Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Chores

Chores, step family chores, stepchildren chores, assigning chores, creating chores, family chores, stepmom chores
Every family with children should have age appropriate chores for the children to do. Chores teaches them responsibility and how to take care of things.  It will show the children that they belong in the family. It also teaches them that when belonging in a family that everyone needs to share the work load of taking care of a house. Discipline along with chores teaches children how to become responsible adults as they get older and helps them appreciate the value of things and shows them how to take care of things. It also helps the child feel like they are contributing to the family.  At first they may be a little hesitant but then eventually it will make them feel like they are important.  If they do a chore wrong, praise them for the job they did and then kindly show them the correct way to do the chore.  Giving the children a lot of praise is really great.  Always show the children how to do a chore first before giving them that responsibility that way they know how to do it and what is expected of them when they do the chore.  Like for example: laundry, they might not know how to fold towels, show them the way you fold the towels that way they learn how to do it and then praise them for it when they try to do it on their own.  All of these chores are valuable life skills that they should learn to know for when they become adults and move out of the house.  There are so many young adults that don’t know how to do laundry or cook simple meals because they were never taught how to do it.  Having chores for them to do when they are children helps them learn these life skills to help better prepare them for when they grow up and move out of the house.  Doing everything for your children doesn’t teach them anything. But giving them a list of age appropriate chores teaches them valuable life skills that everyone needs in life.
Here is a chart that shows what age appropriate chores are to give you an example of what you can give as a chore for a child depending on their age.

Age Appropriate Chore List Ideas
Child's Age
Personal Chores
Family Chores
2 -3 years old
Assist with making their beds
Put their dirty clothes in the laundry basket

Picking up the their toys
Fill up pet's bowls with food & water with help


Help parent clean up spills


Dust
4-5 years old
Get dressed on their own
Set the table with help

Make their beds on their own
Clear the table with help

Bring their belongings from the car into the house
Help a parent prepare meals


Help a parent carry groceries


Match socks during laundry time


Answer the phone with help


Be responsible for pet's food and water bowl


Hang up towels in the bathroom


Sweep and Clean floors with a dry mop
6-7 years old
Make their beds every day
Be responsible for pet's food, water & exercise

Brush teeth on their own
Vaccum their rooms

Comb their hair
Wet mop rooms

Choose an outfit and get dressed on their own
Fold laundry with help

Write thank you notes with help
Put their laundry away


Put away dishes from dishwasher


Help prepare food with help


Empty trash cans


Answer the phone with help
8-11 years old
Take care of personal hygiene
Wash dishes

Keep bedroom clean
Wash the family car with help

Do homework on their own
Prepare a few easy meals on their own

Responsible for their belongings
Clean the bathroom with help

Write thank you notes for gifts
Rake leaves

Wake up using an alarm clock
Learn how to use the washer and dryer


Put all laundry away with help


Take the trash out to the curb


Test smoke alarms once a month with help


Screen phone calls & answer when needed
12-13 years old
Take care of personal hygiene, belongings and homework
Change light bulbs

Write invitations and thank you notes
Change the vaccum bag

Set their alarm clocks
Dush, vaccum, clean bathrooms and do dishes

Maintain personal items such as recharging batteries
Clean mirrors

Change bed sheets
Mow the lawn with help

Keep their rooms tidy & do annual deep cleaning when needed
Baby sit (in most states)


Prepare an occasional family meal
14-15 years old
Responsible for all personal chores for ages 12 and 13
Do assigned housework without prompting

Responsible for library card and books
Do yard work as needed


Baby sit


Prepare food


Wash windows with help
16-18 years old
Responsible for all personal chores for ages 14 and 15
Do housework as needed

Responsible to earn spending money
Do yard work as needed

Responsible for purchasing their own clothes
Prepare family meals & serving it

Responsible for  car maintenance (gas, oil changes, etc)
Deep cleaning of household appliances
This chart came from Focus on the Family website
Chore Chart
When you figure out what chores you want your children to do make up a Chore Chart on Excel. Then put the Chore Description on the top left corner, then the days of the week going across.  Then in the cells put their names for each chore.  Then print it out and hang it up on the fridge or some place where they can see it every day.
Here are two examples of other ideas for a chore chart you can create.
Example A:


Example B:
Chore Rewards
For young kids ages 2-4: You can use stickers in a sticker book.
For children ages 5-10: You can give them more time on the tablet or more TV time, or more time to play on the video games. Another idea is to give them allowance, but a small amount.
For children ages 11-18:  Allowance is always a good thing, since they always want to buy things they want.  Or you can also give them more time on tablets, TV, video games or later bed times.

Allowance Ideas
You could ask the child what they think would be a great allowance as a suggestion, however you don't have to agree with whatever they say.
Here's a formula I have found that works well, 50 cents for every year. So if they are 7 years old, they would get $3.50 a week.
Another great idea would be to give 1 dollar per year to a child, which if they are 7 years old they would get $7.00 a week.
Chores that are not done: Any chore they don't do that week I take 50 cents off of their allowance or you could take off more, it's really up to you on how you want to handle chores that are not done.

If you have your stepchildren less than 50% of the time, I would only suggest to give less chores for them to do, because the main focus of their time should be spending time with their Father and as a blended family and not so much doing chores the entire time they are there.
When my stepchildren were here I would just ask if they would pick up after themselves for example: clean their rooms before they go home.  If they took showers to pick up towels and put dirty clothes where they need to go. If the stepchildren have too many chores when they are there, they will start to resent you and not want to come on the weekends. I also feel that since they are there less and do less chores, they don’t get as much allowance as the children that live there all of the time would.
Don’t forget to assign age appropriate chores to your children, they will thank you for it down the road as they get older and become adults.

Do you have a chore chart for your children to do? How much allowance do you give your children?

References:
Focus on the Family 2009, this information came from http://www.focusonthefamily.com/parenting/parenting-challenges/motivating-kids-to-clean-up/age-appropriate-chores on February 24, 2016.


Monday, February 22, 2016

House Rules

house rules, blended family rules, step family, stepmom, car rules, visiting at another friend's house rules, rules of the house,
When you get married or come together in a home. House rules need to be established along with consequences in case rules are broken.  It’s very important to have rules in a house because it provides all of the children with structure and teaches them respect and responsibility for their actions. Children with rules in a house tend to appreciate and have more respect for things.  They also place value and worth on things which are really good. Make sure when you do create rules that both you and your husband agree to them.  Also make sure all of the rules apply to all of the children not just the biological children but the stepchildren as well.  If you can't agree to have the same rules for all of the children, then probably having no rules is best for now.  Because the children that have to obey the rules will resent the children that don't have any rules at all.  Here is an example of our house rules that we use in our house for our blended family.

House Rules Example
  • All homework must be done right after school
  • No Name Calling of any kind. If it will hurt someone’s feelings keep it to yourself
  • No Hitting/Kicking of any kind! That also means no Hitting/Kicking back
  • When a door is closed, knock first, wait until you are told you can come in. If no one answers do not go in
  • No locking anyone in rooms or out of the house
  • Share all toys
  • Take Turns when playing a video game or any kind of game or toy
  • No running or screaming inside of the house
  • No standing on any furniture at any time
  • No throwing any balls or toys in the house
  • If it’s not yours, ask permission to use it, before using it
  • When borrowing or getting something, put it back when you are finished
  • Play Fair – No gaining up against each other
  • Always ask if a friend can come over before they come over the house
  • Always ask permission to go to a friend’s house and be home at the time told to be home at
  • If changing to another friend’s house while at a friend’s house always ask us first before going
  • You can’t go over to a friend’s house without us meeting the parents in person first
  • Always be kind to the cats, don't lock them up in a room
  • Always come home at time given, no exceptions
  • When it gets dark outside you need to be in the house
  • Put your bikes or toys back inside the garage/house when finished with them
  • No food in any rooms, eating food is for kitchen only unless permitted too
  • Water only is allowed in rooms, other beverages stay in kitchen only
  • Don’t exclude one another from playing
  • Bedtime during the week is 9:00 pm, and 11:00 pm on the weekends
  • Clean up after yourselves – means anything: toys, snacks, garbage, dinner and cups at the sink
  • What we say goes and that’s it
  • Don’t interrupt when we are talking on the phone or talking in person with another adult
  • If one parent says no, don’t go ask the other parent the same question
  • No Swear Words of any kind
  • All electronics (iPod Touches & Tablets) need to be on the kitchen counter at bedtime

Consequences Example
1st Offense: A warning to stop!
2nd Offense: Time Out away from the situation!
3rd Offense: A toy, electronic device or privilege is taken away for the night!
4th Offense: In your room for the rest of the night!

 
These are just examples of the house rules and consequences we use in our home. Feel free to use them if you’d like too.  Some of these house rules and consequences may need to be changed depending on the age group you have. For teenagers, for example, you might want to take away their cell phones or laptops as a consequence for breaking a rule. Pretty much anything that they play with or use often is what you should take away.
If you have different age groups, you might want to consider creating two different house rule sets and consequences.  When you are done and both parents agree with them. Get them laminated and hung up on the fridge or somewhere where everyone can see them on a daily basis so they know what’s expected of them.  Before you hang them up, make sure you have a family meeting to go over all of them with all of the children in the family.  When you do have this meeting make sure each parent explains each rule that way it looks like both of you came up with these rules and not just one parent. Please know that creating these rules and enforcing them may be really hard if the stepchildren don't have any rules at their mother's house or if they didn't have rules to begin with.  It's going to take some time to adjust to the rules when going back and forth between houses with rules and no rules.  DO NOT GIVE UP, be persistent and follow through. Don't let guilt parenting get in the way of creating rules for your household.
You might also want to consider developing rules for going over someone else’s house, car rules for those long road trips and pool rules (if you have a pool).  Developing rules for going over someone else’s house is really a great help for those you are visiting.  Because I am sure no one wants kids coming over their house and destroying their prized possessions or jumping on their furniture.  You can always tell the difference between children who have rules at home and ones that don’t.  Great example for rules for visiting other people’s house is:

Visiting at another Person's House Rules Example
  • No Standing or jumping on furniture
  • No Running around
  • Do not touch breakable things
  • Ask permission to use or play with something
  • Don’t interrupt when adults are talking, wait your turn to speak or politely say excuse me
  • If it’s not a toy, don’t touch it
  • Clean up toys or put anything back you got out when it’s time to leave
  • No yelling or screaming while inside of the house, use indoor voices only
  • Always be Polite saying please and thank you

Car Rule Examples
  • No screaming or yelling
  • Always stay buckled at all times
  • No changing or moving to another seat while the vehicle is in motion
  • No kicking the back of the seats at any time
  • No opening doors while vehicle is in motion
  • No throwing garbage or things outside of the window
  • Always take the things you brought with you back into the house
  • Always put garbage where it belongs, don’t leave cups or wrappers inside of the vehicle

If the children always fight over the front seat or certain seats in the vehicle, assign seats for a month or for 3 months that way they don’t fight over a certain seat in the vehicle.

I hope all of these examples really help you in making good rules for your children to follow. Always try to remember you are doing a good thing by enforcing rules in the house.  You are providing your children with structure and it will teach the children how to have respect and responsibility. It will also teach them the value of important things too. Children without structure are often at times very wild, have no respect for others or other people’s belongings, spoiled, and act like they are head of the house. You are doing good by setting rules, will the children like it? Most likely, they will not but as they get older they will learn to appreciate it and understand why.  Children need rules because as they grow up they will always have rules to follow in life such as rules of the road, rules at a job, rules at school and in college. I mean they can’t just drive any way they want to, there are right ways and wrong ways to drive when they get their license else they get a ticket for breaking the law.  Having rules also shows them how much you care and love them. Children need and want to be loved and cared for. If you have been in a blended family for a long time and don’t have rules, it’s never too late to start. If you just got married and became a blended family, now is the perfect time to create rules that make sense for your family. It may be hard for your children but the sooner you do it the better off you will be.

If you have house rules now, please share some of the rules you have for your children.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

What to Expect when Expecting StepChildren

what to expect when expecting stepchildren, expecting stepchildren, blended family, stepmom, step mothers, step family, step families, blended families
When you are dating a man with children, at first, it seems easy, however as soon as you get married things change drastically.  I have to say the first year is like being on a rollercoaster full of ups and downs. After you reach the five-year mark things start to blend nicely and settle down, but just getting there is going to take a lot of sweat, patience, time and tears. I put together a list of 21 topics of the most common concerns in a blended family to help prepare you for your journey into becoming a successful blended family.  Please know that you may or may not go through some of these, however, chances are you will face all of these at one time or another.  I am going on seven years of my third marriage, so I know I have faced all of these at one time or another. Just remember you do not have to do this alone, there are many Stepmom groups out there that can help walk with you through your journey.
Realistic and Unrealistic Expectations within a Blended family
Unrealistic Expectations – Try not to have any unrealistic expectations when going into your blended marriage such as the stepchildren calling you Mom. They have a Mom already and it’s just not you. Do not force them to call you Mom either. Expect the unexpected to happen when being in a blended family.  If you are expecting to be recognized for Mother’s Day, you need to say something to your husband about it, don’t just assume he knows how you feel.  Don’t expect the stepchildren to get you something for Mother’s Day, they already have a Mother and you’re not it. If they do recognize you, make a big deal about it. There is more to learn about expectations and discovering the difference between unrealistic and realistic expectations by clicking here.

Hard Adjustments – The Stepchildren will have a hard time getting used to a different house, different rules and getting used to having a Stepparent.  It’s even harder if there is a difficult biological mother that may put the children through PAS (Parental Alienation Syndrome). Even though the Stepchildren may not say it verbally but they really wish their parents would get back together.  Given the fact that you married their Father they may be mad at you and resent you for that. You also have to remember that the divorce of both of their parents is like a death to them.  They process divorce a lot differently than us adults do. Over time things will change and your Stepchildren will adapt to the blended family.  Some Stepchildren take longer than other Stepchildren.  If you are noticing them withdrawing from their regular activities they once loved to do, doing poorly in school, isolating themselves, depressed or have sudden outbursts of anger, it’s time to consider taking them to therapy. Seeking out therapy for your Stepchildren would really help them to be able to express their feelings and work through them.
You can learn more about PAS (Parental Alienation Syndrome) and Blended Therapy by clicking on the words.  For more information about how to overcome hard adjustments, click here
Money talks within a blended family
Money Matters – When dealing with money issues, you need to understand that even though your husband pays child support that doesn’t mean there isn’t going to be additional costs.  Expect additional costs for sports or other after school activities that the stepchildren are involved in or even doctor bills where the insurance only pays so much. When paying for extra things for the Stepchildren, pay money owed directly to the bill and not just give cash to the biological parent that way you know for sure that the money is going to the right thing. When trying to figure whether or not to combine bank accounts, please click here to read more about money matters.

Challenging Situations - Let’s face it when combining two sets of kids along with ex-spouses, there’s going to be some challenges along the way.  A few examples of these challenges are picky eaters, sharing toys, house rules, chores, and even taking family pictures.  You need to learn what things to let go of and what things need to be resolved.  Also learn to know what things you can can change and accept the things you cannot change.  Learning to how to compromise is definitely key in getting through the challenging situations that come up.  Learn how to compromise without feeling like your giving into the child’s ways may be hard to do. When faced with a challenging situation try to offer two compromises or options to the child. Trying to find resolutions that benefit the whole family is important.
chosen love within a blended family
Chosen Love – Is a love that will develop over time with your Stepchildren, it will not happen overnight. Chosen Love is a different kind of love than the love you have for your biological children. Chosen love may be better because it takes a lot of work and time to achieve. The older the Stepchildren are the longer and harder it takes to develop.  It’s not something that can be rushed.  To learn more about what it takes to achieve chosen love, click here.
Blended family therapy
Blended Family Therapy - In the first year of a blended family, I totally recommend seeking therapy to help with issues that may come up that are hard to resolve. It’s better to be prepared and educated on different areas of a blended family than to go in without any knowledge.  You don’t have to do this alone; there are a lot of great books that can help along with great Blended Family Therapist. To read more about the benefits of therapy click here.
having fun with your stepchildren
Fun with Stepchildren – Try to do at least one fun family actvity during your time with all the children in the family. Over at my house, we call it Family Day/Night on Saturdays. Every Saturday we would randomly draw one family activity out of our “Fun Box” and do whatever the activity is. The kids love the fun box because they got to put their own suggestions of fun actvities into the box of what they would like to do.  To learn more about how to create your own “Fun Box” click here or to get ideas on what fun things you can do with your children, click here.
Bumps in the road in a blended family
Bumps in the Road – The first five years of a blended family has bumps in the road.  The bumps in the road are what make you stronger as a blended family.  It’s inevitable that there’s going to be a conflict that will arise. Find out how to resolve the bumps in the road and what things to avoid by clicking here.

Feeling like an Outsider – There will be times where you the Stepparent will feel like an outsider in your own home. For example: when the Stepchildren are talking about something that happened in the past. Always try to find a way to include yourself in the conversation or just change the topic into something that happened when you were in their lives. There will also be times where your Stepchildren feel like they don’t belong when they are visiting for the weekend.  Try your best to make their presence known in the house; one way to do this is to have many pictures up of them around the house or artwork they created.  To learn more about how to cope with this, click here.
loyalty conflicts within a blended family
Loyalty Conflicts – Stepchildren’s loyalty always remains with the parent they live with the most.  They will always speak the good of them and protect them no matter what they do wrong to them.  Stepchildren often feel like it’s a tug-of-war between your house and their Mother’s house. In order to gain a Stepchild’s loyalty, you need to have an emotional attachment to the Stepchild. Emotional attachments take time to develop. Loyalty conflicts for Stepchildren can be emotionally destructive at times. Try to respect their loyalty to their mother just like they have loyalty to their Father when they are at their Mother’s house.  To learn more in depth about loyalty conflicts, click here.

Difficult Ex-Spouses – Nine out of ten times you will have a difficult biological mother to deal with.  The biological mother will tend to hate you automatically. Sometimes it may feel like the biological mother has more control of what goes on in your house than you do.  There are ways of trying to overcome it and change it around.  Please read the talk and the other woman to learn how to change it around for the better.
boundaries, defining your boundaries
Boundaries – Need to be established early on in your marriage in order to protect privacy and personal space. To learn more about how to establish boundaries, click here.
Share Husband – Make sure you always make time for the Stepchildren to spend 1:1 time with their Fathers else they will feel resentment towards you and say that you took their Father away from them. To read more about establishing 1:1 time and why it’s vitally important, click here.

Step Sibling Rivalry – There is going to be times where all or some of the children will not get along. Don’t be alarmed and think that’s it’s not going to work out.  It’s normal for children to have a conflict with one another.  Every child is unique and different from one another.  It’s going to take time for all of the children to get comfortable and used to one another. Don’t rush it; it will go at its own pace.  What helps two sets of children bond is doing family activities together. When faced with sibling rivalry it’s best to separate the children that are not getting along. If things continue, it’s best to have a sit-down and have a family meeting to address the issues and try to resolve it.  Don’t overlook issues because they will only get worse, always address issues and work through them.
discipline within a blended family
Discipline – In the first two years of marriage, I recommend that each parent is responsible for disciplining their own children until a bond and trust forms with the Stepparent. Disciplining one another’s children too soon will result in children hating and despising their Stepparents. As Ron Deal and Laura Petherbridge said that it is a misstep to insist on a rigid structure in the home that differs from what the children are used to.  You and your husband may have been raised differently and it may be hard to enforce fair discipline.  To learn more about discipline and how to be successful at it, click here.

Jealousy – There will be times where the Stepchildren will be jealous of you and their Father’s relationship or even jealous of their step siblings.  The stepchildren tend to feel this way because of fear of being replaced.  To help try to avoid this from happening try to make sure your stepchildren are getting enough 1:1 time with their Father that way they still feel connected to him.  They will feel more secure with their relationship with their Father if they are getting enough quality time with just him. Always try to encourage your husband to take the time to spend with his children without you around. You as a Stepmom should also spend 1:1 time with your own children to prevent jealousy on that end too.
Guilt Parenting – Happens a lot with Fathers where they feel like they want their children to have a good time at their house, therefore, they struggle with correcting bad behavior and often times do not punish them when they need to be punished. The Fathers it happens with most are the Fathers who are the ones that go the divorce. They often feel guilty for seeing their children’s pain or hardship from the divorce. Often times, these Fathers are “Disney Dad’s” where they buy everything and anything for their children to make them happy.  Us as Stepmoms can’t make our husband’s parent their children but we can offer up suggestions and point out why he might be overlooking issues with his children. If your husband struggles a lot with guilt parenting, it’s best that he seeks therapy. Another great idea is buying some books on guilt parenting and setting boundaries with children. There is a great book called “Boundaries with Kids” by Cloud and Townsend that I think would really help educate him on how to overcome guilt parenting. To learn more about how to talk to your husband about guilt parenting, click here.
co-parenting within a blended family
Co-Parenting – Learning how to be a successful co-parent with an ex-spouse is crucial for the well-being of all of your children.  Being supportive, flexible, respectful are just some of the guidelines of how to become a successful co-parent. To learn about more guidelines on how to be a successful co-parent, click here.

Small Victories – First off, they do happen often more than not.  Examples of small victories would be when all of the children are getting along or even when a Stepchild is getting along with you, the Stepmom. Cherish the victories when they come and discover how they happened so you can try to repeat them.

Shared Time – It can be very difficult to share time with an ex-spouse especially during the holidays or other celebrations.  If you alternate holidays and celebrations write it out on paper and have both parents sign it to say they agree to it.  Plan vacations, at least, six months out and give plenty of notice to the other parent that way you are able to have the children for the vacation.  It’s all about compromise and trying to make the best of the situation.  You need to learn to accept that some things you can change and some things you cannot change and try to be okay with it.  For example Christmas can be celebrated on a different day, it’s just a day, don’t make a big deal out of not being able to see the children on that day. Just make your Christmas on another day instead and make a big deal out of that way. Make sure when communicating about special plans and dates of upcoming events make sure to send an email that way you have a paper trail.

Rewards – The rewards will come later down the road when you realize and know your role as a Stepparent.  When there is less stress in the children that’s when it will bring more harmony to the blended family and in your marriage.  In Galatians 6:9 it says “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up”.

I hope these 21 topics of the most common concerns in a blended family help you with your success in your Blended Family. Just remember it takes a lot of time, sweat, tears, patience, love, compromise and prayer in order to be a successful Blended Family. Don’t give up hope, your victory lap will happen soon and then you will know it was all worth it.

References:

Ron Deal & Laura Petherbridge (2009). The Smart Stepmom. Practical Steps to Help you Thrive. Published by Bethany House a division of Baker Publishing Group.

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