetent – it just means you’re in a stepfamily. It’s part of the process of growing into a real live family. This process, by the way, takes from FOUR to SEVEN YEARS.
You can survive and actually succeed if you’ll keep a few vital points in mind:
1) YOU are in absolute control of yourself. No one can “make” you mad. They can annoy you, they can disrespect you, they can ignore you, but YOU decide how you will react. You also (with practice) can control how you feel about someone else’s actions or attitude toward you.
2) You can only control yourself, so don’t waste your time and energy (your life) fretting about how others act. Yes, you have a responsibility to raise your own biological children, but if you think you can control someone else’s children you’re in for a lot of frustration. That includes your neighbor’s kids, the kids at the mall, those kids on TV … or your spouse’s kids.
3) Ask yourself whether your angry reaction will harm or protect a valued relationship. C-H-O-O-S-E how you react. In fact, try to act the way you want, rather than to RE-act based on others’ words or deeds (or rolled eyes). If you just react to a provocation, you lose control of your life … and give it to them.
4) BEWARE! Tomorrow will come around, and you will have to live with what you said and did today. Take a long viewpoint of your family relationships. Remember, you signed up for the long run (“till death do you part”!), so one bad day or week or season isn’t the whole ball of wax. Someday the kids will be grown and you will have the honeymoon you dreamed of.
5) Stepparents who stick through tough times, who resist the urge to run away are HEROES! A hero is someone who goes above and beyond the call of duty; NOT someone who sits in the barracks during easy times. A hero has to have endured hardships in order to be a hero. So, if your life if tough, and if you can keep going, you can hold you head high and know you are a hero.
6) Love is not an on/off proposition. If you love someone, you love them always. You may ease out of that “in love” mystic feeling, but love goes on forever.
Just because you’ve heard it before doesn’t make it any less true:
Love (real love, the kind that can make a stepfamily survive and succeed):
- is patient
- is kind
- does not envy
- does not boast
- is not proud
- is not rude
- is not self-seeking
- is not easily angered
- keeps no record of wrongs
- does not delight in evil
- rejoices with the truth
- always protects
- always trusts
- always hopes
- always perseveres
email me if any of this seems too hard or too confusing or if you need more help.