Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Visitation agreements not all they are cracked up to be

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Visitation arrangements are settled during separation or divorce, and both parties agree to abide by them. You and your new spouse know that building your blended family is easier when you take care of your own relationship. Likewise, when you and your ex-spouse can agree that what is best for the children shall be the keystone of your co-parenting arrangement, the kids will be freed from constant wrangling and court appearances.

Getting along with your ex-spouse
With a divorce and remarriage in their recent experience, kids need to know they can really rely on you two getting along well enough to be parents; otherwise it can be really difficult for them to feel safe and secure, or trust that you will do right by them. Children often feel responsible when parents divorce, and having them fight about custody and visitation matters reinforces that belief.

Communication with your ex-spouse
Cooperative or not, you will always have to communicate with your ex-spouse about your children. When you do, regardless of whether he or she is cooperative or not, here are some guidelines for communication.

@Stay on message
@Stay cool
@Stay away from finger pointing and old arguments
@Keep going back to your point if the subject gets changed
@Keep it about the kids, and only the kids
@Keep it between the two of you; never ask kids to carry messages

In order of preference, the means of communicating with an ex-spouse is by email, texting, voice mail, telephone conversation, and only if all else fails, with a personal meeting. When you have a parental issue to handle, an email offers you the best opportunity to set the right wording and tone.

Make visitation work
If you remember that spending time with their other parent is for and about the children, not an accommodation to your ex-spouse, hassles and scheduling snafus take on less inconvenience and annoyance. Encourage your kids to have a great time and enjoy being with their other parent. Send no messages via the children. Have them ready for pick up if that is the arrangement, and make sure you are ready to receive them when they are dropped back home.

Your primary relationship
While it is important to have a good relationship with your ex-spouse, be sure to put your major efforts into your primary relationship: the one with your new spouse and the blended family you are building together. Visit The Blended and Step Family Resource Center for more information on how to make visitation agreements work.

Monday, July 23, 2012

A harmonious blended family: fiction or fact?

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Balancing child rearing philosophy, energy, and commitment is often no fun for a blended family step parent. Feeling torn between your new spouse, stepchildren, and your own kids when you are trying to keeping everybody on board your blended family boat from a mutiny can be a challenge-but achievable! Here’s how:

·         Assess the situation.
·         Set your goal.
·         Create a plan.
·         Follow through.
·         Continually re-assess the situation.
·         Revisit your goal.
·         Revise your plan if needed.
·         Follow through.

Acknowledge the struggle
When you and your new spouse created this blended family, if you expected that two separate established families with established routines and methods, and with established rules and expectations, could blend together easily, you were being blinded by love. Some say that anything worth having is worth struggling for; they may well be talking about blended families. 

Have discussions about childrearing when you are alone
If you and your spouse discuss a hot parenting issue for the first time in front of you kids, you may be setting yourselves, and your kids, up for confusion and discomfort. Besides agreeing that you and your spouse will always present a united stance in front of the kids, you should both know that if you argue in front of children, it affects them in several different ways.

Say what you feel
Unless you tell your spouse or step kids how you feel and why, it is not fair for either you or your child to feel misunderstood. Harmony can only be realized in a blended family where everyone knows what is and is not expected of them. Tell your spouse exactly what you need in order to feel accepted, special, and an important part of their life.\

Mutually agree on consequences for breaking house rules
Do not assume your accustomed style of disciplining your kids is appropriate for your step kids. You and your spouse must have a frank discussion about whatever rules and consequences existed before the blended family.

Step up to the task
Make it a major goal to develop a relationship with each step kid, one that has nothing to do with your spouse. Set aside special time for you and your step kid to interact alone. For more information, visit The Blended and Step FamilyResource Center.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Co-parenting and joint custody in an extended blended family

A blended family has more members than we sometimes acknowledge, so it may be helpful now and then to take a renewed look at your extended family structure. A successful blended family makes accommodations with an ex-spouse and his or her new partner, and understanding how much they impact kids who spend time at their home in a joint custody arrangement.

Making co-parenting and joint custody work
An amicable co-parenting and joint custody partnership with your ex-spouse is one of the most important relationships you can cultivate. When both parents set aside their own personal issues and put them first, children gain a kind of stability and self-worth that is hard to match.

Co-parenting after a divorce and marriage
After your divorce and remarriage, the only relationship you have with your ex-spouse is that of co-parents of your children. It can help to begin thinking of the relationship as something completely new, something quite outside of you and your ex-spouse.

Co-parenting is the best option for your children
When you and your ex-spouse work together in cooperation for their benefit, your kids see that they are more important than whatever conflict ended the marriage. They can understand that your love for them will prevail, no matter what.

If your ex-spouse has also remarried
You deserve and expect consideration and respect for your role as a step parent to the biological children of your new blended family partner. Likewise, your consideration and respect for your ex-spouse’s new partner is called for, as well.

Enlist your partner’s help
Co-parenting with someone you wish you never had to see again is not easy, and it can sometimes take its toll in tension and exasperation. Keep personal issues with your ex-spouse away from your children and never, ever say negative things to them about your ex.

For more information on how to keep and strengthen your blended family, visit The Blended and Step Family Resource Center.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Blended family couples struggle against the odds

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Blended family success rates are struggling to keep up with the failure rates. Second marriages end in divorce at an higher rate than first marriages do. How can we avoid repeating the same disillusionment and pain? These tips may help you and your blended family partner keep from falling into those couple traps that lead to poor relationship dynamics.

Give your relationship the respect it deserves. If you think that shifting your main focus away from your spouse and onto the children will help the situation, you do everyone a disservice. Your strong relationship is the glue that keeps your blended family together. Work together in a conscious effort to build a relationship of mutual respect and understanding.

Be safe. No matter what one person says in anger, you both agree that your marriage and your relationship will stay secure. If one of you is hesitant to speak their mind for fear of reaction or threats of divorce, your safety zone has been breached.

Fight fair. The first rule of fair fighting is, of course, no physical violence-ever. The second rule is, fight only about the subject at hand, without dragging out other complaints, too. Keeping things as cool as possible is always a good goal, and throwing new and old issues around like darts is never cool.

Forget about the small stuff. Learn how to distinguish between big problems and little ones. In the category of big problems you will tend to see things like health, financial security, welfare of the children, fidelity, and such.

Life has stress and strains, and so what? If you wish to know more about keeping it together as a blended family couple, contact The Blended and Step Family Resource Center.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Step parenting roles for step moms and step dads

Being a step mom or a step dad is a hard job, no doubt about it. Chances are you came into this step parent position with little or no training for it. When you come right down to it, few of us looked into the future to see ourselves as step parents!

Suggestions for step parent role limits

Children of divorce and remarriage benefit from close ties to both bio parents, and you can help by encouraging them to work things out for the benefit of the kids while you stand back. Oh, you still hold an important position in your step family, to be sure. You need to be the person who is objective, fair, kind, and accepting of your spouse and of the children, no matter what else is happening. Your step kids have likely been navigating between battling parents for quite some time, and they can probably use a bit of stability and calm from you.
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Their parents probably can, too. You can help with that. You can support your spouse and his or her parenting goals by presenting a united stand with your step kids. You might advocate for a different approach now and then if you feel you must, and not appear to be taking sides if you are open and honest and above all, fair.

If your  step kids have lost their other parents, either through death or by absence, your step parent role increased, buy your main role is to support your spouse as he or she parents her children. Until your step kids have fully accepted you in a parental role, you are relegated to the equally significant and reputable role as partner to their bio parent.

Parenting is difficult. Step parenting is harder. But when step parents approach the role in the same way parents do, by doing what is best for the children  and for the blended family, everyone benefits. For more information on keeping blended family relationships, visit The Blended and Step Family Resource Center.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Blended family summer bonding activities

Whenever you find something that everyone likes to do together such as going to the beach or the pool, outdoor activities like softball or lawn darts, going for drives , to the movies, theme parks, camping, visiting relatives; any or all of these might be something your family is looking forward to doing this summer.

Family game days

If your blended family ground rules prohibit overuse of electronic equipment, offer alternative activities. You might like to set up a scavenger hunt for the step siblings in your stepfamily. These hunts might be limited to the house and yard, or you may feel comfortable sending off teams or pairs of step siblings to find and carry home the items on their scavenger lists.

You may want to check online for ideas of free family computer games that are appropriate for your step family. It really does not matter whether you and your step family enjoy monopoly, checkers or a fast-action computer game together. What matters is that you enjoy doing something together. Having fun together builds bonds and memories.

Share laughter
Sharing a laugh is among the best bonding activities a blended family can have, so take advantage of every opportunity to share a laugh with your step family members. Building a blended family based on shared laughter and enjoyment of each other makes for bonds that endure.

Step family group projects
The most important project for step family summers is to enjoy being together. Whatever you do as a blended family, make it satisfying for everyone, make it family-focused, and make it fun. Although step kids may not spend their entire summer vacation with you, make time for a project; something that takes planning, execution, and has a definite accomplishment factor so you can celebrate it together. A blended family that plays together stays together. For more information on strengthening blended family relationships, visit The Blended and Step FamilyResource Center.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Step parenting just one crew of kids is not so easy

A blended family consisting of one parent, kids, and a step parent has some advantages over a blended family with two sets of kids, but that is not to say things are easier. 

The outsider
In a perfect world, each new blended family should move into a home entirely new to everyone, but in many cases that is just not feasible. Moving into the home of your marital predecessor can be difficult, but a considerate and empathetic partner can encourage you to make the kinds of changes you need to feel more comfortable. Stepping into former spouse territory will likely be easier, though, than stepping into the space of your step kids’ other parent.

Step moms and other starring roles
Some step moms do consider auditioning for the role of Big Sister, or Best Friend, but luckily are often rebuffed. Luckily, your step kids need your role to be that of step mom, in partnership with their dad.  Put your energy into being the kind of step mom who loves their dad, treats them with loving kindness and consideration, and expects to be treated with respect.

Step dad, Pal, or Captain Obedience?
No matter whether your step kids need a friend, need to show more respect for their mother, or need a splash of reality in their lives, what they need most is that you love and respect their mother and treat them fairly.

Rules and discipline
Mutual respect should always be first and foremost on the list, especially for communications between step kids and their step parents. There may be times when people do not agree, but they can be perfect times to model the skill of disagreeing without being disagreeable.

Love usually takes time, especially if you are met with suspicion or outright hostility. Try not to feel guilty about it, and concentrate on getting to know your step kids, without expectations or judgment. In the beginning, it is enough to know that your partner expects you to try. It may help to think of love as something that is not earned, but something that is given away unreservedly.

If you feel like an outsider in your blended family, give it time. Let your step kids get to know your. Take care that you give credit for something well done, use restraint in advice or correction, and be open to every opportunity. You might be surprised to know that it is worth the effort. For more information regarding step parenting, visit The Blended and Step Family Resource Center.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Blended family with two sets of children, no problem!

Being a step dad or a step mom is not an easy thing to do.  Movies and television shows would have us believing that success is inevitable when two adults with children meet, fall in love, and decide to blend their two families. And it all happens within a one- or two-hour time frame! In blended family life, real life, making it happen does not always come so quickly or easily.

The joys of blended family living
A blended family with two sets of step kids has great potential for being that great big happy family you and your spouse envision, and the rewards of being a step mom and a step dad are boundless. Finding an entirely new set of people to love and to love you is always worthwhile, and the simple act of expanding compassion, affection, and interest in others can have far reaching effects.

Step sibling challenges
Most step siblings do have one important thing in common: none of them asked to be there! Blended family step siblings , whether they like it or not, have to share a home and learn to get along, despite seeing each other only on weekends or holidays when one set of kids lives with another parent.

Territorial issues
Territory is often an issue in a step family. Kids who have had their own rooms in a previous house may find sharing accommodations, even for short visits by step siblings, difficult to manage. In some blended family homes, accommodation can be very crowded, but do try to make sure everyone has at least some private or personal own area in their shared room.

When you set your ground rules for living a blended family, make treating each other in a respectful and caring manner an absolute and non-negotiable decree. As step parents in a step family, even-handed and fair treatment is vitally important, because step siblings notice id someone get preferential treatment or is not challenged when they refuse to follow household rules.

Step parents in a blended family often feel they ought to love their step kids in the same way they love their own. It is usually easier and a lot more genuine, to love someone for whom they really are and not just because you think you should.  Remember, you choose your new spouse, and if those step kids seem very un-loveable at times, then love them through your spouse. For more information on how to manage a blended family, visit The Blended and Step Family Resource Center.