Things I Wish My Stepfather Had Done For His Stepchildren

5 Things I Wish My Stepfather Had Done For His Stepchildren

Things I Wish My Stepfather Had Done For His Stepchildren

 

When I was an eight-year-old boy, I looked to Hank, the father figure in my life, for all the things the other kids my age seemed to enjoy with their dads. Sadly, Hank wasn’t willing to be engaged in my life. He adored my mom, but my siblings and I were simply excess baggage.

While my mother was affectionate and nurturing, Hank’s love for us was missing in action. As a youngster longing for a strong, caring father figure in my life, it would have gone a long way toward forging a close bond between Hank and my siblings and me if he had:

5 Ways Divorced Dads Can Continue to Bond With Their Children After Divorce

1.  Shown us appropriate affection:

Children crave hugs, kisses, and even casual contact that communicates, “I love you, and I’m happy to be with you.” These simple indications of tenderness and affection play a significant role in developing security and confidence in kids.

2.  Given us words of affirmation:

Nothing can bring a smile to a child’s face faster than a sincere compliment by a parent. When moms and dads encourage their children by noticing and commenting on particular skills, accomplishments, and positive character traits, they’re helping build into their kids’ lives and hearts words that will help sustain them through life’s toughest times.

3.  Pursued activities with us such as fishing, hiking/walks, sports:

Kids love nothing more than spending quality, uninterrupted time with their parents. Now that I’m a father, I realize how priceless it is to carve out the time to camp, fish, hike, or even just jump on the trampoline with my boys. This expresses to our kids that they are more valuable to us than the myriad day-to-day responsibilities we have on our plates

4.  Taken the time to offer advice:

Children desperately need the benefit of their parents’ perspective and life experience, even if they won’t always admit it! Kids long for those heart-to-heart conversations that make them feel safe and loved in the midst of the ups and downs of growing up.

5.  Provided biblical guidance and wisdom:

This is unquestionably the most crucial thing we can do as parents. As Deuteronomy 6:6-7 instructs us: “These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” We sow eternal seeds in our kids’ hearts when we place Jesus Christ at the forefront of all we do and say.

Dads, like my childhood experiences, the father figure in your life may not have done it all correctly, either. But I hope you’ll take heart that, whatever your upbringing, you can engage in your stepkids’ lives and move forward with purpose and a renewed sense of direction.

And when you have a moment, let me know the special things you’re doing to connect with your stepkids and impact their lives.

The post 5 Things I Wish My Stepfather Had Done For His Stepchildren appeared first on Divorced Moms.

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5 keys to creating a happy blended family

5 Keys To Creating a Happy Blended Family

5 keys to creating a happy blended family

 

Finding new love and a committed relationship after divorce is a delightful experience. Those positive feelings can, at times, get in the way of the reality of blending two families into one.

Below are 5 keys to creating a happy blended family once you’ve moved forward into a new marriage.

1. Love and Acceptance:

Every member needs to feel loved and accepted by the other members of your blended family. Transitioning into a blended family is difficult for all involved. Parents and children will respond and react differently to the idea of coming together and building relationships. For children, this means building relationships with people they barely know.

For that reason, they may be obnoxious, obstinant and down-right hard to deal with. When this happens it can pit parents against each other and they may begin to see traits in each other that aren’t attractive. The quickest way to defuse angry children and unreasonable new spouses is to show love, acceptance, and empathy for what they are feeling.

If you can step outside yourself and attempt to view the situation from the other person’s perspective, love, acceptance, and empathy will be easy to offer.

2. Security and Attachment:

Healthy relationships can’t be formed if everyone isn’t feeling secure and attached. This problem can be an issue with children who’ve experienced the divorce of their parents. For children, divorce can be traumatic and result in a loss of trust or, an unwillingness to trust again too quickly. Along with love, acceptance, and empathy, children will need quite a bit of reassurance that they are an important part of the new blended family.

It takes time to heal children who are still trying to adjust to their parent’s divorce. It also takes time to bond with children who aren’t used to sharing parents with other people. Validation for what the children are experiencing and consistent love will break down barriers and help children attach to other members of the blended family and begin to feel secure.

3. The Other Parent:

I know a therapist who is also a step-mother. She has no children of her own and has become consumed with every aspect of her stepdaughter’s life. She insists she is at every doctor’s appointment, every parent/teacher conference and part of every decision made about the child’s life. As a result, there is great friction between her and the child’s biological mother.

My therapist friend has crossed boundaries that no step-parent should cross. The job of a step-parent is to respect the biological parent and their boundaries, not the other way around. When boundaries are crossed you are sending your step-child the message that you don’t feel their biological parent is doing a good enough job of parenting.

Never do anything that gets in the way of a step-child bonding with and receiving love from the biological parent. You are the step-parent, not the biological parent, know your place!

4. It Takes Time:

It can take 2 to 8 years for a blended family to navigate the basic stages necessary for developing a sense of harmony and loyalty.  The older the children at the time of blending, the longer it will take for bonding to occur. Blended families will need to pass through many stages, the getting to know each other stage, the forming attachments stage in order to develop into a strong blended family.

Research has shown several models of the stages of development for blended families. Blending is not a smooth process and, knowing that from the outset will go along way in keeping one parent or the other from throwing in the towel when the waters aren’t smooth. You have to be willing to give it time!

5. Not All Problems Are About Blending:

Life, stress and everyday problems have to be dealt with at the same time you are blending your family. Your new blended family can experience problems that have nothing to do with an obnoxious step-child or whether a member has attached and is feeling loved.

As a blended family, you are expected or, will have to deal with all the normal crap life throws your way. Children will grow and develop their own sense of autonomy, spouses will argue, the mortgage will need to be paid and life will go on if you don’t allow outside issues or normal personal changes to interfere with your commitment to maintaining a happy, healthy blended family.

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your stepchild wants to call you mom

When Your Stepchild Wants to Call You Mom

your stepchild wants to call you mom

 

I still remember the first time my stepson asked to call me mom, and I very curtly said no. The verbal playback from how I heard my response come out, the tone, the very evident feeling of repugnance behind it, and the visual of his reaction when he received my response – is a moment that I wish I could erase, for us both.

In the beginning, we both felt like we were fighting for a place in his fathers’ life and neither of us was giving in. Imagine having your child ask if their friend can stay the night, then another night and another night – then moving in. Forever.

During a single night sleepover, kids are endearing, quirky and fun even. If they misbehave or river-dance on your last nerve, you can breathe through it knowing they go home soon. But, when they never go home, because their home is now your home – that’s rough.

Listen, I know as you’re reading this, you’re thinking I sound like an evil stepmom and let me tell you, I felt like an evil stepmom too! Additionally, I felt like I was being bullied, being a bully, being tested and testing, and failing miserably.

Did I mention he was my son’s best friend? That I met my husband because they were best friends? I fell head over heels in love with a man and gained a son – that I wasn’t head over heels in love with. At first.

When Your Stepchild Wants to Call You Mom

If I am being honest with myself, I knew when he asked to call me mom, my answer was not coming from a kind and loving place. I knew it was coming from a “you already have a mom, and you are her responsibility, not mine” type of place. And, a place of “you are too much “work” for me.” Which translates to a child that they are not important enough to love.

Because, would we not put in all the effort, every tireless hour, every bit of heart aching pain to help our biological children? Over and over again? So… essentially our own biological children deserve our unconditional love, but not a child who was not born from us? That’s awful. And, that was how I felt. At first.

One of the biggest misconceptions about being in a blended family is that you blend well.

Think of an actual blender, the settings are, Blend/Stir, Shred/Beat, Grind/Puree, Mash/Chop, Liquefy/Whip, and Frappe/Mix. Those are some serious options just to blend something smoothly. I mean shoot, if I am making a margarita, I throw all the stuff in and press all the buttons praying they do the trick — and I’m quite certain that is exactly what I did in the beginning as a stepmom.

And, with the lid off at least 50% of the time, because some days I wanted to make a mess, this uprooting in my life was a daily grind where I was being beat, shredded and liquefied to a point of tears. At first.

Babies and toddlers, they are one thing. They’re pliable, naive, and still young enough to create that sweet bond with. But at seven, their mannerisms and personality traits are primarily already set in place, and none are from you. You didn’t spend the past seven years teaching them how to walk, talk, count to 10, sing the alphabet, how to write their names and how to say I love you, mommy.

You weren’t able to share the values, morals, and lessons that you taught your own children either. Instead, you inherited someone else’s values, morals and lessons all wrapped in a cute kiddo who you must simply just accept because if you don’t, you’re a horrible person. At first.

There was a day early on that made me very aware of the manipulation that could exist in the world of “I don’t want my dad to date you” (which was a super fun place to live, not at all). We were in the drive through at Carl’s Jr when my stepson saw an attractive girl taking our money at the window, and he says, “my daddy calls her beautiful every time he talks to her “hi beautiful, thanks beautiful” every time” and he flashes this look and laughs. And, I laugh too (as I’m texting his dad asking who the girl at CJ is) through the moment and play it off.

He just wanted me to leave, and he was too young to understand that by hurting me, he would hurt his father. But at that moment, none of us get that – we’re all just fighting for scraps at the dinner table. He would flip flip through very rapidly, one minute he would try to break us apart, and the next he would want a hug and ask me if he could call me mom.

Things I can now look back on and see very clearly. But then, I’ll be honest again, I didn’t have the type of heart that reminds itself this is a child, they do not mean it, it is their backstory causing this – in the moment. In the moment, I was mad, I was affected, and I was annoyed. To me, this kid was disrespectful and needed discipline, at first.

A few months later, he asked to call me mom again, and this time we were not alone, it was in the car with his dad and both my children.

Before I could respond, they both said, “No she isn’t your mom.”, And, while his dad looked at me with that look of what do we say, when he heard how quickly my kids blew his son off – he was hurt too! It was a no-win situation, and things were still choppy – but this time was a little different, and I felt stuck.

When a child asks to do something that another child in the same household does, it’s because they want to be the same, to be included, and to feel like part of the family. I was told once that if a child asks to call you mom or just does it on their own, and you have other children in the home, you are setting yourself up for failure by saying no – because you are then ostracizing your stepchild. Great!

So basically, I’ve been ostracizing him since the beginning, and now if I cave – my kids will be mad. Who do I please? Who is more important? Honest people will say their bio kids come first, goodhearted kind people will say it should be equal and so will your spouses. But that doesn’t always happen at first.

Just a side note about this, everything I’ve experienced as a stepmom, my husband has experienced as a stepdad too (my daughter who is 16 calls him dad now too actually). My two had their father involved at first – and he hated my husband for sheer fun. For me, it was a little easier in that my stepson’s mom was really not in the picture. At that time her involvement and communication were minimal at best and she lived in another state.

Basically, I was his mom, whether we liked it or not. His physicians, teachers, and coaches all knew me as mom because none had ever met his “real” mom. So, as I am saying no, you can’t call me mom, they are telling him to talk to your mom, and this poor kid is confused.

It was very clear my stepson was nothing like me, but there were definitely things about him that I started to love. He was and still is so great with little kids, he gets down on their level and is patient and kind with them. He loves to be with adults and would prefer to hang with them then go outside and play. And, I learned very quickly (thank goodness) that he just craved love. He needed and wanted so much love – and here I was being an ass and saying no. Saying I have no room, no extra love to give, sorry not sorry.

I couldn’t stop focusing on how much re-work I was having to do with him. Simple things like brushing his teeth, taking a shower, doing his homework, not lying (oh my goodness the lying!!!) his constant need to be glued to his dad at every moment – it was almost too much, almost every day.

He was on an IEP in school because he needed help in most areas and my children were none of those things. They were good kids, easy kids. Because they were my kids. Looking back now I can see that while I did have really great kiddos, we let a lot slide because we don’t notice it the way you do with someone else’s child. And, that is what they are, someone else’s child – at first.

Around his first birthday with us as a family, I had a feeling he was going to again ask to call me mom. I knew this because his mom hadn’t called him in almost a year at this point. My husband asked me one thing when we first started dating, and that was to never contact her, that she had made her bed and to just let it go. Well, if you know me from 7 years ago, letting anything go was a joke.

So, one day after watching my stepson sit by the phone waiting for it to ring, I lost it and I broke that request. My insides were literally burning with fury, and the inability to understand and I wanted to know why she didn’t love him enough to call??? And, then I wanted to know why I care all of a sudden? Was it because I needed her to step up and be his mom, so I didn’t have to, or was it because she was missing out on a phenomenal kid who just wanted her to love him?

The real answer was a good mixture of both I suppose, at first.

I remember writing his mom, and I pissed her off (maybe you read the blog If I could have a word with you, which is all about that and technically my first love letter to my new son in a sense) and rightfully so because who was I coming in acting like I knew it all. But, after that talk, I took my children aside and had a talk with them. I asked them why they were so against him calling me mom, and I explained to them why I felt like the next time he asked, I wanted to not only say yes but have them okay with it too. It was a great talk for all of us, and we walked away from that knowing that if he asked again, I would say yes, and things might be different, but nothing would change my being their mom.

I tell this story because not every stepparent/stepchild relationship is easy. There are times where both are wrong, both are hurt, both are guarded, and both are selfish. Aside from writing about stepparent related stories and situations I don’t use the word step to describe him, he is just my son. His is not a stepbrother, he is just a brother – and even though his mom moved back here two years ago, I’m not his stepmom, I’m just his mom.

He hasn’t stopped calling me mom since, and I’ve worked my butt off to earn that title, and he has my love unconditionally and equally always. We still have our moments, he will be 14 in a week and I will tell you that back then, I never thought we’d make it here but there is something really special about resilient love – and God knew we both needed the other. We just didn’t realize it at first.

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Improve Your Relationship With Your Stepchildren

4 Ways To Improve Your Relationship With Your Stepchildren

Improve Your Relationship With Your Stepchildren

 

Are you struggling in your relationship with your stepchildren?

Do you wish you could forge stronger ties in your stepfamily?

It is possible! Often, we as stepmoms focus on the negative behaviors in the home and how they are disrupting our family stability and building process. But what if we changed our tune and encouraged positive behaviors instead?

How to Improve your Relationship with your Stepchildren

1. Encourage dad to spend time with his kids independent of you

As children experience the divorce and remarriage of a parent, their most oft-repeated concern regards how it will affect them. Perhaps their custody situation will change, maybe a new school is on the agenda, or even a long-term change of address is in the future. Despite these changes, it’s important that the child’s relationship with their biological parent stay intact and does not suffer through the inevitable changes associated with the changing family dynamic.

One of the most definitive ways to ensure continuing strong bonds between the child and the parent is to establish time for them to bond alone. While you as stepmom are part of the newly created family, it is not necessary for you to take part in every child-related activity just to show your interest. Giving your partner time alone with his child acknowledges that you see the importance of that relationship and support it fully.

Encourage your partner to plan activities that he and the kids enjoy together. It may involve a sporting activity or simply a trip out for ice cream. Make it clear to the kids that you are in on the planning and look forward to hearing about it when they return.

2. Don’t overstep your boundaries

It’s important to work with your partner on establishing boundaries in your home. Early on you must determine what your role will be even if that role changes over time. However, keep in mind that whether you are a custodial or non-custodial stepmom will decidedly point you in the direction of the essentiality of your involvement. The demands placed upon a custodial stepmom are far different than those placed upon a non-custodial mom. Children that live with you full-time will naturally gravitate towards you for more of their daily needs.

Do you help create the rules? Do you dole out punishments? Do you attend parent/teacher meetings? Knowing where your input is needed and in fact, necessary, is a first step in accessing your involvement in the lives of your stepchildren. Have this discussion with your spouse, early and often, no matter whether the kids live with you full time or not.

3. Support their activities

I think one of the most powerful bonding experiences in the stepfamily that I created was my attendance at my stepchildren’s activities. I sat on the bleacher’s for umpteen volleyball matches, including those when daughter number two was part of a traveling team. I trekked the roads with both boys’ and girls’ basketball teams. I experienced the agony of sunburn from sitting outside at four-hour golf matches. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. Those activities created great memories for our family.

What’s more is that the kids are proud of the beginnings of our stepfamily. When our younger daughter met her now husband a few years back, she recounted how kid activities were how her dad and I spent our early dates. However, I didn’t realize then how important those early dates were not just to my relationship building with their dad but with all three of my stepchildren.

In other words, just do it.

4. Be willing to be their friend

“I have no intention of being my kids’ friend. I’m their parent.” Well-said. However…

Kids know what remarriage brings….another parent. Not necessarily what they may see as a real need in their lives, especially if there are already two involved parents in the picture. But no one can ever have too many friends.

And that is where a stepmom can step up to the plate.

Merriam-Webster.com defines friend as “one attached to another by affection or esteem.” Seems simple enough. I think you build the aforementioned attachment by listening to one another, doing things together and learning about one another’s way of life. This is the perfect role for a stepmom who wants to support and protect her stepchildren while creating a new family structure. It’s also an enduring connection that can grow and take other forms as you work to create deeper understandings of each other.

The post 4 Ways To Improve Your Relationship With Your Stepchildren appeared first on Divorced Moms.

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ex

Do You Have to Like Your Ex’s New Wife?

ex's new wife

 You don’t have to like your ex’s new wife but if there are children involved we highly suggest you at least be civil. 

 

There are a lot of articles out today about divorce and how two women, an ex-wife, and her ex’s new wife end up becoming friends, sometimes even the best of the friends. That’s a huge change from the old dialogue and stereotype of the evil nasty stepmother, isn’t it?

Still, though, do you have to like your ex’s new wife? It seems like a lot of pressure now to not only be nice but also to be BFF’s going to Starbucks. How close do you two really have to be?

If Kids Aren’t Involved

If kids aren’t involved here is the good news: you don’t have to like her at all, nor will you have to ever see her or your ex much, if at all. If this is your situation, simply be polite when and if you see her.

You two don’t need to share lattes and you don’t even need to fake smile much. A wave and polite hello works. However, if you think she’s a very nice person befriending her could really make your ex unnerved, which might be fun. If that’s the case, enjoy!

If Kids Are Involved

The rules are different, so let’s dive in.

First, you might like your ex’s new wife a lot and if you do, don’t feel weird about it—be glad! It makes life much easier; however, two women may not always mix well or may clash horrifically so depending on where your situation lies, and of course, what role she played in your divorce these rules apply:

You Don’t Hate Her, But You Rarely See Eye-to-Eye

Perhaps you and she are just two different beasts, so to speak. If that’s the case, don’t expect to be buddies. Instead:

  • Be polite and include her when applicable
  • Observe like an outsider: instead of nit-picking or getting irritated with her, try to understand how she operates if you were simply a stranger that saw her in Target
  • Think before you speak always

You will never be best gal pals and you don’t have to be but as long as you both acknowledge that you’re both coming from different ends of the spectrum and try to be polite and not rude or excluding, that’s completely fine. Remember, not all of us will grab tea and cookies with our ex’s new wife and that’s okay!

You Can’t Stand Her

No matter how hard you try, the woman gives you agita. Okay then. How do you manage?

  • Keep conversations brief
  • If necessary, contact your ex instead of her to manage problems
  • Do not exclude her from things involving the children (weddings, bar mitzvahs) but do manage to circle on the other side of the room or include others in on conversations to diffuse the bad mojo between the two of you because your kids will pick up on this cat fight if it gets ugly. Be an adult!

Bottom Line:

You don’t have to like the new wife. There is no constitutional law that requires you to do so, but being polite, including her in on matters involving the kids and respecting her is an absolute must, even if you hate her. And if you do hate her, ask yourself why:

Is she really so bad?

Or are you jealous?

Perhaps it’s just that you feel less than because maybe you’ve not remarried and feel that your ex can provide a “family” for your kids that you can’t.

Newsflash, it’s normal to be jealous but your ex is no better than you are for giving the kids a stepmother while you’re single. You’re the mom and, as we know, mom is everything! Remember that.

What is it that she does wrong? Could you cut her some slack? Being a stepparent is hard. Have you ever taken on that role?

Maybe she’s not truly herself around you. She may be too nervous. If you think that’s the case, maybe you two should have tea together and talk.

Are you blaming your ex’s annoying actions on your new wife? She might be the catalyst for said actions or maybe not. Consider your ex. Consider how he was in the marriage. Are his actions really that off for him, or is it right in character with the past?

Although you believe she is, she may not be influencing him.

If she is influencing him, consider that she’s most likely insecure and controlling. What a terrible way to live and a terrible way to feel! Not your circus, not your monkeys. Keep being you!

Divorce isn’t easy and when new spouses enter into the picture it can get sticky. Keep a cool head, smile often, be kind and that kindness will hopefully be returned back to you!

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blending your family

9 Topics To Discuss Before Blending Your Family

blending your family

When blending your family you need well-thought-out boundaries.

 

Second marriages that involve children demand more preparation than first marriages. Not only do you want to be happy in your new marriage, you also want your children to be happy. For that reasons, there are many topics that need to be discussed and issues that have to be agreed on before blending your family.

9 Topics The Two Of You Should Talk About Before Blending Your Families Into One:

1. Define what you each bring to the table that will have a positive influence on each other’s children.

There are reasons you fell in love with this person and, if you are a parent, some of those reasons were because you thought, he/she was a good parent. Encourage each other to use those parenting skills in a way that positively impacts your children.

2. Define how each parent will be able to promote healthy bonding with the children.

This can be done in numerous ways. You may feel it is important that each parent spend alone time with the other’s children in order to promote a strong bond. In the end, it’s about doing things that help your children build trust in this new person in their lives.

3. Define how you will each support the other in your roles as step-parent.

Children, especially our own are great at manipulating. Discuss and come up with solutions for having each other’s backs in front of the children to keep down any manipulation.

4. Define what needs to be done to promote a happy and healthy home environment for the children.

We all know that children flourish in conflict-free homes. Discuss how you will handle arguments or disagreements with each other. And, there is the issue of who the children will be surrounded by in their home. If Uncle Harry is a belligerent drunk, he probably needs to be kept at arm’s length and not allowed past the front door.

Also, being able to provide each child a space of their own for sleeping, hanging with friends and getting away from the rest of the family when they need a break is imperative.

5. Define steps that need to be taken by both parents that promote a show of respect toward a step-child.

You should love your step-children as an extension of your new spouse. Healthy love means treating the step-children with the same, kindness, concern, consideration and respect you will your new spouse. For children to flourish they need to feel cared about!

6. Define what steps will be taken to resolve conflict in the blended family.

Once you’ve decided on a way to resolve conflict, discuss it with the children. Children can be cruel, especially towards one another. Let them know there are clear boundaries and the repercussions of any unacceptable behaviors.

7. Share expectations you both have as your role of step-parent.

It’s important to discuss this before marriage but, it may take time after the marriage for roles to be firmly established. What role each parent will play in the blended family will depend largely on that parent’s lifestyle. If the step-mom works her role will differ drastically from that of the step-mom who doesn’t work.

8. Make a list of the steps you both need to take that will nurture your relationship and your marriage.

If it wasn’t for the relationship you two have there wouldn’t be a blended family. Nurturing the bond between the two of you promotes a healthier blended family. Stay connected, don’t lose each other in the stress of everyday life and, above all, make time for time alone together.

9. Make strict guidelines when it comes to discipline of the children and what role each parent will play.

Your home needs to have well thought out boundaries when it comes to what behavior is and isn’t acceptable. And, as a step-parent, you need to be careful to avoid improper discipline of a step-child. It’s my opinion that the best way to keep down conflict over child discipline is to let each parent be in charge of disciplining their own child.

My mother used to say, wait until your father gets home, young lady.” She was passing the buck to him and letting herself off the hook. Not a good practice when dealing with family of origin discipline. Probably the best practice when dealing with discipline in a blended family.

What are your next steps? Putting into action the decisions you’ve made!

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