Friday, October 28, 2011

Rules and consequences in a blended family: Create a model of consistency

Your children have gone through a lot, with a divorce, remarriage, and now having to negotiate the intricacies of a new blended family. The question most parents have is whether they should lighten up on the rules and give them a break from discipline.

The answer is no and here is why:
·         The values you hold true won’t change with your new step family, and the children must still be taught what is right and wrong.
·         The love you have for your kids and step kids is demonstrated through your consistent rules and guidelines
·         A lot is changing for your children during this time and maintaining consistency will give your kids a sense of security within their new blended family.

How to handle step kids
Standards and rules for your stepfamily should be discussed and agreed on by both parents. Respect should be paid to the history of parenting by the biological mom or dad, but the step mom or step dad must be given a say on the rules as well. There must be a mutual agreement on discipline, to ensure that parents are pulling in opposite directions. Now is the time to sit down and have a deep discussion on these blended family matters.

All kids should be treated the same
All children should be treated equally and fairly. You should have rules already in place, including the following:
·         Where the kids and step kids can and cannot eat
·         The allowable hours and time limits to television viewing
·         Which children are responsible for cleaning up after meals

The rules you set must be applied to all children in your new step family. Obviously, the associated consequences for not following rules will be different, defending on the age of the child. However, these consequences need to be equal and fair for all children in your blended family.

The parents should also follow some of the same rules. The kids are not going to understand why they can’t watch TV during dinner if dad is doing it every evening.

The biological parent at the forefront
The biological parent should be the one enforcing the rules in your blended family, not the step mom or step dad. Let your spouse take that time to get to know the children, without having them be the one that enforces the guidelines.

If a rule is in place, enforce it, every day, without fail. Rules can’t change just because you are tired or your spouse is working late.

Avoid secret alliances
You absolutely cannot change the rules in your stepfamily when your spouse isn’t around, especially as it relates to your biological children. This will give them the impression that they don’t have to respect the authority of the other parent. Maintain a strong relationship and sense of teamwork with your spouse and your kids will respect and acknowledge that. Consistency and stability in your blended family leads to a successful and united family.

If you need help with your blended or stepfamily, The Blended and Step Family Resource Center is ready to assist you with its counseling and coaching services, as well as other resources aimed at promoting strong and successful blended and stepfamilies. Contact us today and let us help to provide you with answers.

Monday, October 24, 2011

The first step towards a future blended family: Start dating!

So, you are headed for divorce and wondering what to do now. It is a sad time and your mind probably wanders to the future, and to ideas of remarriage and the thought of forming a blended family with the man or woman of your dreams. Well, not so fast!

Stop and ask yourself these questions first:

Is it really over?
Is the divorce pending or final? If it isn’t official, have you tried marriage counseling? Make sure your wanting a change isn’t being driven by a desire to save what you already have.

Is there a separation agreement?
This helps you divide property, assets and debt, and also addresses child support and visitation. Consult an attorney if this isn’t done yet.

Have you removed your belongings from the marital home?
Adults often intentionally leave items like family pictures on the walls, in hopes that it works to ease the transition for the kids. It actually ends up confusing them. Work out an agreement with your ex to divide all household property. These details should have been worked out in your written agreement, but if they weren’t, don’t wait to address it. Hire a couple of friends or a mover and get it all done in one trip.

Have you forgiven your ex-spouse and yourself yet?
You may feel that your ex was the primary reason your marriage didn’t work, and you may be right. However, a marriage involved two people, and both must take a portion of the blame. You will find yourself constantly ill if you harbor ill feelings against anyone. Think through what happened and decide what you might have been able to do to prevent it. Forgive yourself and forget about it.

What can you offer someone new?
A divorce will leave your self-esteem at an all-time low. Take a look at yourself and analyze what you can offer to someone new. Jot it down and add items until you have a list of at least 30 good qualities you possess. Ask friends and relatives to help if you wish. 

Have you taken a look in the mirror?
You don’t have to reinvent yourself, but when we get stuck in a routine, we often let fashion pass us by. Head down to the mall and check out what is on display in the windows. Does it resemble what you have in your clothes closet? If it doesn’t, then it’s time to spruce up your wardrobe. It is also a great time to start exercising and get a new hairdo!

Have you lost touch?
If you plan to start dating, you will need some interesting things to talk about. Get yourself familiar with current topics and events. Mix in some discussion of recent news events with a little information on yourself and you will be well on your way to a great first date!

Lastly, make sure you have your story ready. Your first date may ask questions about your divorce or children. There is no reason to provide details, but just be prepared with a non-judgmental and brief explanation.

The Blended and Step Family Resource Center has resources to help blended and stepfamilies, including licensed professional counselors who offer coaching to blended and stepfamilies, as well as those engaged to be married and become blended families. Founded in 2006 by internationally known author and conference speaker, Shirley Cress Dudley, the center focuses on the need for effective counseling and other resources aimed at helping blended and stepfamilies become strong and successful.

Friday, October 21, 2011

The rules of house hunting with a blended family

The first step in finding the ideal home for your blended family is discovering what your budget is. Discuss what you feel you can afford with your spouse, and make sure the purchase you make for your step family doesn’t exceed that figure. Your mortgage payment shouldn’t exceed a quarter of your combined salaries, or a third at the very most. At least one of your previous homes should be sold before finalizing a purchase. 

Location of your blended family home
Ask yourself a few questions to determine where you should look for your blended family home. Are you hoping to stay within or enter a particular school district? Will your new home be close to that of an ex-spouse? That isn’t always a bad thing, as it makes picking up and dropping off the kids much more convenient.

Let the kids in the blended family have a say
Ask the kids and step kids in your stepfamily what they would like to see in a new home. You will probably get a few helpful answers. The ideal time to let the kids have some say is at the beginning, and they will enjoy coming along for a few of the open house visits. You will definitely want them to take a tour of the house you choose before you complete a deal.

If the kids and step kids in your blended family are both girls and boys, consider your bathroom requirements accordingly. Having enough bathrooms is as important as having enough bedrooms. Your spouse and you should have a master bathroom just for the two of you.

Not every child has to have a bedroom of its own. Visiting step kids can share a room, assuming they are the same gender. If you decide to use a basement room or pullout sofa for a visiting child, just be sure they have adequate privacy for their belongings.

Living areas
It is a good idea to have many areas throughout the house for the kids in your blended family to entertain themselves, especially if they are of varied ages. Consider homes which have a finished basement or multiple floors. This will allow the kids to spread out and find areas to call their own. A master bedroom should be separated from all the other bedrooms, if possible. Your spouse and you deserve some space in your stepfamily as well.

Remember, your spouse and you are the core of the home and the epicenter of the blended family. Involving everyone in the process is a wonderful idea, but it is important for everyone to know that the final decision on which home to purchase lies with you. Take your time and select the perfect home for your new step family.

The Blended and Step Family Resource Center aims to help blended and stepfamilies become strong and successful through its counseling and coaching services as well as other resources available. To get the help that you need, get in touch with our licensed professional counselors and we will help you find solutions and hope.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Blended Family Rules for the Grandparents

Your new spouse and you have taken the time to get to know one another, and you have made the decision to enter remarriage and create a blended family. Hopefully, you did the right thing and had your spouse meet your parents before you got married (this tradition doesn’t change just because you became an adult). Now that your step family has been created, it’s time to give your parents some tips in what to do and not do in regards to your new blended family.

All kids should be treated fairly and equally
Every child, including those who are not biologically your grandchildren, should be treated the same. The parents will be watching to see how things pan out. If the biological children refer to you as “grandma,” then invite your step grandkids to do the same. If you give out hugs when arriving for a visit, make sure to hug everyone. Beyond that, to do your part in creating a well-adjusted blended family, just forget that the words “step” and “biological” even exist. These terms can subconsciously cause you to treat the kids in the stepfamily differently.

Show an interest in every child
Take some time to get to know each of the step kids in the blended family, and learn about their interests and hobbies. Figure out a unique quality of each and use that to build a comfortable relationship with them.

Remember their important days
Take note of the school events, birthdays and other events in the lives of your step grandkids. Make a special calendar just for them and mark all their occasions. Remember your new son or daughter in law as well. Send them a card on their birthday to show your support. Help your child, their new spouse, and their blended family feel welcome by talking to them about your family’s history.

Don’t bring up the past
Your child is an adult now and has entered a new marriage with their own stepfamily, so don’t bring up past relationships. Any old photos should be taken down and replaced with photos of the blended family. You don’t have to throw those pictures out, but just keep them in a secluded place.

Be a good listener
There is bound to be a time when your child calls to vent about their spouse, kids, or blended family in general. Don’t judge or offer an opinion, just listen. Show you daughter or son support as they do their best to make their step family work. It isn’t easy being a step mom or step dad.

In closing, your only real job as a grandparent is to love your grandchildren and support your child and spouse as they work to create a wonderful blended family. A step family will seem awkward at first, but the reward of a larger family is well worth the efforts.

You can avail of more articles and advice by visiting The Blended and Step Family Resource Center website or by calling for coaching and counseling services which the center offers. To get the help that you need, get in touch with our licensed professional counselors and we will help you find solutions and hope.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Creating a blended family: The effects of divorce on children

Divorce, remarriage, and trying to create a functional blended family are hard things to get through. Unfortunately, adults usually focus on themselves and fail to notice how tough things are on the kids during a divorce. Here a few tips to help your children through a divorce, long before you begin thinking of, or developing a step family.

Sit down and be honest with the kids. Tell them that dad and mom will no longer be married or living together. There is no need to go into further details. Those are adult topics, and children do not need to be privy to the exact reasons you have decided to get a divorce. This same level of communication will be needed down the road if remarriage and a blended family come about.

Are you sure it’s over?
There is no need to hold on to something that isn’t there, but make sure it really is over. If there is any hope of working things out, then try going to a marriage counselor to talk about things. The kids do not need to be a part of that. If you come to the conclusion that your marriage really is through, then start making the necessary changes. Help the children through it one-step at a time. Don’t say something about a stepfamily out of anger, as this will just confuse the kids even more.

The necessary changes will include separating, and staying separated. Kids will just become more confused if dad is coming over to have dinner and paint the garage and fence on the weekends. Move all the property of the non-custodial parent to their new home, and remove any family photos that were on the walls. There is no need to throw them away, as they are still great memories, but just tuck them away somewhere. You can keep photos of the kids, but not photos with the former couple together.

Talk to your children about their relationship with you
Tell your kids how much you love them, and that you always will. Make sure they know that none of what has happened is their fault and that there is nothing they can do to change things. There will be some drastic changes in their life, but it is important for them to know that your love will never change.

Divorce is a severe change for your children, and you need to keep things as normal as you can. Continue to enforce all the rules and keep everyone’s schedule as normal as possible. You will all get through this tough time. Life is constantly changing, sometimes in good ways and other times on not-so-good ways. Let the kids know that what is happening is beyond their control and that you are always available to chat about anything that concerns them.

If you need help with managing your blended or stepfamily, The Blended and Step Family Resource Center is more than willing to provide you with counseling and coaching, which you can use to navigate your way into a strong and successful blended family life with those you love.

Monday, October 10, 2011

How to maintain balance in your blended family or step family

This is a scenario played out all too often in a blended family. The kids aren’t getting along, your spouse seems upset, and you feel like you haven’t had a moment to yourself in eons! This means that the balance in your stepfamily is thrown off. Maintaining balance within a blended family is much harder than a typical family with a single mom, dad, and kids who live there all the time. Things get much more difficult when you throw divorce, remarriage, step kids and a step mom or step dad into the mix.

You can’t live without balance and just concentrate on whoever is complaining the most. Going from person to person trying to deal with issues may seem like you are helping everyone, when in actuality, you are helping no one. Therefore, the big question is wondering how to create the necessary balance.

Here are some instruction of how to achieve and maintain a balance in your blended family.

Make some time just for you. There can’t possibly be enough time each day to be able to dedicate time for yourself. Well, that may be true to some extent, but you better find some! The truth is that if you keep going and going, doing everything you can to ensure that your blended family is cared for, you will end up completely burnt out and be virtually useless to them. Just stop and think about those really bad days you have with your step family.

You know which days I mean- the ones where you quickly lose your temper and are storming around the house crying or yelling at every member of your blended family. You find yourself unable to be a good spouse or loving parent. Yep, those are the days. This is when you have not taken care of yourself well enough. Loving your step family means loving yourself. The truth is that you can’t please everyone 24 hours a day, so stop trying and look out for yourself now and again. You deserve a little “me” time.

Relax: There are many ways you can unwind after a long and hectic day. You could take a nice long bath, read a great book, and have a sip of wine or tea. Perhaps going for a walk to the gym relaxes you. Thinking that you don’t have time for this is not acceptable, because you can make the time. What you don’t have time for is NOT relaxing! Just think of what relaxes you and work it into your schedule somewhere. Write these down on a list and post it for yourself.

Stay energized: Just as important as relaxing is staying upbeat and energized. So, what energizes you and provides you with strength? How about a shopping trip or a movie? What about a nice phone conversation with your best friend? Figure out which activity gives you strength and work that into your routine at least a few times each month. You will be surprised at how much better you will be able to function in your blended family once you do this.

If you need advice with your blended or stepfamily, The Blended and Step Family Resource Center is ready to assist you with its counseling and coaching services, as well as other resources aimed at promoting strong and successful blended and stepfamilies. Contact us today and let us help to provide you with answers.

Friday, October 7, 2011

The first 90 days are the toughest in a blended or stepfamily

Two adults, who have gone through a divorce and are now entering remarriage, when one or both are bringing children from that marriage, are creating a blended family or step family. This new couple is obviously in love and excited about their bond. Unfortunately, they often fail to realize that the children may not share their enthusiasm.

The first three months are always the toughest, and it’s crucial to communicate important information to the children. This will allow you to flourish as a blended family, also called a step family. Here are a few things to discuss with your children.

Everyone is loved just as much as always
All children must be reminded each day that a stepfamily offers just as much love as any other type of family. Everyone is just as important now as they were before the merge. A blended family offers a chance for even more love, as more people are involved now. There will now be a step mom or step dad, as well as step kids involved, which creates more opportunities for love.

It is OK to feel strange about a new family addition
You obviously love the person you have chosen as your new partner, but your kids didn’t help pick this person out, and they will need time to get to know him or her. Let your kids know that having strange feelings towards the blended family, and wondering whether they will like your spouse is perfectly normal. Allow them their space to get to know your new spouse in their own time. As long as they are friendly and respectful, that’s all you can ask for at first.

Nothing is ever a competition
There is plenty of room for a step mom or step dad, and they are not replacing anyone. The kids still have both their biological parents to depend on, and a stepparent is just a wonderful addition to the family. The stepparent will be respected as an adult and decision maker, but will not be stepping into the shoes of either biological parent. Children often see a stepparent as an enemy of sorts, and the parent may often feel the same way, since the kids take up some of their spouse’s time. Make sure everyone knows that they just need to relax and get acquainted with each other.

Liking a new stepparent is OK
Kids don’t deal with the emotions in a divorce as well as adults do. They will often feel that if they allow themselves to grow attached to a stepparent that they are somehow being disrespectful to the biological parent. Just tell your children that it is perfectly acceptable, and that it will just be a different type of relationship. The love they feel for their parents has nothing to do with liking a new stepparent.

As already mentioned, the first 90 days in a blended family are the hardest. Getting plenty of rest and sticking to these rules will ensure that your step family is emotionally happy and healthy for a long, long time.

The Blended and Step Family Resource Center aims to help blended and stepfamilies become strong and successful through its counselling and coaching services as well as other resources available. To get the help that you need, get in touch with our licensed professional counselors and we will help you find solutions and hope.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

How to co-parent with your ex for the betterment of your blended family

Your divorce has long since been finalized, and you have moved on and begun a new life through remarriage. Whether you like it or not, your ex will still be in your life when you have children together. You must maintain contact, mainly because it is in the children’s best interest. In order to create a functional blended family, you will have to practice co-parenting with your ex-spouse. This will require added effort and time, but is necessary for the emotional well-being of your children, and your step family in general.

Maintain your sanity
The emotions of your ex may get to you, but don’t take it personally. At times, an ex-spouse will display feelings that are highly inappropriate. For example; you might not be able to attend your daughter’s dance recital, resulting in a 5-minute tirade being left on your answering system. Just take a step back and understand that he or she is just showing disappointment in how you might be making your daughter feel by not coming. The feelings behind the message are acceptable, but the added anger is not. Just let it roll off your back and don’t bother responding.

Focus on the kids
Your communication should concern the children, and that’s it. There is no longer a need to talk about daily events, or anything to do with your own new blended family or stepfamily as a whole, or even other step kids. The only remaining relationship you have with your ex is that of your children, and that is all you need to discuss.

Stay organized
Complete a calendar that focuses on visitation in advance. Follow the specifications set forth by your divorce agreement and make arrangements for special event sand occasions well in advance. Children like to know what is happening, and when. A great idea is present each child with their own personal visitation calendar that they can carry around with them.

Be fair
Keep in mind that by arranging time for the kids to spend with each parent is doing what is in their best interest. There is never an excuse to cheat the other parent out of scheduled time, nor is there ever a valid reason to cancel any of your allotted time.

Holidays should be alternated each year. Let your kids know that celebrating their birthday a day late or Christmas on the following weekend doesn’t detract from how special the event is. You can make it seem fun to celebrate occasions on different days. What kid doesn’t want more than one birthday or Christmas?

Be flexible
Occasionally, special events can come up at a moments notice. If your ex needs to switch up the visitation schedule temporarily, try to be flexible. If you start to notice that this is happening frequently, then you may need to put your foot down and require at least a few weeks notice on visitation changes. However, always leave room to accommodate for emergencies.

Always do what you know is best for your children. Always maintain an open line of communication with your children. Encourage them to let you know of any upcoming events so that you will not only remain an active participant in their lives, but you will be able to make any necessary plans for events.

The Blended and Step Family Resource Center aims to help blended and stepfamilies through its counselling and coaching services as well as other resources available. To get the help that you need, get in touch with our licensed professional counselors and we will help you find solutions and hope.