Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Secrets of Successful Stepfamilies - Part 3


Stress!!!Stress!!!!Stress!!!! The major scourge of the 21st century!

Can we escape the stresses of this world? Can we shut out the events of the Boston bombing, the increasing collapses of the corporate giants of the western world, the misery of third world countries, the reality that friends die or that we battle peak hour traffic every morning, that bills rain in whether we have the finances to cover them or not?…………..of course not! And as though this wasn’t enough to send us all to the loony bin, most people come home only to deal with more stress. The reality is, of course, that step-parenting can be a pretty stressful experience (mind you, that’s just as true for biological parenting). Stepfamilies can experience stress in a multitude of ways:

        it could be through their relationships (with partner, partner’s ex’s, step-kids, bio-kids, (ex) in-laws, etc)
        it could be caused by financial difficulties
        adjustment struggles
        feeling overwhelmed
        feeling like the fifth wheel on a wobbly car (left out in the cold)
        and so on

Do you know that any stress you experience puts your body into fight or flight mode?  This is great if you need to overpower a burglar or run away from a hungry tiger. It’s not so useful, however, if there’s no-one to fight (though you wouldn’t mind punching out the ex) and you can’t run away (even if you do feel like it – know what I mean?!!) Make no mistake, ongoing stress is dangerous to your body and your mind. Therefore you need to become aware of your stress triggers and acquire tools to help you deal with them, preferably before the nervous breakdown.

A few practical stress reducing tools are:

Turn off the TV and get some sleep.
Step on that torturous exercise bike and turn the TV on (to ease the pain!)
Take time for relaxation and/or meditation. (ohmmmmmmmmmmmm!)
Forget Maccers – be virtuous - have healthy foods.
Don’t bottle up your feelings – talk about them!
Accept that there are people and situations in your life that you have no control over (the more’s the pity!)
If you cannot change your situation, do yourself a favour and change your attitude.
Don’t take things too seriously – laughing hasn’t cracked anyone’s face yet.
Be different, say “yes” and mean it.
Be brave, say “no” and mean it.


How do you feel if your partner tells you that he/she loves you, gives you a peck on the cheek and disappears (for the third weekend in a row) to the golf club?

We spend time with whom and on what we value. A thousand words won’t be as effective as some quality time spent together. Spending time with your partner (and family) says: “I enjoy your company”, “I want to be with you”, “you are more important to me than my golf buddies” (which doesn’t mean that you can’t play golf or do things with people other than your partner or family). If, however, they – or anything/anyone else - take precedent over your loved ones and usually come first, the message your family receives is loud and clear and it’s a message that may well land you in the divorce courts.

In stepfamilies time is a particularly precious commodity. It can be very difficult to give everyone who’s vying for your attention the quality time they want and deserve. It’s quite a balancing act and you may find yourself falling over to one side or the other on occasion. Some time you may even feel that you can’t do it right for anybody. If this is the case do not despair. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and try again. The most important one to spend time with (especially in the beginning of your step-journey) is your partner. Successful stepfamilies are built on the foundation of the couple’s relationship. Thus ensuring the stability of that relationship becomes number one priority.

Ways to spend time together are:

Walking around the block before breakfast or after dinner.
Debriefing the day over a pre-dinner drink (of whatever description).
Sneaking out of the office and away from home for a quick coffee break.
Having the kids baby sat and enjoying a dinner at a restaurant.

Family time together:

Playing board or other games.
Playing a sport together.
Biking around the lake.
Picnicking in the park.
Walking by the beach.
Ice skating.


Spirituality can be a great bonding agent. Spirituality, whilst meaning different things to different people, usually is focused on a power that is greater than ourselves. Spending time together in discussing, exploring communing with and worshiping our Higher Power can be a great foundation for family unity. It can be the basis for our value system and provide the guidelines by which we lead our families. It can imbue us with strength when we feel all worn down; it can convict us of the responsibility we’ve taken on when we’ve stepped into stepfamily life and  remind us of the preciousness and uniqueness of each and every human being (whether we like them or not); it can infuse us with hope when there seems no way out and surround us with peace in the eye of the storm. Spiritual unity is precious - don’t discount it’s validity and value in YOUR LIFE.

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