Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Baby Steps

baby steps, stepmom advice, stepmom, blended family, step family, blended families
Sometimes taking baby steps towards fixing broken relationships with your step kids are a good thing.  Take whatever you can get to restore peace within a blended family.  This past holiday I was filled with a lot of anxiety unsure of how my stepchildren would treat me.  As many of you may know, my stepchildren decided in June of 2013 that they no longer want anything to do with me or my children so I only see them on special occasions or holidays.  This has been very hard on me and my children, I feel like I have missed so much of their lives and it has been hard emotionally on me.  So I was very nervous about this past Christmas Eve and how it would go since last year on Christmas Eve, they ignored me and pretended I didn’t exist.  This Christmas Eve, I am happy to say it went smoothly and much differently in a very good way.  They both talked to me several times and even got me a Christmas gift and thanked me for their gifts too.  I was pleasantly surprised and yet totally guarded and I wasn’t really myself with them because it’s hard to go this long without having a relationship with them, and then just act like we didn’t miss anything with one another. 

I did pray a lot before we picked them up. Just being able to drive in the same vehicle over to my mother in law’s house was also a good sign because normally they have their mother drive them over to the house and pick them up afterward. The car ride to my mother in laws house was a little uneasy at first but then went well.  Then when we got to my mother in laws house things only got better from there. It felt like no matter what room I sat in, my stepdaughter would come in that room and find a way to join in the conversation.  It was like she was trying to find out what she has missed since she’s not been in my life and wanted to know what was going on.  A few times, it was just us talking 1:1 and it really felt like she was really trying to be herself around me.  When I was listening to my stepdaughter talks to me I realized that she has a lot of growing up to do still.  And her going to counseling now and living in another state to go to college away from her mother is really going to help her come into her own person. I realized that when we face many sides of stepfamily life openly, we will begin to experience the calm that comes with trusting of our own acknowledging and knowing our own wisdom. Sue Patton Thoele states that “During difficult times we can choose to embrace the kids either energetically or from a distance, rather than “up close and personal””.  

Even though during the time we were talking a little voice inside of me was saying that she’s only talking to you to have things to talk to her mother about me.  I tried to not let that negative voice inside of my head take over all of my thoughts and I tried to think positive about her wanting to talk to me.  By the end of the night when we went to drop them off at their mother’s house, they both said bye and thank you for their gifts again. It felt really good to feel a part of their lives again even if it was just one night, it felt great not to be an outsider.  I am hoping it’s a result of my stepdaughter being in counseling and slowly coming around but it’s really hard to say.



My whole point of this post today is to encourage other stepmoms who have distant or non-existent relationships with their stepchildren to say it’s never too late, don’t give up and keep praying and hoping that things will turn around.  Keep an open mind and an open heart towards them.  Even though in my situation, it is only baby steps towards the right direction, I will take any baby steps at this point because I want things to change and get better.  I refuse to give up on my stepchildren because I do still love them and want to be a part of their lives in any way they let me.  Ultimately every blended family and can survive and thrive once their hearts and minds are open again. Don’t live your life closed off towards them; you have to give a little in order to get a little in return.  The highlight of my night besides having good interaction with my stepchildren was at the end of the night, I asked one of my daughters if she enjoyed seeing her stepsister. And she said, “Even though I didn’t get a gift from her for Christmas, the gift was just being able to see her and my stepbrother, I missed them a lot”.  Hearing her say that regardless of how they have treated her in the past really touched me. Sometimes a gift for Christmas isn’t the actual material gift that is meaningful but just being able to see one another and communicate with one another is what is important at Christmas time.
Do you have a distant relationship with one of your children or stepchildren? If so, don’t give up! If you get small baby steps, take them and appreciate them.


References:
Sue Pattron Thoele (2013). The Courage to be a Stepmom. Finding your Place without losing yourself. 

Baby Steps Image was found on: http://healtheconnect.bannerhealth.com/2014/08/getting-back-into-a-regular-exercise-regimenwith-5-baby-steps/
Second Image was found on: http://thepositivetumbler.tumblr.com/post/121406993087/baby-steps-quote-quotes-inspiring
Third Image was found on: 
http://www.stepawayfromthecake.com/2014_03_30_archive.html
Fourth Image was found on: http://msmoem.com/2014/quotes/motivational-quotes/
Fifth Image was found on: http://healthuppy.com/inspiring-quotes-fitness-morale/

Monday, December 21, 2015

Pamper Yourself

This post contains affiliate links so I can continue to bring you great fashion! #stitchfix
This post contains affiliate links to help pamper yourself! #stitchfix
If you're like me, you rarely think of yourself and spend most of your time and money on your children, stepchildren, and husband making sure all of their needs are met. We need to think of ourselves more often and take care of our appearance, buy some new clothes, get our hair done, get a manicure and pedicure.  All of these things really help boost our self-esteem and make us feel great.  Here's one thing I have been doing for the past year, it's called Stitch Fix. What is Stitch Fix?  It is your own personal fashion stylist. Stitch Fix is a fashion stylist company that has personal stylists that pick 5 pieces of clothing or accessories that match your style profile. There is a $20.00 styling fee that goes towards the items you purchase from your box of items. The clothes they have are jackets, dresses, pants, jeans, tops, sweaters, cardigans, blouses, and skirts.  The accessories consist of purses, jewelry, scarves and they just recently added shoes. It's a lot of fun to get a box of clothes in the mail that are new. It's great to be able to try on the clothes in the comfort of your own home.  When you get your box in the mail, you have 3 business days to decide what you want to keep or what you want to send back.  If you decide that nothing is for you, then it only cost you $20.00 for the styling fee.  Every box includes a prepaid envelope to send the clothes that you don't want back to the company. There is a 25% discount if you buy all 5 items in the box. The clothes you get are designer quality and you pick your own budget when you fill out your style profile online.
Now you know about Stitch Fix, you can try it out by clicking on this link: https://www.stitchfix.com/referral/4390166. Attention Men, looking for something different for your loved one, you can surprise your significant other by getting her a gift card to try out the services too.

Here's what I got in my most recent fix, which by the way, this is my 7th Fix from Stitch Fix.

Item 1: Kut From The Kloth - Leland Dress. It is a burgundy colored dress with beautiful lace on the outside and a little sheer at the top. The dress is really soft. I just love how it fits on me. My husband especially loved the dress on me so much that he said to keep it and he will take me somewhere special to wear the dress. In this picture, I wore the dress with black low heels, but I bet you could wear this dress with bone colored heels, even boots.  I just fell in love with this dress before I even put it on.



Item 2: Pixley - Coburn Double Layer Blouse. At first, I wasn't sure about this when I saw it.  When I tried it on, I absolutely loved it and the patterned lace on it is soft and nice. It's not itchy at all. I don't think Stitch Fix has anything itchy. I did end up keeping this blouse because it looked really good with the cardigan.

Item 3: Pixley - Willow Draped Cardigan. I love the colors on this cardigan since I really like black and gray a lot. The cardigan is soft and it flows really nice. Perfect to wear with leggings or skinny jeans with boots. I wore the Coburn Double Layer Blouse under it, but I am sure you could wear a black or gray cami underneath it. I ended up keeping the cardigan because I have nothing like this in my closet and I can definitely see me wearing it a lot.

Item 4: Look by M - Tahoe Flannel Print Infinity Scarf. It is so soft and beautiful. It is 100% acrylic and it has burgundy, light pink, tan colors in it. I did end up returning it, only because I didn't have anything to wear with it. But I really loved it a lot.

Item 5: THML - Noelli Button Back Detail Pullover Sweater. This sweater is navy and white striped and it is really soft and it's a light sweater. The only thing that bothered me about the sweater was that it had buttons on the back of it. I just found it odd and it made me feel like I was wearing the sweater backward. So I ended up returning this sweater because it just wasn't going to work for me.


Overall, I am pretty happy with the box I got, even though I returned two items. I look forward to my next Fix Box as they call it. It can get addicting, but it is so much fun getting something new. I try to do it every month to treat myself to something new to wear. I rarely go shopping for clothes that much anymore, it's really nice to have a service that picks out clothes for you to try that can be different from what you normally wear or just your style. Try doing something for you and give it a try, you won't regret it. Here's the link: https://www.stitchfix.com/referral/4390166

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Thursday, December 17, 2015

Who can be "My Person"

Who to confide in, stepmom advice, stepmom, blended family, my person, step family
Everyone always needs someone, sometimes. Even more so, when you are a Stepmom trying to avoid being titled “The wicked Stepmother” like in the movie Cinderella. What is hard for us Stepmoms to know is who can we confide in? Who can we pour out our feelings to? How do we know they are the right person? Who can we call “my person” too?  Should it be our husbands? Should it be our family? Should it be our best friends we have right now? All of these questions are hard to answer, but I will give you answers to them shortly.
When I first became involved in my husband’s life I struggled with figuring out who can I talk too? Because in the first year of my marriage it was very hard being a Stepmom and my family just couldn’t relate to how I was feeling and I couldn’t really turn to them either. When I turned to my family in the past, they would hold grudges on the current husband I was married to and ended up hating my spouse, so I just learned that I couldn’t confide in them with what I was going through.  I relied mostly on my best friend or my husband even though my best friend couldn’t really relate to what I was going through since she’s never been a Stepmom before but she did try. I couldn’t really talk to my husband about things since it was about his children and I didn’t want to hurt him or put him in an awkward place, where he had to take sides.  I felt so torn between the love I have for my husband and the unaccepted feeling I would get from my stepdaughter.  I searched for help from my church, then on the internet looking for Stepmom discussion forums. I didn’t have luck there. Then 3 years into my marriage, I started seeing a therapist and that really helped me tremendously. Then I also started a new friendship which eventually became “my person” to go too.  

What a difference it has made in my life.  Going to therapy really opened my eyes and I purchased a lot of Stepmom books which I read and reread over and over again.  Then in this past year, I found Stepmom groups that I could feel like I am not alone in this anymore.  It really helps to join a group.  Then I started my own Stepmom group on Facebook. I feel so much stronger now and I feel like the ladies/fellow Stepmoms of the group have my back and are my biggest cheerleaders.  If you feel like you’re alone, join a Stepmom group. There are a lot of Stepmoms out there that you can confide in and who can support, encourage, uplift you and can give you great advice, who can cry with you if and when you need it too. You might even find a Stepmom that has gone through the same issue you are facing and can give you great advice as to how to handle it. Don’t do this alone, join a Stepmom group today, you have nothing to lose but a lot to gain, you won’t regret it. It will only make you stronger.  My stepmom group on Facebook is called: “Stepmoms Are Us”, there are also other ones out there too.  If you tend to be a private person then seeking therapy is probably best for you. But make sure you find a therapist that specializes in blended families.

Key Reasons to join a Stepmom Group:
  • To get encouragement
  • To get advice
  • To learn different ways on how to handle something you may be going through
  • To create long lasting friendships with other Stepmoms that are out there
  • To grow spiritually

As far as turning to family for help, sometimes it’s not a good decision because sometimes it’s hard for them to relate to what you are struggling with and they tend to pick sides. Not to mention they tend to start resenting your spouse or stepchildren.  If your family can be that rock for you and can listen without passing judgement or hating your spouse and stepchildren, then go for it.
Confiding in our husbands about everything is good, but when it concerns feelings that may be hard to hear because it relates to their children, then its best to find someone else to confide in. Believe me, if you do this it can deeply hurt them and makes them feel like you hate their children.  Of course talk to your husbands about everything and anything else that goes on in your life, but if it concerns their children, you may want to talk to someone else about it.
When trying to do all of this on your own, you can get suppressed or repressed feelings that may tend to grow in our deep recesses of our minds which could become unmanageable and unpredictable that if we don’t find someone to pour out too.  We will sometimes get intense feelings that can scare us initially because we feel guilty for feeling that way.  It can really help us see our feelings more clearly when we reveal our feelings to someone who will not judge or criticize our feelings.  As Sue Patton Thoele states "The best way out is always through".  

We can move through our feelings the best way by:

  • Face our true feelings
  • Affirm our feelings through acceptance and sharing
  • Act on and express our feelings constructively
  • Allow our feelings to transform and transmute
  • Learn the lessons our feelings offer
(Sue Patton Thoele; 2013)

Sharing our feelings with someone can release the feeling of isolation and the loneliness that we often get from keeping everything inside of us.  Every Stepmom needs an outlet and a safe person or place to let it go.
Everyone needs a person to call their “person”. I watch the show called: Greys Anatomy and in this show Meredith Grey tells her best friend Christina that “You’re my person”.  What that means is Meredith Grey can turn to Christina about everything and anything, she can be herself and be real with her and that Christina wouldn’t judge, criticize, or shame her.  Find your person or group of person’s you can be real with. You don’t have to be alone through this journey, there are others that can help guide you and be your #1 Cheerleader because everyone needs someone sometime.

References:
Sue Patton Thoele (2013). The courage to be a Stepmom. Finding your place without losing Yourself. 

Monday, December 14, 2015

The Tongue

the tongue, blended family, step family, stepmom advice, step mom, step mothers
This is a hard one for me to talk about because the struggle is real and I struggle with this every day.  Do you often say things you didn’t mean to say but said it out of anger? In another word, as I would like to say “Thinking before speaking” is a hard pill to swallow. It all comes down to this; you have to decide “Do you want to be right or married”? When your husband says something negative about his own children, you just need to listen, do not add your own thoughts or observations to the conversation because it may backfire on you.  You might think you have permission to speak freely with your husband about his children, but you really don’t and your only digging yourself into a hole that you cannot get out of.  Try to zip the lip and find the control with that tongue. If you really need to share it, share it with a friend, confide it with them rather than your husband.  
Just recently, my husband called my stepdaughter and left a message for her and she didn’t return his call until five days later and it was just about what she wanted for Christmas and her list of wants. That really bugged me. It made me feel like that we are only good enough to be called when you want something from us.  Unfortunately, I opened my mouth and said that to my husband and he, of course, said he doesn’t think she’s just using us for Christmas gifts.  Then I realized what I had said and quickly shut my mouth and walked away. Then I tried to cool myself down before I said anything else that I might regret next.  Ultimately we have to ask ourselves these three questions before speaking about a concern or issue we have with our stepchildren.
  1. Is it kind?
  2. Is it true?
  3. Is it necessary?
If the answer is yes then talk to your husband, if the answer is no to any of these questions than control our tongue and stop and walk away.  We sometimes need to choose peace over being right. We need to let go of our desires to be right all the time and just keep things to ourselves or share it with our friends, but we instead need to choose peace.
Us stepmoms need to learn when to speak or when not to speak.  “Let your conversations be always full of grace” Colossians 4:6.  Karen Ehman said, “When we choose to lace our words with grace healing happens”. In proverbs 16:24 it says “Gracious words are a honey comb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones”.  We always have to resist the urge to lash out in anger and instead control our tongues.  We need to learn how to let go of us trying to prove our point and instead choose to do the right thing and love the other person with words of full of grace, positivity and love.  When our stepchildren say something to us that makes our blood boil with anger, we need to pause to recalculate how we are going to respond; it may even be best to not respond at all and just walk away.  If we do choose to find words of grace to say what’s on your mind.  Don’t choose the first thing that comes to our minds because it’s usually in anger.  Sometimes we just have to face the fact that we are going to have people in our lives that we don’t mix well with and it’s like oil and water they don’t mix.  We just need to choose grace over a bitter tongue.  There is a book that I have read that I totally recommend for anyone that doesn’t have control of “The Tongue” it is called: “Keep it Shut” by Karen Ehman.  It’s a wonderful book and it has really opened my eyes to how I sometimes have problems with controlling what I say to others.

Here are some tips for your tongue:
  • Be Willing to Listen to others right away
  • Don’t be in a hurry to speak or voice our opinions.
  • Be Patient. Do not flip your lid.
  • Think before you Speak.
  • Do not do or say anything wicked or immoral
  • Don’t say something that will leave a forever scar just because you are temporary ticked off.
  • Remember the 3 questions. Is it kind? Is it true? Is it necessary?
  • Think about whom we are speaking to but think about what they may be dealing with at the time and how your news may affect them.
  • Check your motives and your heart before sharing any good news.
  • Remember that one lie leads to multiple lies after just one lie, so don’t speak a lie.
  • Watch your words even in the workplace because people are watching what you say.
  • Be nice to your enemies, kill them with kindness.
  • Speak words that would honor God and not what someone else wants to hear.
  • Our words should always be delivered with respect, kindness, and grace.
  • Our words are powerful and they always have consequences.
  • Need to choose to grant favor with our words or to love someone through our words.
  • Spend time reading the ten scriptures (below) to help you.

Here are three warnings I have read in the past that really helped me:
  • Don’t speak too much.
  • Don’t speak too soon.
  • Don’t speak without first listening and then give the advice. Or Don’t speak at all.(Karen Ehman; 2015)

For those of us who are spiritual, here are ten verses to help with watching our words
  • Though you probe my heart though you examine me at night and test me, you will find that I have planned no evil; my mouth has not transgressed. Psalm 17:3
  • Before a word is on my tongue, you, Lord, know it completely. Psalm 139:4
  • Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Ephesians 4:29
  • Set a guard over my mouth, Lord; Keep watch over the door of my lips. Psalm 141:3
  • Do not let your mouth lead you into sin. Ecclesiastes 5:6
  • Let your conversations be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. Colossians 4:6
  • May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. Psalm 19:14
  • Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. James 1:26
  • Whoever would love life and see good days must keep their tongue from evil and their lips from deceitful speech. 1 Peter 3:10
  • Words from the mouth of the wise are gracious, but fools are consumed by their own lips. Ecclesiastes 10:12

Overall, we need to remember that love covers all wrongs, but hatred stirs up conflict. Choose today to make a change in your life and to stop stirring up strife. Choose to speak life-giving words.

Do you often struggle with your tongue and often regret what comes out of your mouth?  You can change the way your tongues reacts to things that are said by reading that book (Keep it Shut) or by following the key steps above.

References:
Karen Ehman (2015). Keep it Shut. What to say, how to say it and when to say nothing at all. Zondervan publishing.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

The Real Reason

Real Reason, blended family, step family, stepmom, step mothers, giving back, giving to others
A couple of years ago, we got Christmas wish lists from the older children. I kind of got angry in a way because everything was very expensive which I know usually happens when children become teenagers. We had a budget and most of the items they requested went over the budget we had to spend per child.  I started feeling like maybe we are all forgetting the real reason for Christmas. Not just the fact that Jesus was born in a manger on Christmas morning, the fact that Christmas is the season for giving to others.  Which made me do a lot of thinking about what can we do as a family that could help the less fortunate out.  For example, like going to a food bank and helping out or helping the Salvation Army hand out clothes for those who are in need.  I told my husband about my ideas and he agreed that we should do something.  I started searching on the internet for local food banks or Salvation Army and discovered that there are restrictions as far as the age limit for children, no child under 13 years of age can help out.  My youngest two children at the time were 8 & 9 years old.  Then I got discouraged because I wanted everyone in my family to participate, not just the older kids.  I just want my children and stepchildren to appreciate everything they get for Christmas and not take it for granted.  So instead of going to the food bank, I decided to do some other things that they could help out with.  Where they could learn about giving to others and sharing God’s love with others.  I created a list of ways we could help teach our children that Christmas is not all about toys and getting what they want, it’s about caring for others and giving to others.


Giving Back to Other’s List:
  • Pay for someone’s meal at a restaurant that you are at or pay for someone’s food at a drive thru.
  • Pay for someone’s groceries at the grocery store.
  • Bake cookies, bread or pies and give them to your neighbors for Christmas.
  • Buy gifts for Families that are struggling to buy gifts for their kids. (See picture below)
  • Participate in Toys for Tots program. (http://www.toysfortots.org/default.aspx)
  • Send a care package to our troops overseas. (https://www.operationgratitude.com/)
  • Go help a family member out with something they need to be done around the house.
  • Take care of someone who is sick; send a care package to them along with homemade soup.
  • Help out at a local food bank or Salvation Army if you are able too.
  • Visit a local nursing home to sing Christmas carols and bring them each homemade cookies.
  • Have each child gather up toys and clothes they no longer play with and donate them to the Salvation Army. (https://satruck.org/)
  • Check with your local church to see about adopting a family to give presents and food too.
help a family in need
We helped a family that was in need of gifts for their kids for Christmas
There are many ways to show and teach your children who to give generously to others who are struggling and are in need of something.  I don’t want my children to grow up thinking that they are entitled to everything and that they get everything they ask for.  I want my children to have a heart for others and to really appreciate all that they have and not take anything for granted.
Have you taught your children to be selfless and good hearted? It’s never too late to start. Find a need and fill it and have your children be a part of it. 

I wonder what this country would be like if everyone did this at Christmas time and not dwelled on what we can get from others, but what we can give to others. That’s what Christmas is all about, just like a children’s book that I often read to my daycare kids titled: Pete the Cat saves Christmas and in the book it says “Give it your all, give it your all, At Christmas we give, so give it your all”. 
As I would like to say “Find a Need and Fill It”.

References:
Eric Litwin 2012. Pete the Cat Saves Christmas. Harper Publishers.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Family Meetings

family meetings, blended families, step family, step families, stepmom, step mom
Family meetings are important to have in a blended family/stepfamily. They really help with strengthening, communication, and family unity.  Family meetings also help encourage to problem solve issues, communicate better, help with decision making and help encourage one another and it really helps you learn how to cooperate with one another in the blended/step family.
How often should you have the meetings?
Each family is different and it’s really up to you. We did it once a month in the beginning, then we did it whenever we felt like we needed to have one.
At what age, should you start having the family meetings?
Children that are at least 6 years old and up. Children under 6 years old may have a hard time understanding everything.  But every family is different; if you think they are mature enough and can understand then go for it.  If you have a lot of children that are mixed ages, feel free to have the younger children in the room at the time of the meetings, but don’t expect them to give you their undivided attention or participate.
What do you go over during them?
You set up an agenda and then also have open discussion time where anyone can bring up anything they want.  Here’s how ours was set up:

1) Compliment one another.
  We went around the room and said one thing nice about the person on the left until everyone was done.
2) Discuss Agenda Items. Then we would go over the agenda and talk about anything that concerned us parents, whether it was going over the rules or a new rule we came up with.
3) Open discussion. Where we would have this stuffed animal and anyone that was holding the stuffed animal it was their turn to speak and only them, everyone else had to listen to what they had to say without interrupting them.  Then we would try to resolve it, meaning us parents or we would simply tell them we would have to get back to them with our answer that we had to discuss it some more before answering them. You can even brainstorm the issue or question and have others give possible solutions.
4) Events. Then we would talk about an upcoming event or vacation, we might even vote on 2 places to go.
5) House Rules. Go over any new rules if needed.
6) Fun Box. Then we would pick something out of our “fun” box for an activity that we are going to do with all of them the next day.  If you don’t know what a fun box is, there is a post on it within my blog explaining it more.
7) Prayer. At the end of every meeting, we would pray together as a family.
family meeting rules, blended family, stepmom, step mom, step family
Rules of the Family Meeting
You can make up rules for the meetings that everyone should follow, the ones we made up are above. You can make up your own or use the ones we did. Like I have stated before every family is different, it's up to you on what works best for your family.
General guidelines in order to have successful family meetings are:
  • Be consistent, have the family meetings scheduled in advanced on a calendar, so the kids know when they are coming up.
  • Always have an agenda of what you want to say. When going over the agenda take turns as parents to go over items that way all of the children know it’s coming from both of you, not just from one parent.
  • Try to end each meeting on a positive note somehow like doing some group activity or saying something funny to lighten the mood a little.
  • End family meetings with a short prayer.
  • Seek to understand first, then to be understood.  Try to repeat a child’s concern so you can understand it, just to make sure you heard them correctly. And it’s okay if you don’t have an answer to their issue, just tell them you will get back to them after you had some time to think and discuss it together meaning both parents.
  • Make sure to turn off any distractions during the meeting: for example: phones, TVs, computers, tablets or handheld games or toys so you have everyones undivided attention.
  • Another fun suggestion is to put up the agenda on a piece of paper on the fridge and let any of the kids write something they would like to talk about on there.
  • Maybe take turns being the leader of the meeting, that way it will get the kids more involved in the meetings.
  • Keep the meetings short as you can. I think a 30-45 minute is long enough especially when you have younger kids.
  • Another great suggestion is to have an anonymous box where issues or questions can go inside of it and the parents can answer them in case someone doesn’t want to bring something up themselves. This can take care of something that maybe one of the children feel like if they bring it up themselves they might be hated for it.
  • Make sure all children and both parents are present for the family meetings, don’t leave anyone out.
The overall thing with these family meetings is to come together and unite everyone as a family and bring everyone together.  Some children may have a negative reaction to the first meeting you have.  Teenagers will have a hard time with these meetings at first, but it will get easier as long as you are consistent with the meetings. Whatever you do, try to not let it be a bashing session and if someone has something mean to say, cut them off and tell them these meetings are not for hurting someone’s feelings.
The family meetings are going to go well the more you have them. If you don’t have anything to discuss, then cancel the meeting for that month. It’s really up to you on how often you need to have one.
Don’t forget these family meetings are supposed to bring you together more as a family if they do the opposite than there’s something wrong that you need to figure out what can be the problem and start over or just not have them anymore.  Only you know what works best for your family and what doesn’t.
Has anyone tried family meetings before? How successful were they? How often do you have them?

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Co-Parenting

Co-Parenting, stepfamily, step family, blended family, stepmom, stepmom advice, blended families
 If someone would have told me six years ago that I and my ex-husband would get along and become friends and work together as a co-parenting team, I would have told them they are crazy and that he is too bitter to do that.  Well, it did happen and I am so grateful it did and it’s because of prayer.  My ex-husband is a wonderful father to my girls. I am so thankful to God for him.  I’m not even sure how it came about, but it did and the friendship between all three of us: meaning me, my husband and my ex-husband keeps getting better and better.  About three years ago all of us went to a local festival and it was great it was just my kids and my stepkids came with us too.  We went on rides together and had dinner there. I think what works the best between us is that we share the same morals and rules and we support one another. Sometimes it’s us three against my girls, we have each other’s back which is really important in a co-parenting team. Because of this, my girls are very happy and they are both doing really well in school, they have no emotional baggage or divorce depression between the two of them even though the girls were ages 4 & 5 when we got the divorce from one another. Discipline has been easy, my ex-husband supports me in how I discipline them and I support him.  I can’t stress enough how great it is for the children when two parents that are divorced can get along and become a Co-parent Team.  The children benefit so much from it.  What helps us the most is that we are both on the same page with everything, which makes it work and when we are upset with one another for whatever reason we don’t get my girls involved in it and we work it out without them even knowing there is a problem.  Even with our Co-parenting being healthy, it doesn’t mean that my girls will never experience emotional or psychological distress at times, but so far it’s been great.  Ron Deal has stated that there have been numerous studies documented that children who experience parental divorce exhibit more conduct problems, more symptoms of psychological maladjustment, lower academic achievement, more social difficulties, and poorer self-concepts compared with children living in intact, two-parent families. In the Smart Step Family book, I have read that 80 percent of children from divorced homes will eventually adapt to their new life whereas 20 percent have a difficult time and will display irresponsible and impulsive behaviors, depression and antisocial behaviors.  I do know this to be true because my stepkids are going through this due to the fact their mother is bitter and angry from the divorce still, therefore, she is very difficult to work with about anything relating to the stepkids. Because of the mother, my stepkids have impulsive behaviors, depression and antisocial behaviors and even some immaturity for their age.  It saddens me that we can’t become a Co-parenting team with their mother. I wish things were a lot different between us and that we could work together to help the stepkids adjust to the divorce and being apart of a stepfamily. 
If you want to become a successful Co-parent team with your ex-spouses, there are some guidelines that should be followed in order to make Co-parenting successful. Become a “One team” instead of a “Two teams”. Here are the guidelines that I know from experience and that I have researched through many books on stepfamilies.

Co-parenting Guidelines to be successful:
  • Always speak positively about your ex-spouse, no matter what. When angry with them, do not get the kids involved, resolve it between the two of you, don’t include the kids in it.
  • Respect each other and step parent.
  • If the rules differ from one house to another house, always be supportive even if you don’t agree with the other parents’ rules.
  • Recognize special occasions such as the parent’s birthdays, Christmas, Fathers or Mother’s Days and take the kids to get them something from them. Give them the opportunity to see them for those occasions.
  • Be Supportive of one another. For example, if one of the children has an issue and is angry at the other parent, do not take sides with the child. Comfort them and try to say that “I am sure your Dad means well and that he does things only for their best interest”. Don’t ever put their Dad down or stoop to the child’s level.
  • Be Flexible – In case the parent wants the child on a day where they are not scheduled, try to give them the opportunity to see them whenever they want.
  • Make sure the kids have everything they need for their visits with their parent
  • Communicate with the ex-spouse when needed about any concerns with the kids or upcoming events at school that they need to know about. Make sure they are always informed about any sporting event, school meetings, or anything relating to the children.
  • Always keep scheduled visits, try your best to avoid having to cancel or move them around.
  • When a babysitter is needed always ask them first before seeking someone else to watch them.
  • Help the children adjust to going to the other home as much as you can whatever way you can do that.
  • Try to always negotiate the Holidays, Birthdays or special occasions to make sure the other parent gets time with their children.
Things to avoid:
  • Don’t capitalize on their hurt when the child is upset with the other parent or stepparent did, do not berate the other parent or stepparent especially in front of the children or with an ear shot away from the children.
  • Not calling the ex-spouse about a sporting event change in time or location or school meetings.
  • Don’t expect the spouse to carry out a punishment from one house to the other house. Let them be able to have time with their kids freely.
  • Never punish the kids by taking away their visitation with their parent as a form of punishment.
  • Don’t talk about your personal life or current marriage problems with your ex-spouse.
If you follow these guidelines and avoid the other things, you should be successful at becoming a co-parenting “One” team.

Reference:
Ron Deal (2002). The Smart Step-Family. Seven Steps to a Healthy Family. Bethany House Publishers.