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Ask Yourself

* Is living in a Blended Family or a Stepfamily “more than you bargained for?”

* Does step parenting feel like the most challenging and thankless job of all?

* Is the tension and conflict taking its toll on your relationships

* Are you becoming worried about your children and their well-being?

* Are you constantly arguing with your partner about the kids, discipline and parenting in general?

• Is your ex or your partner's ex causing real problems in your blended family and in your relationship

• Are you at the end of your rope and need some answers NOW

* Are you considering entering into a Blended Family or Stepfamily and want to be prepared?

2010 - Already A Year of Disaster, Inspiration, and a whole lot of Life Sprinkled in Between ….. How Will You Choose to See it - What Path will you Take?


Step Institute

Well 2010 may have not gotten off to the start we had all been hoping for. Sure the economy is recovering, but depending on where you fall on the economic spectrum, you may not be feeling the upturn or the impacts of recovery and may not for some time. And then we were all taken aback by the catastrophe of Haiti. If nothing else, I think this event should help us all put into perspective the things that we thought were intolerable and awful, up to this point. It has been heart warming to see the world’s response to the suffering in Haiti and most striking to me, is the response of individuals and families, children in particular, reaching out to help those who are undoubtedly the most unfortunate members of our world family. To me it says that hope remains in this world, when we can dig deep and remember our human commitment to those who need us, when they need us. I hope that the lessons that we learn from this horrendous event, can be incorporated in to our daily lives. It is when we can take our sight off of our own suffering, or what we thought was suffering, even for a short time, that we experience life as it was meant to be experienced. It’s just nice to get a break from thinking about our own problems for awhile and to remember that as bad as things seem to be for us on any given day, that there are always larger problems to solve and work that needs our attention, that when we put our focus there, everybody wins.

So you might say that I’m leading with this so I can embark on a sermon about how our everyday struggles in step and blended families “are not so bad after all.” In comparison to a catastrophe the likes of what Haiti recently experienced and continues to experience, almost anything does pale in comparison, However, it is not my job or my intention to encourage people to “suck up” their own problems or go into a state of denial about things in your life that are challenging you. Quite the opposite. But I do think it is tremendously helpful to put some perspective on things and when we catch ourselves thinking that something is “awful” or “catastrophic” or that “we can’t endure it one minute longer”, recognize the negative impact that making such exaggerated statements or even saying them to ourselves in our head, has on us. It only makes an already existing problem bigger and perhaps seemingly insurmountable. It is defeating and creates even more anger and anxiety than we may have started out with. From my experience working with individuals and families, the challenges are difficult enough without us adding an element of disaster or a quality of unbearableness to them. That was Haiti – what we experience on a day to day basis is life. We simply need to learn how to recognize, deal, cope with, and problem solve more effectively with those people, that interestingly enough, we chose to engage in relationships with in the first place.

Many of you know that my strong interest lies in helping each and every one of you become honest with yourselves and your partners about the struggles you are facing, and then together come up with a plan that addresses those. In families, this can often mean re-thinking the balance of things, and shifting dynamics so everyone gets some of what they need. Often the balance is really out of whack and it’s not that anyone really intended it to be that way, it just became that way over time and there are many contributing factors that are involved. One example of how things can get out of balance in our families, involves stepparents and parents who find them selves doing the lion’s share of the work thinking that somehow that is the way it is, always will be and should be. This situation is often created because parents feel tremendously responsible for what they have put their children through, in the case of separation, divorce and then remarriage. The urge to overcompensate for our children is strong and as a result we can find ourselves protecting them too much, giving them more than they need and/or not expecting anything from them in return. In the process our kids miss out on tremendous opportunities to be part of a “real” family where people work together as a team, and where even when things are hard, they are expected to pitch in, and rise to the challenge because the adults believe in them, their abilities and their resilience. I think our recent experience of the Olympics can teach us something about this. We see time and time again that those who believe in themselves and who have others who believe in them, are able to reach great heights. And that doesn’t always mean winning a medal – I think anyone who makes it to the Olympic games has already proven the power of determination, perseverance, faith in themselves and of course hard work and focus. I know that we often miss out on opportunities to nurture this in both our children and our stepchildren, when our focus remains on what is wrong, and not on how things can be better when we re-establish balance in our families and engage everyone in the process of building, nurturing and maintaining the family.

We know that the balance can come out of relationships and families so easily, especially in stepfamilies.. And the above example, is only one of the hundreds of ways in which relationships become strained and individuals become isolated and not connected to one another, resulting in conflict, resentment and family breakdown. So, in the big scheme of things, the unique types of problems and challenges we encounter in stepfamilies, are absolutely important things to deal with and talk about. Pushing things under the rug, or saying our issues are not important enough to deal with, simply doesn’t work and actually creates additional problems that become increasingly difficult for individuals and families to work on and move past.

My suggestion is that we embrace the challenges of our life, no matter what they are. Minimizing them is not the answer, and exaggerating them is certainly not part of the solution. Identifying them honestly, taking a rational approach to working through them (easier said than done when we’re dealing with sensitive issues and lots of emotions) and engaging with our partners and children in an honest and human way, in an effort to improve things in the short and long-term, is the only strategy that I’m aware of that really works.

I am a strong believer in what many of you have heard me speak of – The Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy approach to life (REBT). The great thing about this approach is that it asks each of us to take responsibility for our own emotions and behaviors (fair enough I believe); it asks us to examine our emotions and most importantly, the thoughts and beliefs that we hold, that tend to intensify our unhealthy or negative emotions. And it empowers us because it provides us with the tools to actually alter our emotional experience of almost anything in life that is challenging us. It isn’t easy, but it gives us the steps to embark on a journey whereby we can be less distressed, and yes, eventually, even happier with our life and the choices we have made, or have yet to make. This only happens when we first and foremost commit to recognizing that we hold the secret to our own unique personal experience of life. When we take hold of this, then we can deal more successfully with the things that challenge us, make changes where changes need to be made, and engage our partners in change that is important in our relationships. And all of this can happen without the ongoing feeling that life is a complete disappointment, a disaster or something that is spinning completely out of our control.

I will provide a link here to the website where you can learn more about REBT If you are interested in learning more about this therapy, I can also provide you with book suggestions or articles such as one I use with almost all of my coaching clients titled: A Rational Approach to Happiness. I welcome the chance to talk to each and everyone of you more about this. It has been the most powerful approach that I’ve discovered, for dealing with issues in my own life and I would love to share it with any of you who are interested.

So as we move forward into 2010, let’s embrace what is before us and know that we have the strength to face the challenges. And also remember that we have the choice to not engage in challenges that we have not chosen for ourselves. Remember also, that taking responsibility for one’s own life does not mean taking responsibility for another person’s emotional reality or behavior. This is for each person to do for themselves. There is an absolute freedom in that when we “get it” and experience it for the first time. Recognize the power in seeing things for what they are, not always good, not always bad, and rarely as “awful” as they sometimes seem.

For stepfamilies and blended families to work, we need adults who are braced for the responsibility, who recognize when they’re in over their heads and could use a hand up, who are mature, honest with themselves and their partners, and willing to chart a new direction when the one they are on is taking them nowhere. It isn’t for the weak, but neither do we need to be superheroes. Let’s take a rational approach to the life we have chosen in our stepfamilies or blended families and deal with the challenges that we all know exist, in a straightforward and courageous way. It is the only way I know to get the results we need.

Take care everyone. Until next time…..






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