How can you develop healthy relationships with your kids or stepchildren? What are specific challenges for stepmoms? And how in the world can you practically develop relationships with your children?

healthy relationships, relationships, children, stepchildren, Gayla Grace

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In this episode of the Healthy Relationships Series, I talk with Gayla Grace, director and cofounder of Sisterhood of Stepmoms, a non-profit organization designed to create community and provide national retreats for stepmothers. We unpack common mistakes stepmoms make, strategies you can implement today to help connect with your children, and the importance of failure.

Gayla’s Leadership Journey:

Gayla has always had an interest in understanding behavior and what drives it so her job as the Assistant Director of Human Resources for Coca-Cola seemed like the perfect fit. Yet as she had children, she wondered if there were other places for her, where you could be more available to her kids. She left Coca-Cola, earned her master’s degree in Psychology and Counseling,  became a stepmom, and co-founded Sisterhood of Stepmoms.

Together, she and her husband have five children with one son at home.

How to Develop Healthy Relationships with Your Children and Stepchildren

Here are practical strategies you can implement today to nurture connection with your children:

  1. Remember that your kids may be wired differently than you.
  2. Parent each child according to their personality type and needs.
  3. Stay on top of technology.
    • Put boundaries in place, i.e. no phones in bedrooms at night.
    • Review their browsing history.
    • Remember that some personality types are more sensitive to violent video games so know your child and limit as needed.
    • Be aware of what your child is exposed to and how your child is impacted because of that exposure.
    • Be on the same social media sites as your children and follow them.
    • Don’t be naive or keep your head in the sand by pretending that the current world realities are like the world you grew up in.
    • Always keep conversations going.
    • Don’t shame your children when they share information.

Step-parenting Challenges

There are several specific challenges that stepmoms face. Gayla outlines two of those.

1. Understand the role that grief plays.

  • Every step-family has experienced some kind of loss.
  • As the adult, you may view this as a second chance, but your children view it through the lens of loss.
  • Look behind the tantrums and other behaviors to talk about their feelings and the root of the issues.
  • Offer grace.

2. Discipline comes in after relationship.

It’s important to focus on the relationship first before trying to establish any kind of rules.

Rules without relationship lead to rebellion. - Gayla GraceClick To Tweet

Practical Strategies to Develop a Relationship with a Stepchild

Gayla outlines several ways to develop a non-threatening and grace-filled relationship with your stepchild.

  • Do fun stuff. For example, chaperone the field trip, go out for ice cream, anything that makes you the good guy.
  • Build the relationship slowly in a non-threatening manner.
    • What’s a benefit you can offer your stepchild? For example, can you bake cookies for them when they’ve had a bad day?
    • How can you minister to their hearts?

Common Mistakes Stepmoms Make

We all make mistakes. Here are three common ones stepmoms can make:

  • We come in overzealous.
    • We push our way into a relationship instead of allowing it to grow naturally.
    • Take cues from your kids on how they receive hugs. For example, don’t force hugs onto a child who doesn’t like hugs.
  • We give up when rejected.
    • It’s normal for the relationship-building between stepmom and step-child to be difficult.
    • Send a text saying that you’re thinking about them.
    • Be the adult and pursue the child even as they reject you.
  • We aren’t aware of the loyal ties they hold toward the other parent.
    • Don’t take things personally.
    • Remember that it takes four to seven years for step-families to come together.

Faith and Motherhood

Gayla notes that her faith has been very influential in her motherhood and leadership. Gayla comes back to these two verses: James 1:5 which reminds us to ask for wisdom and 1 Corinthians 1:25 that tells us to go to God first.

Growing as a leader

When it comes to growing as a leader, Gayla prefers the Meyers-Briggs assessment. It’s helped her understand and recognize her needs and has impacted what roles she’s taken in life.

Gayla has also found writing to be a powerful tool in her faith and leadership. She keeps a gratitude journal because it offers these three benefits:

  1. She sees God at work.
  2. It keeps her memories clear and front-of-mind.
  3. She’s able to see life from God’s perspective.

Gayla’s Message to Women Leaders

It’s okay to fail.

Failure shows we’re trying and that we have courage. She exhorts us to get out and try even when we don’t have all the answers. Another aspect of failure is how we respond to it: do we take responsibility? Are we prideful when things go well? Do we pin the blame on others when things go south?

Don’t be paralyzed by perfection. - Gayla GraceClick To Tweet

For younger leaders, Gayla recommends finding a mentor. For more on this topic, check out Episode 18 with Elisa Pulliam.

Nothing can serve us better as a leader than to walk in humility. - Gayla GraceClick To Tweet

Leaders Are Learners:

Gayla likes hard-back books and podcasts. She’s currently reading Unexpected by Christine Caine.

Other Episodes & Resources Mentioned:

Connect with Gayla:

Gayla Grace is the director and cofounder of Sisterhood of Stepmoms, a non-profit organization designed to create community and provide national retreats for stepmothers. She holds a master’s degree in Psychology and Counseling and  recently published her latest book, Stepparenting With Grace, with Worthy Publishing. She founded more than a decade ago to offer coaching services, resources, and other encouragement to stepfamilies. Gayla and her husband, Randy, have five children in their blended family.

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healthy relationships, relationships, children, stepchildren, Gayla Grace