2 Reasons You Need Help - Even When Stepfamily Life is Great!
We talk a lot about how difficult stepfamily life can be. The challenges we face of building bonds, parenting kids and step-kids, and investing in our partnership as a couple are sometimes overwhelming.
But what if that's not you? What if your experience of stepfamily life to this point is pretty easy?
You might be thinking:
- Our marriage or partnership is solid
- Our kids are all getting along with each other
- The step-parent / step-child connection seems to be clicking
- My Ex is easy to get along with...well...pretty much
If this is your stepfamily experience so far, we want to celebrate with you! Enjoy your blessings...you might be in the minority! But don't hit the cruise control too quickly. Here are two things to consider as you move forward:
1. Changing Seasons
Life is seasonal.
We move through life watching different seasons pass us by. We look back on tough seasons and see how they shaped and formed us. We remember fun seasons with fondness and call them "the good ol' days".
We also look forward, toward the seasons to come that will bring a new experience or reward. But rarely do we look forward thinking, "I bet I'm headed for a difficult season in the future. What should I do about that?". Maybe we think about those tough seasons to come if we're making business plans or we've found ourselves in a career as a risk assessor. But, how many times do we ponder the possibility of a difficult future for our family?
The reality is we don't know what the future holds. We may be having a great season today. Tomorrow's season may not be the same. When Kim and I first married, much of our stepfamily life seemed to be pretty easy. For seven years, life was relatively simple...our challenges were minor. Then it all changed when the dynamics with her ex-husband changed and we spent a 3-year season in family court.
Ask yourself - what do we need to do now to prepare for a potential season change in the future?
2. Hidden Challenges
"You don't know what you don't know."
This familiar phrase rings true in stepfamily life. Many of the challenging dynamics of stepfamily life are hidden. They are subtle. They can be simple challenges to understand and the solutions can be just as simple. Yet all too often those simple solutions are counter-intuitive. If we remain unaware of these hidden challenges, we might find ourselves making "Easy Wrong Turns" as Dr. Patricia Papernow puts it in her book Surviving and Thriving in Stepfamily Relationships.
Often step-couples form a new stepfamily and quickly start thinking about family time. Maybe they plan a vacation, a weekly family night or daily family time. That makes sense, right...if we want to build bonds, we have to spend lots of time together. However, as Dr. Papernow says, "...slowing down speeds things up." It turns out that research shows one of the fastest ways to encourage bonds early in stepfamily life is to focus on lots of one on one time for the different members of your stepfamily and keep "family time" to a minimum. As these bonds build, then slowly integrating family time into the rhythm of life can be a much better experience.
Remember...you don't know what you don't know...don't let your stepfamily journey get off course by taking too many easy wrong turns.
If you are in a blissful stepfamily season, that's great! I can look back on several of those seasons with gratitude. I can also recall the end of those seasons giving way to unexpected challenges. Don't be caught off-guard...do something now to ensure stability and peace for your stepfamily as you forge ahead on your journey.
QUESTION: What unexpected challenges have you faced in your stepfamily journey so far? Leave a comment below: