8 Tips to Bond with Your Stepchild and Create Positive Memories as a Stepfamily

8 Tips to Bond with Your Stepchild and Create Positive Memories as a Stepfamily

remarriage manualUNDERSTANDING YOUR STEPCHILD

Victoria was about 10 years old when her father, Ryan, married Lisa. In her view, she had little control over the events unfolding in her life, including her mother remarrying and starting a new family quickly.

Even though Lisa seemed nice enough and obviously really loved her dad, it still didn’t seem fair to Victoria that her life had to change so radically. When she met me for an interview, she was eager to share her perspectives as a stepchild.

In her mind, nothing would ever be the same after her parents’ split and she believes that parents ought to be more understanding about the stepchild’s plight.

Victoria reflects, “I wrote on my closet door, ‘January 18 was the worst day of my life’ — the day of my parents’ divorce. For me, divorce meant changes in where I lived, changes at school and with friends and having to spend time with new adults I didn’t particularly want to spend time with.

No one asked me if I wanted any of those things to happen, but they did, without my consent, and sometimes without warning.”

During our in-depth interview, Victoria speaks with anguish about both of her parents getting remarried around the same time. She explains, “I had a teacher tell me that if I loved my parents, I would accept their significant others because I’d want them to be happy. Inside I was screaming, ‘What about my happiness?’”

These are hard issues, and there are no easy fixes, but following these tips can help you weather the rough times and be a supportive stepparent.

8Tips to Bond with Your Stepchild and Create Positive Memories as a Stepfamily

  1. Proceed slowly. Take your time getting to know your stepchild. If you rush the relationship, it may satisfy your own unmet needs to be liked, but your approach could backfire. It’s important to realize that you’re not replacing your stepchild’s other parent; your role is more of a mentor. Never make your stepchild feel as if they have to choose between their biological parent and you. Over time, everyone in the recoupled family can create a positive culture together.
  2. Respect your spouse’s relationship with your stepchild. And don’t feel threatened by their close connection. Your partner will want to spend special time with their child, so try not to feel neglected by them. Make plans with your friends or with your own kids and graciously step out of their way.
  3. Develop a relationship with your stepchild through daily activities, hobbies, and shared interests to create positive memories. Strive to engage in activities as a family unit as much as possible so everyone has an opportunity to make a connection. Sharing interests in sports or the arts can help you develop a bond. Spending time together, even if it’s eating a meal or watching a movie, can help weave the fabric of stronger stepfamily relationships.
  4. Understand your stepchild’s view and have realistic expectations. First, it’s a given that your stepchild had a relationship with your spouse that existed before you came on the scene. They’re likely to see you as a rival to both of their parents. Even if your stepchild seems to like you well enough, they will sometimes prefer you weren’t in the picture and may express this by ignoring you or being indifferent or rude. Your remarriage effectively ends any hope of their mother and father reunifying and can reignite feelings of loss for your stepchild.
  5. Be sure to discuss roles and feelings about parenting with your spouse. Sometimes a biological parent may not understand a stepparent’s feelings of rejection. They may need you to tell them what they can do to support you. On the other hand, a biological parent may feel criticized and get defensive when their spouse offers unsolicited advice about parenting. Blending your sometimes-opposing styles of parenting and focusing on what you have in common will benefit all family members.
  6. Be courteous and respectful of your child’s and stepchild’s “other parent.” Keep in mind that it is likely that they would not have chosen to have their children live with them part-time. Stepparents need to stay out of interactions between biological parents working out holiday or vacation schedules, and biological parents need to be collaborative when planning family events.
  7. Realize that love often comes later. Even if you don’t hit it off with your stepchild, you can still develop a working relationship built on respect. If your stepchild does not warm up to you right away, that does not mean you have failed. Adopting realistic expectations can help you get through some rough spots. Be patient and try not to react with anger if your stepchild gives you the cold shoulder or is a little impolite sometimes.
  8. Cooperate with your partner, and talk, talk, talk. Most of the talking will take place away from your children or stepchildren, but be sure to have cordial conversations and informal discussions about family rules, roles, chores, and routines with the kids.

TERRY GASPARDMSW, LICSW is a licensed therapist and author. She is a contributor to the Huffington Post, TheGoodMenProject, The Gottman Institute Blog, and Marriage.com. Her new book, out now, is THE REMARRIAGE MANUAL: How to Make Everything Work Better the Second Time Around.

Follow Terry on Twitter, Facebook, and movingpastdivorce.com.

Excerpted from THE REMARRIAGE MANUAL by Terry Gaspard, MSW, LICSW. Credit Terry Gaspard. Reprinted with permission of Sounds True. All rights reserved.

The post 8 Tips to Bond with Your Stepchild and Create Positive Memories as a Stepfamily appeared first on Divorced Moms.



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Navigating a Blended Family: 8 Tips For The New Step-Parent

new step-parent

 

Blended families generally consist of a couple and their children from all relationships, and they’re becoming more common every year. According to the 2009 census, upwards of 16% of children live in a blended family, and upwards of 1,300 new blended families form every single day.

Going from being a single parent to being a part of a blended family can be challenging. Here are a few tips and tricks to help make that transition easier to navigate.

8 Tips For The New Step-Parent

1. Remember That It’s a Big Change

Becoming a blended family is a major change for everyone involved. It also ends up being more challenging for children than it is for adults, especially young ones who don’t have any context to help them understand what’s going on. Be patient with everyone and prepare for conflicts. Know how to defuse stressful situations before they get out of hand.

2. Talk About Parenting Styles Before You Move In

Discuss your parenting styles with your significant other before you cross that final bridge and bring everyone together. Figure out where you agree, where you differ and where you need to compromise, as well as who is responsible for things like doling out corrective action. Have that conversation as early as possible so you have plenty of time to iron out all the details.

3. Adapt As Necessary to Manage Age Differences

Different-age children will respond to becoming a blended family in various ways. Teenagers might rebel dramatically, while younger children might have tantrums or act out because they don’t understand what’s happening. All they know is that things are changing. You’ll need to be adaptable in response to this. Deal with issues related to age differences as they come up, and remember to be patient and communicate with both the children and your partner.

4. Be Open About Mental Health

People often consider mental health a taboo topic, but if you’re making your way toward becoming a blended family, you need to keep everyone’s mental wellness in mind. Start the conversation, especially with those who are old enough to use social media.

These sites, and the internet as a whole, are an integral part of our lives, but they can also be detrimental to our mental health. This factor is especially true if other things are happening in your life that could have adverse effects.

5. Don’t Make Your Children Choose

Ultimatums are your worst enemy when it comes to creating a successful blended family. Don’t make your kids choose, whether that means deciding between parents or where they want to live. If you do reach a point where decisions are necessary, have a conversation with your partner first to ensure you’re on the same page with parenting your collective children.

6. Be Ready to Co-Parent

When it comes to blended families, co-parenting doesn’t just mean the relationship between you and your partner. It means being ready to deal respectfully with any living ex-partner that may have had a parenting role in your children’s lives. Co-parenting is a part of any parent/step-parent relationship, regardless of the situation. Don’t make it a battle. Doing this will make your life harder, and it isn’t fair to any kids involved either.

7. Make It About Respect

When you’re bringing together multiple families, not everyone is going to like one another. Some people will butt heads, that’s part of life. While you can’t make everyone like each other, it should always be about respect. You can respect someone you don’t like and building a blended family on this principle is the best choice for everyone. Lead by example and practice this principle with others in every situation you encounter.

8. Take Care of Yourself Too

Caring for your kids and your partner’s kids are challenging. It’s easy to forget one of the most important rules, that you need to take care of yourself too. Don’t let putting everyone else first prevent you from practicing self-care.

Work with your partner so you can take a break, even if it’s something as simple as an uninterrupted bath or a solo trip to the grocery store. Caring for your mind and body allows you to be a better parent and partner, which is why it’s essential to avoid leaving your wellbeing on the back burner.

Be Patient With Each Other and Yourself

Coming together as a blended family is probably one of the most challenging yet rewarding things you will ever do. It’s a significant change that may be difficult for members of your growing family to adapt to, but it is becoming more common with each passing year.

If you find yourself in a situation where you’re going to become part of a blended family, be patient with yourself and your new relatives.

The post Navigating a Blended Family: 8 Tips For The New Step-Parent appeared first on Divorced Moms.

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6 Tips For Setting Boundaries With Your New Husband’s Irrational Ex

6 Tips For Setting Boundaries With Your New Husband’s Irrational Ex

6 Tips For Setting Boundaries With Your New Husband’s Irrational Ex 1

 

Kimberly had a difficult divorce. She split from her husband after finding out he had an emotional affair with a co-worker. It had been a long two years. Their three children had difficulty adjusting to their new home and a new school. But her kids had moved forward and Kimberly felt that the worst was behind her.

She had worked with a divorce coach to help her set career goals and help her achieve clarity on the next chapter of her life as a single mom. She had set some goals for herself and accomplished one of her lifetime goals, completing a triathlon. It was during this training that she met an older, handsome, athletic man named Charles. He too was divorced and had experienced betrayal. They fell in love and planned to marry the following year.

However, she was questioning the relationship because his ex was making their life hell. Charles’ ex-wife was intrusive and manipulative. She tried repeatedly to splinter the relationship between Charles and his son by saying hurtful things about him in front of their son or making snide comments about his parenting.

She sent texts that were nasty when she did communicate. Drop-offs and pickups were becoming more and more dreaded because Charles’ ex-wife always wanted to confront them in front of his son about the parenting agreement, her alimony, or whatever she was upset about that day. Charles’ ex-wife seemed to hold resentment about the fact that there was to be a new mother figure in her son’s life.

Charles’ son had told Kimberly several comments that his mom had made about her. She was surprised that she was hurt by these remarks. She had only met this woman twice and yet she seemed to hate her! In addition, the children all sensed the animosity, and the tension in the house was growing among everyone.

How could she and Charles build a future together when his ex was hellbent on destroying their family?

When it comes to families blending together, there are many issues to deal with. When you are the new woman and you enter a family that has split, it’s important to set up boundaries.

Setting Boundaries With Your New Husband’s Irrational Ex

1. Understand your own triggers.

When you find that she is really pushing your buttons- ask yourself why. What is it that is bothering you about what she says? You can work with a divorce coach or therapist to get to the underlying root of your feelings so you can move forward. When you understand what is behind your emotions, you can start to control them.

2. Develop strategies to stay in control of your emotions.

When you’ve identified your triggers, you can identify ways to handle your emotions. Meditation, exercise, and keeping a wholesome lifestyle will help you handle the stress that accompanies dealing with high-conflict people. Find healthy outlets, such as supportive friends or join a support group for families of divorce or stepmoms.

3. Communicate positively with (and around) your children.

Never badmouth your spouse’s ex near or around the children-even if you feel you might be justified. These are people that your children love. They will internalize any negative comments. Foster lots of open communication so that they will come to you to openly discuss their feelings. Ignore those comments that are harmful. Focus on the children and their well-being.

4. Technology is your friend.

If communication is difficult, there are many devices and apps that make it easy to keep the communication respectful. Family Wall is an app that allows you to post dates, reminders, schedules, and even pictures that relate to the children. It allows you to share information in a confidential platform. If you can’t physically be around his ex without it becoming confrontational, communicate only through texts, emails, or apps. Plus, you’ll have a record of the conversations.

5. Keep all communication concise and objective.

When communicating with a difficult ex-spouse, here are a few things to keep in mind to maintain respectful interactions. First, keep it short. Leave out unnecessary information. Stick to the facts and keep the tone cordial. Keep your opinions and emotions out of all interactions.

Use texts and emails whenever possible so that there is a written record of what was said and agreed upon. When you have to deal with a challenging person face-to-face, it may be a good idea to have a “script” in your head prepared ahead of time. If the other person tries to engage in a disrespectful manner, simply restate your scripted message in a calm tone and walk away.

6. Attend family therapy or counseling.

As you’re setting up a new family structure, consider setting up family counseling sessions. It’s important to have a neutral party that will help you discuss intense feelings and issues in a constructive way.  It’s important to include the children in the process so that they feel they have a voice through this.

So much is out of their control and they may feel overwhelmed if there are hostilities between the adults that they love. Choose a counselor that has a background working with blended families. One piece of advice that I give to my clients as they begin their journey together is to write out a mission statement together that will keep the family working towards the same goal.

After six months of family counseling, the tension had lessened and there was more laughter around the house. The children were getting along better. Kim continued working with her life coach to help her as she adjusted to her new role as a stepmom. She and Charles began discussing the plans for their wedding and were feeling secure in their commitment to each other.

The post 6 Tips For Setting Boundaries With Your New Husband’s Irrational Ex appeared first on Divorced Moms.

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5 Travel Tips for Blended Families

5 Travel Tips for Blended Families

Traveling with a blended family can be difficult, but it doesn’t have to be. Below are 5 tips to help relieve the stress of blended family travel.

The post 5 Travel Tips for Blended Families appeared first on Divorce Magazine.

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4 Tips For Helping Your Kids Adjust To Blended Family Life

blended family life

 

According to statistics, there are many more stepfamilies today than there were a decade ago. And the number is projected to grow steadily. It is, therefore, essential for you as the mom in a blended family to help the children make necessary adjustments because such situations hit kids the hardest.

Below are a few ways you can help the kids make the adjustments required for their new, blended way of life.

Helping Your Kids Adjust To Blended Family Life

Explain the unique situation to the kids

As mentioned earlier, kids are the most affected when their parents either die or get divorced. Therefore, it would be a good idea for you as the mom to make ample time and talk to the kids involved. Acknowledge the difficulties they are going through and give them a pat on the back for being so brave. Then assure them by promising to be with them every step of the way.

Knowing that they have a strong and understanding mom who is ready to help will make the adjustment much easier for the kids, whether they’re yours or not.

Acknowledge their losses and help them through it

Blended families come as a result of deaths, divorces, or nasty breakups. Once again, the kids are usually hit the hardest when they lose a parent (or both their parents). The latter explains why kids are often very reluctant to accept blended families. As a caring mother, or stepmother, acknowledging their pain and at the same time helping them through it will make the transition much easier for the kids.

Helping kids through their pain is easier said than done. Some kids will outright disrespect you or throwing nasty tantrums in the name of coping with their new situation. If the latter happens, then it would be in your best interest to seek professional help. Once you’ve helped the kids overcome their pain, they’ll gradually start warming up to the idea of a blended family.

Nurture existing relationships

Just because you’ve forged a new, complicated relationship doesn’t mean death to the old ties that existed before the blended family. Therefore, it would be a good idea for you and your children to keep your old family traditions. If you used to watch movies or go bike riding once a month, stick to doing that because it will only make the transition gradual and as natural as possible.

You can also encourage your new man to do the same with his kids since they need help as well. Afterward, you can slowly create and introduce new family traditions with the blended family without getting rid of the old ones. Feel free to set your nice alarm panel to remind you of the times you and your kids ought to be doing your usual activities.

Encourage respect

Respect is the glue that holds together all kinds of relationships. And since blended families happen to be complex relationship structures, the more you have to emphasize respect since everything can fall apart so easily. You can start by letting the kids know the importance of respecting each other’s boundaries as well as privacy. There should be consequences if anyone doesn’t recognize anyone in the new family setting.

A final word

Being a member of a blended family can be challenging, especially if there are more kids involved. Therefore, it would be in your best interest to try and approach the situation with a lot of care. Try listening to the kids and letting them know you’ll be there for them every step of the way. If it gets a bit difficult, then don’t hesitate to seek outside help.

Lastly, it’s essential to always remember it gets worse before getting better. Once the children know that the new blended system is meant for them to thrive, they’ll gradually warm up to the idea.

The post 4 Tips For Helping Your Kids Adjust To Blended Family Life appeared first on Divorced Moms.

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Becca’s Story: A Message Of Hope And Love On Mother’s Day For All Single Moms

a message of hope on mother's day

Courtesy of Brooke Kelly Photography

We have all the odds against us, but we are going to beat those odds.

 

“Four years ago, my life fell apart. I was married with a 3-year-old little girl, and we lived in an adorable gated neighborhood in the suburbs, just 4 miles inland from Jacksonville Beach, Florida. I could cross highway A1A at work and eat lunch on the beach. My Jeep always had sand and seashells in it.

I felt so fortunate to have this opportunity in life after working my way through nursing school, and eventually finishing grad school with a newborn. I finally had my dream job as a pediatric nurse practitioner. My career took me to Nashville, Kansas City, and that’s where we ended up on the beach. Sounds like an amazing adventure, right? Well, little did I know, my husband was living a double life and my world was going to come crashing down on me very soon.

I was on my way home from work on a Monday afternoon, just 2 days after my daughter’s luau birthday party, and I found out we had been evicted. All of our belongings were thrown out like trash, even her new birthday presents. I wasn’t allowed back in our home, and I was told the locks had been changed.

I felt sick and like I had no control, like I had been stabbed over and over and I was moving too slow to stop the bleeding. After questioning my husband and our landlord, I discovered that we were 3 months behind on rent and other bills, despite the fact that I was shelling out money to him for our living expenses. He couldn’t answer where the money was going, but all of a sudden, things made sense. His erratic sleep habits, weight loss, running errands all the time. He always had somewhere to go and never wanted us to tag along.

I did some digging and found empty pill bottles and many empty beer cans in his car. The car that drove my child to daycare. The car that always parked in the guest parking spaces in our neighborhood instead of the driveway. I also found several years worth of MY mail in his trunk. He had been keeping random letters from collection agencies, bills, and birthday cards from me for YEARS. Why did he keep all these secrets from me?

Confused, hurt, and angry were my only emotions for the next few days.

I was running on fumes and couldn’t eat or sleep. I felt so stupid for not seeing the signs. I had been so busy with raising a child and building my practice at work. I was married to a drug addict who abandoned us in a Target parking lot 4 miles from the beach.

He had been lying to me for YEARS, and my credit was unfortunately ruined because of it. I had no idea how easy it was to open credit cards and take out personal loans in your spouse’s name. I thought I had stayed on top of my bills but had no idea he was secretly hiding things from me over the course of our 7-year marriage.

I later found out that he had another daughter! He lied about being in the Marine Corps, he lied about his education and his job. I had been living nothing but lies for almost a decade of my life! I thought to myself, ‘How could life be so cruel? How could I be so dumb?’

That first night living in a hotel, I made a Walmart run at 8 p.m. to get clothes and toiletries for us to survive the next few days while I planned my next move. I washed clothes in a hotel sink. My daughter and I tried to make the best of our ‘vacation’ as I called it, while I cried over the things we had lost, wondering how in the world I would sort through this mess. My sweet baby girl lost everything, and we had no support there.

Our closest family was in Tennessee, about 10 hours away, and my soon-to-be-ex-husband left us alone to fend for ourselves without showing any remorse. At night, I would just think of all the things we had lost. I cried silently at night, in the shower or while I was driving. I missed my belongings, and I missed the part of my heart that was stolen. I could never get those things back.

I cried for my daughter because she didn’t deserve this as part of her story. I worked so hard to get where I was, career-wise, and everything was just ripped away. Why couldn’t I just go back and change things sooner? He was a con artist, and I got duped.

I tried to smile through the pain and be strong for my daughter.

I tucked my tail, hung my head, and began my journey home. At 32 years old, I moved back into my old bedroom with a 3-year-old. I was so ashamed of myself. I left the beach and moved back to crummy ole Tennessee. To make things worse, it was SNOWING when we moved back. It was March and snowing in Tennessee. How could this situation get ANY worse?!

My daughter, on the other hand, was thrilled to make snow angels and ride in a makeshift sled with grandma and grandpa. My parents were ecstatic to let us come home. My daughter had her own playroom and slept with mama every night. (Fortunately, my parents keep EVERYTHING. Her playroom was like taking a peek back into my childhood. We’re talking original Cabbage Patch dolls, a Little Tykes kitchen from 1985, y’all. It was glorious!)

Since I had to work diligently on getting my nursing licenses in order, I wasn’t able to apply for any nursing jobs for the next few weeks. My plan was to take an assignment as a travel nurse to save up some money and pay off these old bills that I recently discovered. In the meantime, my daughter and I were going to the gym and the park almost daily.

My heart was bruised, and I needed to slowly put my life back together. I needed to show my daughter that this was our new normal and that living with grandma and grandpa would be a fun adventure. I was trying to convince myself of this too.

A Message Of Hope And Love On Mother’s Day For All Single Moms

I desperately needed to find some friends, but I had no idea where to even start.

I finally texted an old guy friend from high school (actually, I think I went down my Facebook list and sent messages to everyone in town. I was THAT desperate for adult interaction). I jokingly asked if he knew any hot single dads. This wasn’t even relevant in our conversation, just a random thought that popped in my head. To my surprise, he said yes and immediately gave me a name.

Good heavens, was I ready for this? I was SO newly divorced, but hey, I needed friends and I wasn’t going to pass up an opportunity to get out of my parents’ house to meet people. My Facebook detective brain got to work. This single dad had a daughter, who appeared to be the same age as mine. After showing my mom his Facebook picture with his daughter, she screamed, ‘I KNOW THAT LITTLE GIRL!’

Come to find out, his ex-wife’s sister does my mom’s hair, and my mom had seen pictures of this little blonde girl. We live in a big city, so this is a rare occurrence. My mom wanted some juicy gossip, so she pushed me to meet him. (If she thought meeting a stranger was OK, then surely it was fine, right?!) I sent this random guy a Facebook message, and he answered back. I gave him my number and HE. CALLED. ME. So, awkwardly, I answered the phone.

He said he wanted to talk. Like, with his voice. What in the 1990s was going on?! We talked all night just like teenagers. I think it was 2 am when we finally hung up. Maybe it was sleep deprivation, but I felt like one tiny piece of my heart was placed back.

Two days later, we met for lunch. I was a little rusty on appropriate first date clothing, and I was raiding my mom’s closet for most of my attire since I was just starting to rebuild my life and wardrobe. I happened to have a job interview that day, so I wore some comfortable black flats and a pair of my mom’s black dress slacks. Yup, slacks. With pleats down the front. I also wore this shirt I lovingly call ‘the curtain shirt’. This was my 1st first date since I met my ex-husband, 10 years earlier.

He was on his lunch break, so he showed up wearing police gear and a gun on his hip. I was intimidated at first because he is a big dude with a beard and a lot of tattoos, and again, this was my first date in a decade. I am a nurse practitioner and I had never had any type of personal interaction with a police officer in my whole entire life. Now I was on a date with one!

He insisted we take a selfie that day to send to Brian, the guy that introduced us.

We went to the Bayou and sat on the patio. I don’t remember one thing we said during the entire date because I was nervous and trying not to make a mess. I ordered a shrimp po’boy (I couldn’t have ordered something messier, right?) and I don’t even remember if I ate half of it.

I just remember looking at him and getting butterflies. He had the prettiest hazel eyes and I had never dated anyone with a beard, so I’m sure I stared at it. When we were done eating, he walked me to my Jeep and gave me a hug.

Becca’s Story: A Message Of Hope And Love On Mother’s Day For All Single Moms 2

Courtesy of Becca Goedecke

After lunch, I was on cloud nine. I had the biggest grin all day, and I was smitten. I could not stop thinking about him! Was I ready for this? I thought, ‘There was no way he could be interested.’ After all, I was just damaged goods. With my awful credit and all the baggage I had, surely this guy would just move on and there was no reason to get my hopes up. I just couldn’t stop thinking about him, but I definitely wasn’t ready to jump into a relationship.

To my surprise, he called me that night. (What is up with this guy? Why can’t he just text?) We had our second date on Friday night, and our first kiss. I knew at that time this was something special. However, I wasn’t quite ready to trust him, and I certainly didn’t want my tender heart to be yanked out of my chest again.

I saw him again on Sunday, which happened to be Easter. We decided to let our girls meet each other that afternoon. My daughter needed some friends too, and they became instant best friends. We looked at them playing, and then looked at each other. Huh, these girls could be twins. I could feel my heart slowly starting to grow back together.

Becca’s Story: A Message Of Hope And Love On Mother’s Day For All Single Moms 3

Courtesy of Becca Goedecke

On Mother’s Day, he told me he loved me.

I knew I was falling hard and fast. When you know, you know. But, I wasn’t quite ready to let my guard down. He gave me a key to his house and told me to ‘snoop away’ while he was at work. And…I did just that. I went through every piece of paper in that house, and I couldn’t find anything. He always left his phone unlocked, his email pulled up on his laptop, he was an open book. He did not have a thing to hide.

He showed me his credit score, his bank account, and his up-to-date mortgage payments. He was a genuine, honest, open, loving person. I was damaged goods with a credit score of 300 and a deadbeat ex-husband. But, for some reason, this guy loved me and adored my daughter. I was slowly letting him into my heart and he was helping me rebuild, piece by piece. I certainly didn’t need to be saved by anyone, but he swooped in and saved me.

We discussed moving in together, but I just wasn’t sure. Things were still new to me, and I just had to protect myself and my child. I couldn’t move her again if things weren’t going to work out with us. And plus, staying in Tennessee wasn’t part of our plan. This was supposed to be just a pause in our story. Or so I thought.

He asked me to be his forever wife.

We were sitting on the couch one morning in June before he went to work, and he pulled out the biggest sapphire ring I had ever seen. He asked me to be his forever wife, while my daughter watched E.T. and clapped for us. At that moment, I knew my intent to move out of Tennessee just wasn’t part of the plan right now. Something brought me back home and love was going to keep me there.

My daughter and I moved into his 3-bedroom, 2-bath bachelor pad, which he insisted that we call OUR house. He had almost no furniture and nothing on the walls, so he told me to ‘go nuts’ with it. I had so much fun starting over from scratch. Losing all of my belongings had been so terribly painful, and I got a lump in my throat when I thought about my things just being tossed out like trash.

I shed millions of tears over the things I would never get back. However, it ended up being a blessing in disguise. I had a blank slate so that we could start OUR home. Funny how life works out sometimes.

We talked about getting married just to make things official, and I started researching courthouse weddings. I knew we needed a photographer to capture our special day, so I emailed a husband/wife team to check their availability. Well, they had 1 available date for a wedding. August 15. Wow. This was less than 2 months away and my heart skipped a beat knowing this was actually happening. I called Steven and asked him what he was doing on Saturday, August 15. He said, ‘Marrying you.’ That was all I needed to hear in order to make this happen.

We decided to elope on August 15, 2015, which was about 4 months after our first date.

I could not believe how my life had changed in those few months. I survived a failed marriage to a con-artist, moved back in with my parents as a single mom, and was now planning my wedding.

The plan was to keep our marriage a secret until our Halloween Party, and then surprise everyone by dressing as a bride and groom and showing off our wedding pictures. However, Steven refused to take off his wedding band and we just couldn’t keep it a secret longer than 2 weeks.

We got ready for our special day in a hotel room at the Peabody and walked to Court Square Park where a family friend performed the ceremony. Our little blonde girls were the flower girls and the bridesmaids. My new husband and I danced to our song playing on his phone in his shirt pocket. ‘Fall Into You’ by Brantley Gilbert. Yes, it’s cliché that we live in Tennessee and danced to a country song, but have you heard it?!

Becca’s Story: A Message Of Hope And Love On Mother’s Day For All Single Moms 4

Courtesy The Kennys Photography

The girls went home with my new mother-in-law for a slumber party so we could spend our first night as a married couple, kid-free. We had an amazing dinner, laughed over drinks in the Peabody lobby, and I could not wipe the smile off my face. This was not a dream, but my real life. The entire day was perfect.

We eventually bought a bigger house with a pool, and then right after my 35th birthday in 2017, we found out that we would be adding an ‘ours’ to the mix. We had our 3rd daughter, Junebug, and completed our family. We had our little blonde bookends, and this brown-eyed baby girl is the perfect caboose.

Becca’s Story: A Message Of Hope And Love On Mother’s Day For All Single Moms 5

Courtesy of Becca Goedecke

Some people will tell you that our marriage is doomed. We both have extremely stressful jobs (his more than mine). We are both divorced and got married 4 months after our first date. We both have ex-spouse drama and are currently involved in a custody battle (I am winning). We have all the odds against us, but we are going to beat those odds.

People are always curious to hear our story, so we just look at each other and smile. Usually, our story goes, ‘We met on a blind date and got married 4 months later.’ In the end, love wins.”

Becca’s Story: A Message Of Hope And Love On Mother’s Day For All Single Moms 6

Courtesy of Becca Goedecke

The post Becca’s Story: A Message Of Hope And Love On Mother’s Day For All Single Moms appeared first on Divorced Moms.

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blending families

Lessons Learned While Blending Families

blending families

 

There is no shortage of challenges awaiting those of us who have gone through divorce and still refuse to give up on love. If, like me, you are fortunate enough to find the love of your dreams, an entirely new set of challenges probably awaits you. If you and/or your beloved already have children, you will have to figure out how, when, and perhaps even if you can blend your new partner into your existing family.

Can we Really Expect Love to Conquer All When Blending Families?

When Juli’s and my love was unexpectedly revealed four years ago, we found ourselves in a new world of ease and opportunity. Old assumptions and restrictions were replaced with limitless possibilities that required us to reconsider nearly every aspect of our lives. Our anticipated timetables for entering into new, committed relationships no longer made sense within the context of this love.

We were sure that we were meant to be together – NOW. We felt certain that, just as we had mysteriously attracted each other, we would call forth the circumstances and conditions necessary to create and share one home for our singular love.

But not so fast… the seemingly limitless power of our love was no match for the on-the-ground realities of what it would take to blend our children and our households into a stable, supportive, and emotionally healthy whole.

While our love created a universe all our own, Juli and I also shared universes with our children, who could not be expected to grasp (let alone welcome) this new love and this new person who had so powerfully and unexpectedly swooped into their parent’s life.

Being apart from each other was unthinkable and at times almost unbearable, but any time we tried to accelerate the process of integration, we only seemed to generate more resentment and resistance. We loved each other and we loved our children, and we could not jam them all together into the cohesive whole we so desperately desired.

Great Beginnings, Happy Endings

Four years later, Juli, her children, and I are sharing a home as a family and enjoy a life filled with laughter and connectivity (my own daughter is still finding her place in our family and in the world). My stepdaughter, who sobbed uncontrollably when Juli told her about me because she didn’t want to share her mother’s love, now bounds into my office as soon as she gets home from school, eager to commune, connect, and commingle our experiences of the day.

My stepson affectionately calls me “Troll,” hounds me daily to take him to play basketball and matches me set for set with weights at the gym. And my beloved wife revels in the family she always wanted — and now has — as we have spread and shared our love beyond ourselves to those we love the most.

Lessons Learned When Blending Families

Love is always accompanied by its share of mysteries, and we can never hope to know all of the factors that contributed to my successful integration into Juli’s family. But we can share and learn from each other’s experiences. To that end, I would offer these three keys to our success that Juli and I have identified:

  • Confidence in our commitment
  • The contagion of our love
  • Unyielding patience

I will be discussing each of these success factors in upcoming blogs beginning with confidence in our commitment. I invite you to share these posts with any of your friends who may be facing this often daunting challenge of bringing new love into existing family structures.  And remember, you are in this situation because you have an “embarrassment of riches,” an abundance of love for both partner and children.  And this love wants nothing more than to express itself in fullness and unity within a single happy household.

The post Lessons Learned While Blending Families appeared first on Divorced Moms.

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before blending your family

9 Things To Discuss Before Blending Your Family

before blending your family

 

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

Blank Topics The Two Of You Should Talk About Before Blending Your Family:

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 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.

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 with 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 the 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 the 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 the 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!

The post 9 Things To Discuss Before Blending Your Family appeared first on Divorced Moms.

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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.

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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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