Post written by Blended Family columnist Melissa Gorzelanczyk of Peace & Projects.

I used to think my blended family should have a “handle with care” sticker.
I thought one wrong move could ruin everything – my relationship with the kids or even worse, my marriage.
I knew history was against us – 60% of second marriages end in divorce.
Would the kids love me?
Would they listen to me in public?
In the beginning, these questions were real.
In September, Mr. Right and I will celebrate our five year wedding anniversary. We’ve had our struggles and no doubt have more to face. The good news is, I do not think my family is fragile anymore.
We each play a unique, important role. We are not made of crystal. Steel seems about right. I wish I had known that from the start.
If you worry about doing everything right for your step kids and handling the ex with extreme grace, this post is a request to stop. Try to do right, yes. But don’t worry so much.
Instead, put your focus to better use:

Get your life in order.

Paying off over $42,000 in debt was not easy. Today I know the payoff was more than monetary. With that one choice, Mr. Right and I changed the future for our family. We decided not to accept life the way it was. Instead, we made it better.

  • Try it: Write down some goals with your spouse. Do you want to get out of debt? Live on one income? Buy a new car? Defining goals as a couple will help your marriage grow. At the same time, these changes will improve your whole life.

Be authentic with all.

Sometimes, the kids will drive you crazy. The ex will make you want to scream. It is okay to feel what you feel. That’s an amazing relief, isn’t it?

Feelings are unlimited. Actions are limited. -Dr. Haim Ginott

  • Try it: Are your reactions to the kids authentic? Or are you trying too hard to feel something you don’t? It helps to tell the truth. Try this approach I learned from the book Liberated Parents, Liberated Children.
  1. Share your feelings. For instance, if your teenage stepdaughter disrespects you, tell her how that makes you feel. Don’t belittle her as a person. Simply share your feelings. “When you say things like that, I feel very sad.”
  2. Take action. Remember, actions are limited. Just because you feel like screaming doesn’t mean you should. Find a way to feel better. Act. Leave the room, go for a walk or spend 30 minutes on a hobby you enjoy. These steps will lead to more authentic relationships.

Do interesting things.

My role as a step mom is important. But there is more to life than raising kids, cleaning the house and making dinner. Make time to remember who you are. When I write a blog post, I connect with my writer’s spirit. I’m able to reflect on my life and what I’m learning. Writing is what I do to feel at peace.
Do interesting things as a family, too. Take the kids to a folk festival. Visit friends and family. Get out and see the world.

  • Try it: Is there a hobby you’ve neglected? Make time for it again. Even 10 minutes of something you enjoy can make life more better for all. My motto is when step mom is happy, everyone is happy.

Liberating exercise: Describe your blended family.

It’s true. My family is not as fragile as I first thought. We are many, many things, but fragile isn’t one of them. Describing the intricacies of my blended family was a really uplifting exercise. You can do it, too.

  • Try it: Make a list of words that describes your family, both positive and negative. Write this freehand, not thinking too hard about the “right” answers. My list included words like resilient. Forgiving. Stubborn. Kind. Flawed. Driven. Unique. Good together.

The list makes me smile. Like the words on it, my family is not perfect. We have hard times. We do not always say or do or think the right thing. Hopefully, we’ll make good choices … but we might not. If that happens, I hope we’ll ask for help. We have before.
More than anything, I find peace in knowing that when we face a challenge, we will not shatter. We are a blended family, not a broken one.

What words describe your family? Leave the list in the comments below.

(photo source)

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