Stepfamily Thanksgiving: Will You Choose to be Grateful or Grumpy?

Stepfamily Thanksgiving: Will You Choose to be Grateful or Grumpy?

It's funny how a holiday for gratitude can leave us feeling grumpy!

Thanksgiving in stepfamilies can often highlight those dynamics that we're not so thankful for.  It can be a reminder of the conflict we have with an ex-spouse.  It might leave a parent feeling lonely in the crowd because their kids are at their other home.  Sometimes it intensifies that sense of "walking on eggshells" when step-relationships aren't  going well.

The good news is, regardless of the circumstances we can all choose between being grateful or grumpy this Thanksgiving.

Where's Your Focus?

I often choose grumpiness.  I remind myself of all the things that are wrong with my circumstances.  I focus on the challenges, the losses and the people who aren't doing what I think they should be doing.  I regurgitate all the hurts from my past and vomit up my toxic grumpiness on everyone around me.  My grump-fests always lead to drained energy and disconnection.

It's true that stepfamily life is challenging.  Stepfamilies experience loss for children and adults alike.  The people in our stepfamilies aren't always going to act the way we want them to.  However, we can each choose where we will place our focus even when things don't go as planned.  One NY Times article quotes that gratitude is "…an equal-opportunity emotion.  Anyone can experience it and benefit from it, even the most crotchety uncle [or step-uncle!] at the Thanksgiving dinner table.”

You get to choose your focus and research shows that those who place their focus on gratitude are both happier and healthier than those focused on grumpiness.  

Here's three areas of gratefulness you can focus on this Thanksgiving:

Grateful For

We all have tangible blessings in our life.  If you have a roof over your head, a shirt on your back and food in your stomach you can identify something to be grateful for.  Before you start to clean your house for Thanksgiving guests, look around at all the blessings you have in your home.  Before you begin preparing that Thanksgiving meal, take note of the food you're about to cook and recognize that it is a blessing simply to have those ingredients.  Everyone can find something to be grateful for.

Grateful To

We all have people in our life that are a blessing.

My grandma changed my life.  My mom died when I was only 1 year old, and Nana became my 'mom' for many years.  She loved me unconditionally and invested in me every way she could.  

My mentor, Scott also changed my life.  His wisdom has taught me to be a better husband, father and leader.  He has challenged me and supported me as I have led my own stepfamily and invested in step-couples like you.

Take a minute to answer this question:  Who are you grateful to?

Grateful With

In their book Option B, Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant share that "…counting our blessings doesn't boost our confidence or our effort, but counting our contributions can…this is because gratitude is passive:  it makes us feel thankful for what we receive.  Contributions are active:  they build our confidence by reminding us that we can make a difference."

I've experienced lots of failures as a husband and step-dad, but I've had even more wins!  Don’t let the mistakes you’ve made cause you to choose grumpiness over gratitude.  Give yourself credit for the contributions you've made in the journey and keep moving forward.

This Thanksgiving, take the time to look back on your wins and then decide to be grateful with the contributions you've already made in your stepfamily!  It might even be a good time to start considering the contributions you want to make next year as we get closer to 2018.

Don't give grumpiness a chance…choose gratitude instead!  Kim and I hope you and your stepfamily have a very Happy Thanksgiving!

QUESTION:  Share one thing you're grateful for, one person your grateful to or one contribution you'll be grateful with this Thanksgiving.  Leave a comment below…

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