Know Your Role

know your rule, stepmom, step mothers, role of a stepmom, blended family, step family
Do you really know your role in your blended marriage? Do you know what your limits are? This is something that is very important to discuss with your husband or significant other before you get married or move in together.  I have heard it many times where a Stepmom has overstepped their role and has disciplined or said something to the stepchild that the husband was not happy about.  You need to have the discussion with your husband about what he is comfortable with and what he isn’t comfortable with. Because you don’t want to overstep your role and have your husband undermines you right in front of your stepchildren.  If that ever does happen it shows your stepchildren that what you say doesn’t matter and that they don’t have to obey or listen to you and that their Dad has the last say.  You both need to sit down and come up with what you are comfortable with, meaning if your husband is ready for you to discipline his kids and how will it be handled.  Determine and establish who will be the primary disciplinary in the family overall or with the stepchildren and who will be the second disciplinary in the marriage.  The stepmom should not be the primary disciplinary to the stepchildren. If you as the stepmom feel that you have taken on that role and it’s too much for you, then you really need to have a serious conversation with your husband about it.  The husband should be the main primary disciplinary with his children.  Putting you in that role can really become a disaster for your relationship with the stepchildren and the biological mother.  Stepmoms should always try to be more of the nurturer and encourager parent type role rather than the disciplinary role of the household. I know there are some Stepmoms that are with the stepchildren more than the husband is due to work, then you have to be the be the disciplinary in those cases.  If you notice your stepchildren resenting you, it’s because you’re doing too much of the discipline in the household and your husband needs to step up and be more engaged in the discipline area. He should always support you with whatever discipline you give out to his stepchildren. If he ever feels the need to disagree with it, then he needs to tell you later on when the children are not around, but never in front of the children.  If your discipline isn’t working the husband should always try to step in to help enforce it.  You should always be on the same team with one another. Stepmoms shouldn’t undermine husband’s discipline either especially in front of the children. Always try to be on the same team and become a united front together.
There was a time not that long ago where my stepdaughter was yelling at me in a busy restaurant and just wouldn’t stop yelling at me even after I asked her to stop yelling and lower her voice. My husband just stood there and didn’t do or say anything to make her stop. It made me feel like he didn’t care about the way she was treating me and that he supported her actions towards me. He later apologized for it, but it still hurt me that he couldn’t step up to the plate and put her in her place. She was totally out of line and very disrespectful to me.  This is a good example of a husband not having your back. A husband needs to have your back no matter what. If he can’t have your back then you don’t and shouldn’t discipline the stepchildren.  Let him deal with his own children and you handle your children.  It’s so important that you talk about your role with his children. If you can’t agree to discipline and consequences in the home, maybe you both would benefit from attending a parenting class together to help you agree on discipline and consequences. There is also a post I did awhile back about disciplining your stepchildren, feel free to read it and see if it helps.
Another role that is important to discuss and determine is your role with the biological mother.  Is your husband going to handle all communication with the biological mother or are you going to handle some of it?  It’s something you definitely need to figure out and early on in your relationship or marriage. My recommendation that has worked in my marriage is that each of you handles all communication with your own ex-spouses.  It just makes it less difficult to deal with and helps avoid a lot of stress and conflicts. My husband solely communicates with his ex-wife about his kids and I solely communicate with my ex-husband about my kids. If you have it set up to where you both communicate with the ex-spouses and it isn’t working you can always change it around, there’s still time to do that.  If you do share communication with the ex-spouses and its working then leave it the way it is. Just make sure you establish boundaries with one another about what you can say yes to with the ex-spouses and what you both need to discuss first before giving answers too.

Knowing your role as a Stepmom and finding out what your limits are and getting it defined only helps better your marriage and your blended family. If you haven’t had that talk yet, I strongly encourage you to do so.

Should I Attend Sporting or Other Events?

blended sport events, attending stepchild sporting events, step family, stepmom, blended family, children's sport events, stepchildren's sporting events
There comes a time when the stepchildren get involved in Sports or other school events and you ask yourself should I be attending these for support? The answer is yes and most definitely encourage your husband to attend even when you can’t attend always make sure you make it possible for the biological parent to attend their child’s event.  As your schedule permits, attend as many events as you can.  Even if the biological mother is there, just because she’s there doesn’t mean you have to sit by her.  It’s important that you go with your husband for moral support and to show your stepchildren that you care about them and that they are also important to you too.  It’s really important to the stepchildren that you cheer them on and support them in the activities they do.  I know from previous experience growing up in a blended family myself, my Dad only attended one sporting event of mine, out of many that I had.  Even my own mother didn’t attend many of them either and it really hurt me as a child that no one was there to cheer me on.  I remember the feeling like it was yesterday, it felt like they didn’t care and it really hurt me especially when my friend’s parents were there and mine weren’t.  However, my friend’s parents would cheer me on which made me feel good, but it isn’t the same thing as when it’s your own parents there to cheer you on.  I played three sports growing up, girls’ softball, tennis and ran track.  It’s a great feeling when you have parents there to support and help cheer you on.  It makes you feel loved, valued, and important.  Try your best to attend every sporting event or special events like Home Coming Dance, Prom dances, Science Fair, Art Fair, Choir Concert, or Band Concerts.  What I mean by attending the dances, I mean by going over to their mother’s house and taking pictures of them before they head off to the dance.  I mean games, not practices, however if you want to attend practices to, that is up to you, but games are more important to attend than the practices.  Your children and stepchildren need that support.  If you have more than one child in sports and you run into a timing conflict, then split up and have one attend one and the other parent attends the other one.  I know it may be hard to attend every sporting or school event they have, but try your best to attend most of them.  When you can’t make it for whatever reason, make sure you tell your child that you cannot be there for it, so they know in advance.  
With our children, one of my daughters is in competitive cheer and my other daughter was in girls’ soccer and currently in the choir and then my stepson is in football and baseball.  Sometimes we have conflicts with the events, but we always to try have at least one of us there in attendance to show our support. Yes, it’s not easy to be there with the ex-spouses but try to look past that and be there for your child.  Just remember your doing this for them.  If you can’t be there for whatever reason it’s not the end of the world as long as you have attended most of the events.  If you tell your child you will come to their event and then don’t show up, it really hurts and disappoints that child. It shows the child that they can’t count on you to be there for them.  Commit to what you can commit to and when you can’t be there make sure you always tell them in advance.  We keep a family calendar that is on our phones, where both my husband and I can put events, appointments or other things on the calendar that way we know what’s going on at all times.  Try to find a calendar application that you can both share on each other’s phones that way you always know what’s coming up or you can buy a dry erase calendar that goes on your fridge, either way, it will help you stay organized and aware of things coming up so you don’t miss them.  Try to remember these events are all about the children and not about you, it’s important to be there and show your support and cheer them on every chance you get.

When you were in sports or other activities did your parents attend most of them? If not, how did it make you feel when they couldn’t be there for you?

Mother’s Day – Stepmothers Are Mothers Too!

mother's Day, stepmothers are mothers too, stepmoms, stepmothers, blended family, mothers day, step family
Mother’s Day is just right around the corner. It can be a very hard day for us Stepmoms because we are then reminded that we aren’t really our stepchildren’s mother, so we often don’t get recognized or appreciated.  When really we should get recognized, even though we are not their biological mother, we are still a mother; we are special mothers who have chosen to love, accept and take care of our stepchildren.  We take care of them as we would our own children. We also deserve to be honored on Mother’s Day. We would love to get recognized by our stepchildren after all we have taken good care of them and always look out for their best interests. Even some of us Stepmoms have even taken care of our stepchildren even better than their biological mothers have in yet we seldom get any credit or recognition for it on Mother’s Day. To me, Mother’s Day is a day of appreciation to ALL types of mothers and being a Stepmother is still a mother.  Sometimes our husbands don’t realize that they need to be the one to help their children recognize that their Stepmother also needs to be appreciated and recognized on Mother’s Day too.  Sometimes us Stepmoms need to have a talk with our husband’s about Mother’s Day so they know whether or not you want to be recognized or not.  Because sometimes our husbands can be clueless about it and don’t realize how it could hurt our feelings if we don’t get appreciated and recognized on Mother’s Day.  If you are in a new blended marriage, it’s good to talk to your husband about it and share with him your thoughts about Mother’s Day and whether or not it’s a big deal to you.
All it takes is our husbands talking to their children about it and taking them to the store to buy a card and a small gift. The children could even make their own homemade card.  They do sell Stepmother cards for Mother’s Day and even “like a mom” Mother’s Day cards.
I think why it is a hard day for us Stepmoms is because we feel like we are reminded that we are not their real mother, and yet we have all of the same feelings, go through frustration, all of the pain, emotions, financial strain and the difficulty of being a Mother and yet get none of the joys, recognition or appreciation of doing it all. We are Mother’s to regardless if it’s a Stepmother; we are still a Mother after all Stepmother has the word “mother” in it.
My first and second year of being a Stepmother, I got recognized by my stepchildren and it felt so wonderful to get a card that they both picked out for me and a gift.  But then after those two years it all stopped which made me sad and hurt, but I also understood that my stepchildren are going through loyalty conflicts and PAS (Parental Alienation Syndrome) with their mother which makes it very hard to be nice to me and accept me as a mother too. We always made sure we took our stepchildren out to get something for their mother for Mother’s Day. One year I even took my stepdaughter out to the Hallmark store to make sure she got her mother a card. I feel it is very important that their mother gets something on Mother’s Day too regardless of how I felt about her.
We also want to be recognized and treated special on Mother’s Day since we are a mother too regardless if we didn’t give birth to our stepchildren we still love and take care of all of their needs just like a biological mother would do.  This Mother’s Day make sure you honor ALL Mothers not just the one that gave birth to you. Stepmothers are Mothers too.

Gift Ideas for Mother’s Day

  • Pedicure & Manicure gift certificate
  • Massage gift certificate
  • Jewelry is always nice
  • Candles
  • Flowers
  • Perfume
  • Bath & Body Lotion gift set
  • Gift Card to their favorite store
  • Create an Anytime Coupon Book that says stuff like: we do the dishes, laundry, vacuum whole house, clean the house, dust, cook a meal, mom’s day off from all chores. You give it to them so that they can use the coupons any time they like
  • Make a stepping stone for the garden with handprints or footprints
  • Get them a personalized coffee mug with either handprint or picture of the kids
  • Have child make their own card and paint a picture for them
  • Have the kids get their picture taken and get it framed for her work
  • Homemade handprint craft of any kind
  • Handprint flower pot with a plant inside of it
  • Get them something they been wanting for a long time
  • Stitch fix gift certificate
  • Take them out to eat at their favorite restaurant
  • Create some pottery for them from a Pottery store
  • Have the kids bake a cake for her
  • Have the kids cook breakfast and serve it in bed for her
  • Buy her, her favorite bottle of wine
  • Make up a gift bag of all of her favorite candies or sweets

Another Great Idea:
Ladies if you want great gifts, make up a Sizes Card that has a few important things on it:
Clothing Size, Pant Size, Jean Size, Dress Size, Shoe Sizes, Favorite Colors, Ring Size, Bra Size, Underwear Size, Lingerie Size
This size card can go in your husband’s wallet so any time he is at the store and wants to buy you something he knows all of your sizes for everything. Make it a business card size so it’s small enough to fit in his wallet. You can even get it laminated so it doesn’t get ruined.


Stepmoms – Was there a Mother’s Day that you didn’t get recognized and how did it make you feel?

Did I make a Mistake?

did I make a mistake, Am I making a mistake, blended family, blended family problems, down times in blended family, step family, stepmom problems, stepmom
Sometimes when things get hard in our marriage and with our blended family.  We can often ask  ourselves: “Did I make a Mistake?”  Is this marriage worth fighting for? Is this blended family ever going to work? Will we ever become a happy blended family? Is it all worth it?  I know I have asked these questions a few times myself.  My husband and I have been going to therapy for a year now, because of some things that we would like to resolve within our relationship. It has not been easy to open up and share our struggles with one another yet alone a therapist, but in doing so it has helped us tremendously.
When we start to feel like we just can’t do it anymore, pray and seek God.  When we face challenges in our marriage that really overwhelm us, God will give us the strength to persevere, trust in him for a break through. God will never let you down. Then talk to someone you trust with your feelings and emotions. It’s good to be able to get those feelings and emotions out with a trusted friend or a therapist.  Then think back about when you first met your husband, what were the qualities that you found in him that made you feel like you couldn’t live without him?  Write these down and make a list of them.  What were your first thoughts about when you met his kids? Write those down.  How was the first time your kids and his kids met? Write that down.
Will we ever become a happy blended family
I know we never set out of this life to be a Stepmom and could have never imagined our life to be where it is at right now.  Kathy Lipp & Carol Boley state that we need to do these 5 things when it comes to feeling like we made a mistake.

5 Things to help us get through our down times:

1. Accept Reality. Your stepfamily has been born of a loss of either a death or divorce. Everyone has suffered at one point. We all should know that.

2. Prepare for Action. Get organized and make a plan. A plan of how to make it work. What changes can you make to make things better? Share that plan with your spouse if he is struggling too.

3. Know that you’re not Alone.  God and all of his resources are available to you, therefore, you can succeed. It’s important to believe this. There are support groups available such as “Stepmoms are us” on facebook that will be there for you. You can also get therapy to help get you through the hard times.

4. Stand Firm. Be strong and courageous.  It will be tough but stay faithful to your task. Do the right thing even when you don’t feel like it. God will supply what you need to accomplish this.

5. Know God’s Heart.  Study God’s word making it the basis for your thoughts, words, attitudes, and actions. God will help you when you seek him daily. God is greater than your problems, he will help you get through them and resolve them.


There’s a great book that I recommend that will help you with your daily devotional time with God. It’s called: “Daily Bread for the Starving Stepmom” by Laurabeth Hoisington and Melanie Anthony. There are 31 days of devotions along with a scripture and a prayer for every day to help you grow more as a successful Stepmom.  When you are done with that book, I recommend another great devotional book which is: “The Power of a Praying Wife” by Stormie Omartian. There are life and marriage changing devotions. If you want your marriage to change, it will once you read this book and for the better.
There is another great book that will help encourage you with being a happy Stepmom and help encourage your marriage. It is called: “The Happy Stepmother” by Rachelle Katz. This book gives you 10 Steps on how to be a Happy Stepmother. One of which is making your marriage or relationship second priority which means taking care of yourself is the first priority.  Rachelle Katz states that a strong effective partnership is an absolute necessity if you are to survive the stresses of stepfamily life with your dignity and self-respect intact.  A Strong relationship will help you cope with any problems you face with the stepchildren and the ex-spouse(s).  When you’re in a committed relationship with your spouse you are willing to work at whatever means necessary to help maintain it.  A happy couple knows that there’s going to be ups and downs throughout the marriage and believes that they can work together to get through it.
Back to the lists you made, they are great and every time you feel down always refer back to the lists and it will remind you of the reasons why you fell in love with your husband and the reasons why you should do whatever it takes to make it work. Every one of us has down times even in first marriages. We just have to pick ourselves up and not stay in that state of mind for long. That’s why it’s great to have a great support system in place.  A place where you can go and vent away without any judgement, just love, support and prayer that’s really all we need to help lift us out.
Don’t forget to try speaking positive and know whatever we speak out of our mouths, we give life too.  You will get through this and become stronger than you were before. Hang in there and know you’re not alone in this; there are other Stepmoms who have had these same thoughts and go through struggles too.
Here’s a prayer that will help you through this hard time:

Lord, I can’t do this life alone,
Help me to see all of the positives
in this marriage and in my Blended Family.
Give me the strength to keep pressing forward.
Help me to be the best Wife and Stepmom I can be.
Show me what I can do to make things better.
Please give me patience, love, compassion, understanding,
flexibility, and commitment to making it work.
Please help to me be more positive and speak positively.
Thank you for all you are doing to help me, my marriage,
and my blended family.
I love you and trust in you to get me through it.
Amen


Have you ever felt this way in your marriage? If so, how did you overcome it?

References:
Laurebeth Hoisington & Melanie Anthony (2015). Daily Break for the Starving Stepmom. Tate Publishing and Enterprises, LLC
Rachelle Katz (2010). The Happy Stepmother. Stay Sane, Empower Yourself, Thrive in Your New Family. Harlequin publishing company.
Stormie Omartian (1997). The Power of a Praying Wife. Harvest House Publishers.

Affirming Words

affirming words, affirmation, stepmom, stepmom support, blended family, step family
It is very important to always look for ways to compliment our children and stepchildren.  Affirming words go a long way with children.  Can you think back of when you were a child, do you remember any affirming words or compliments you received? Did that help encourage you to be the person you are today? Unfortunately, I only remember bad names that I was called from my mother.  I don’t remember any encouraging, complimenting or affirming words growing up.  Do you want your child or stepchild saying the same thing or do you want them to remember affirming words you used to speak good into their life? We need to speak positive words over them it will help shape them into the person they will become when they are adults.  Kathi Lipp and Carol Boley state that we should use affirming words to express your understanding, support and belief in your stepkids.  Speak words of life into your children.  Find ways to say something encouraging and positive at the right moments. Some examples of affirming words are below:

Affirming Statement Examples:
Your making wise decisions, I’m proud of you.
Every time you smile, it lights up a room.
You’re such a caring person, I love how you care for people.
You are a great cleaner.
You are always so organized.
You’re a great decorator.
You’re always thinking of others, you are so thoughtful.

You can speak life of future into their lives by saying these statements to them:
You are going to make a great parent someday.
You’re going to become a great inventor.
You inspire others to be a good person.
You are great at figuring things out.
You are going to do such great things for God, when you get older.

Affirming words also can encourage your child to try new things. As Amy Baker & Paul Fine state parents who engage in mindful and positive parenting believe in their children and convey to them an attitude of encouragement and faith in their ability to solve their own problems, identify good solutions, and achieve their goals.  When you see the best in a child it helps to encourage them to try new things.  Trying new things helps them grow up to be independent adults.  When you encourage your child, you show them that they are valued, respected, loved and trusted.  All children need to feel that way from their parents. When your child shares their hopes and dreams with you, show enthusiasm towards it.

Affirmations for Yourself
Using affirmations for yourself can help release negative energy and turn it into positive energy. When dealing with something negative say to yourself “I will release these negative feelings and not let them have any more control and focus my attention only on the positive energy today. I chose to live today at the fullest.”
It’s also helpful to make a list of positive attributes.

Positive Attributes
I am a caring person.
I am a loving person.
I am a good person.
I am a generous person.
I am a creative person.
I am a smart person.
I am a positive person.

Rachelle Katz states that affirmations can also bolster your belief in your ability to grow, change, and improve your life.  You can do this by writing a list of “I can” statements such as:

I can succeed
I can achieve
I can overcome anything

And try to use “I will” statements that will help you move to achieving any success in anything you want to accomplish.

Examples of “I will” statements are:
I will take on only what I can handle today.
I will control my emotions & feelings today.
I will control my temper & attitude today.
I will feel less guilt today.
I will be the best stepmom I can be today.

All of these will help you turn your negative affirmations about yourself over to positive affirmations. In order to give affirming words to our children, we also have to have our own positive affirmation about ourselves.  Whatever we speak out of our mouths will come to pass, so speak positive affirming words not just to our children but to ourselves and our circumstances.  We give life to whatever we speak. As Proverbs 18:21 says “Life and death are in the power of our tongue”.  If we speak negative thoughts or words about ourselves or our children they will come to pass. Proverbs 6:2 says “We are snared by the words of our mouth”.  Choose today to start speaking positively to our children and to ourselves.  Try saying positive affirmations every day like: “I’m excited about today and about my future. Something good is about to happen to me today.” Or say this “I’m blessed. I’m healthy, I’m strong, I’m valuable, I’m talented, I have a bright future.”  Try this and see if your days are better than before. See if your children’s attitude and behavior changes when you use affirming words on their lives. Remember that whatever you speak out loud, you give life too.

References:
Amy L. Baker & Paul R. Fine (2014). Co-parenting with a Toxic Ex. What to do when your ex-spouse tries to turn the kids against you.  New Harbinger Publications, Inc.
Rachelle Katz (2010). The Happy Stepmother. Stay Sane, Empower yourself, Thrive in your new family. Harlequin publishing company.
Kathy Lipp & Carol Boley (2015). But I’m not a Wicked Stepmother! Secrets of Successful Blended Families. Focus on the Family. Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

Co-Parenting with a Toxic Ex – Book Review

co-parenting with toxic ex, blended family, stepmom, step family, toxic ex, toxic ex-spouse
This book has really opened my eyes to see where the ex-spouse may be coming from and also showed me what the children are going through when a parent is toxic.  In my own situation, it has helped me learn how to handle my stepchildren better. Helped me understand why they do and say the things they do.  This book is a big eye opener and has helped me to discover healthy parent strategies to overcome the hard times with my stepchildren.  Who are constantly facing extreme loyalty conflicts thanks to their mother who has successfully poisoned my stepchildren against me and my husband.
If you have gone through or are going through a messy divorce, sometimes the other parent will try to undermine the relationship you have with your children. This book will show you how to be a positive parent, gives great parent strategies and coping methods for a hostile ex-spouse.  In this book, you will learn how to avoid parental alienation and techniques on how to relate and talk to your children.
This book discusses five behaviors that co-parents use to induce loyalty conflict.  Those five behaviors are:
1. Sending Poisonous Messages about you
2. Interfering with Contact & Communication
3. Erasing & Replacing
4. Encouraging your Child to Betray your Trust
5. Undermining Your Authority and Fostering Dependency in your Child


It also goes over watching for the signs that your children are caught up in a loyalty conflict. The book helps you by giving you the right tools in how not to make mistakes when you are co-parenting with a toxic ex-spouse.
You will discover ways of how to become a positive parent even though you have a toxic ex-spouse to deal with.  There are core concepts of positive parenting and this book lays out great ways and how to accomplish that.  There are eight parent strategies that will help you deepen your bond with children that are going through hard loyalty conflicts due to your ex-spouse poisoning them against you.
Eight Parent Strategies:
1. Active Listening When your child is talking to you, nod and acknowledge that you are listening to them. Another way to acknowledge that you are listening to them is giving nonverbal cues and then use words to show you are listening to them for an example “I see” or “go on” then recite what they said to show that you understand them.  Active listening also involves asking questions about what they told you and then lastly offering to problem solve it.  However, not everything needs to be solved or fixed; they might just need someone to talk too.
2. Nondirective Attention 
Give them your undivided attention which means, no distractions when they are talking to you.  That means put down the cell phone or turn off of the TV to show them that they have your undivided attention.  As Amy Baker co-author of Co-parenting with a Toxic Ex states that when you engage in nondirective attention, you’re as fully present as possible, but your child runs the show.  Try to show your child nondirective attention a little every day, because it really shows the child that you are interested in what they have to say and it also makes them feel important.
3. Praise & Encouragement 
Try to find ways to encourage them.  Then find ways to praise them whenever they do something right.  Give them positive attention like hugs, smiles and words of admiration.
4. Emotion Coaching Anytime you feel an emotion talk about it with your child and label that emotion that way the child learns from your example and then will start to label their own emotions when they have them.  Try to always validate your child’s feelings when they are expressed.  Make sure they know it’s okay to have those feelings.  An example of a validation is saying “It’s okay to feel that way right now. I would feel that way too if it happened to me too.” Model how to cope with their feelings of emotions.  Always encourage them to label what kind of emotion they are feeling.
5. Training 
Sometimes our children need to be trained on how to do something that is required of them to do.  It could be a really hard adjustment when they don’t know how to do something and are afraid to ask for help.
6. Inviting Cooperation 
Providing an invitation to help out with something might be a great way of getting them to help out more with things without having to ask them directly.  For example: “If anyone wants to help me make dinner, feel free to come join me now.”  It’s a different way of asking for help and it might work with some children.
7. Offering Choices 
Instead of saying no to a request they made try to offer the child reasonable choices that you would like.  For example: instead of asking “Do you want to take a shower”, ask this instead: “Do you want to take a shower before or after dinner”.  If there is something your child must do but you don’t want to hear them say No to it, offer a choice in the question of it leading to doing the task you want them to do anyways.
8. Family Meetings When children are having a hard time adjusting to things within a blended family.  It’s good to have family meetings about things.  Every new blended family should be having family meetings in order to help adjust to the family dynamic.  As Amy Baker co-author of Co-parenting with a Toxic Ex states that having family meetings help build family cohesion which helps strengthen family bonds and prevent conflicts and discord.  To learn more about family meetings and how to create them, click here.

The book also helps you develop and create great disciplinary strategies that involve healthy consequences that deal with the “Four R’s”.  The Four R’s are Related, Reasonable, Revealed and Respectful.  Overall it has been said by Amy Baker and Paul Fine that the stronger the bond of love between you and your child, the less susceptible your child will be to your ex’s undermining and interference.
Another concept I took away from this book is how to learn to use positive self-talk when dealing with difficult acquisitions or conversations with the children.  I learned that my thoughts can defeat and paralyze me if I don’t be careful.  I learned to let go of the negative self-talk and learned how to develop positive self-talk.
Overall, I just can’t say enough great things about this book.  If you have a toxic ex-spouse, this book is a Must Read.  I wish I would have read this book sooner because it would have helped us more early on when we really needed the help the most.  There’s a lot to be learned in this book that will help you get through the hard times with your stepchildren or biological children who are going through hard loyalty conflicts due to a toxic ex-spouse.  Your time with your children is going by fast; learn how to overcome this struggle before you live with regret. I live with a lot of regrets after reading this book, wishing I would have read it a lot sooner.  After everything, we have already been through with my stepchildren and their biological mother.  Don’t live with regret, read this book now and learn how to make a difference in your children’s lives, learn how to deepen your bond with them and help them overcome being stuck in the middle.

If your stepchildren or biological children went through loyalty conflicts, how did you handle it?

References:
Amy L. Baker & Paul R. Fine (2014). Co-parenting with a Toxic Ex. What to Do When Your Ex-Spouse Tries to Turn the Kids Against You. New Harbinger Publications.

10 Things Stepkids Want & Need to Hear

top 10 things every stepchild wants to hear, stepchild, stepchildren, step child, stepmom, blended family, step family
Here are the top ten things every stepchild would love to hear from their Stepmom or Stepparent. When you do say these things, make sure that you mean what you say and say what you mean.  Always look for opportunities to use affirming words to your stepchildren.  Using affirming words with them makes them feel loved and admired by you. Before you do say one of these things, make sure you do it in a quiet place where there’s no one else around. It makes the moment feel more sincere, special, important and more meaningful.

Here are the Top 10 Things every Stepkid would want and need to hear from you:

1. “I will never try to take your mother’s place.”
A lot of stepkids are going through loyalty conflicts, it really helps when you say this to them. It helps take the pressure off of them.

2. “You matter to me and you are important to me.”

Even though you do feel this, way they need to verbally hear this from you.

3. “I love you no matter what you do or say to me.”

Sometimes stepchildren think that because you got upset with them that you don’t love them anymore.

4. “I will never get in the way of you spending time with your Dad.”

Stepchildren often feel like you are taking their Father away from them and that they don’t get to spend time with just him. 

5. “I will never make you choose between me and your mother.”
This makes them realize that it is okay to love both their mother and their stepmom. That it is okay if they chose their mother over you, that you understand it.

6. “I will always be here for you when you need someone to talk too.”
This will help them realize that you are there for them if they need to someone and they are not comfortable talking to their Father about something.

7. “I will always have your best interests in mind.”

This will show them that any advice you give to them is for their own benefit and only to help them.

8. “I will always encourage your Dad to spend quality time with just you, without me around.”

Saying this shows that you will always try to make sure they get 1:1 time with their Dad.

9. “I may not always like or agree with the choices you make, but I will always care about you.”

This shows them that it’s okay if you make a choice that you might not agree with, doesn’t mean that you will care for them less.

10. “I’m sorry…. I made a mistake or hurt your feelings.”

Apologizing and owning up to a mistake you make with them, shows them you are not perfect and it’s okay to make mistakes sometimes, everyone makes them.


Saying these things above will not only help the stepchildren feel close to you, it will earn their trust and love from saying these things to them. Another way to really show what you say to be truth is to spend time with them 1:1, take them somewhere special and get to know them. Because saying these things is just not enough, you need to show them that they are important to you.  The way you do that is by investing time with them. Words are just words if you don’t show it by what you do with them.  Like for example, if their Mother’s birthday is coming up, to show them that you’re not having them choose you over their mother, take them out shopping to pick out a gift for their mother.  Spending time with your stepchildren by doing something they would enjoy a lot will go a long way with them.  It will create childhood memories with you, which they can one day look back on as they become adults.  Take advantage of their childhood and create memories that will stick and last with them.
It’s so important to tell them what they would like to hear but only do it if you feel that way for them. They will be able to tell if you’re just acting it out or if you really mean what you say.  So, mean what you say and say what you mean, they will respect it and it will create a close relationship with your stepchildren.

Have you ever said any of these top 10 things to your stepchild yet? If so, how did it go?

Hard Adjustments

hard adjustments within a blended family, 8 ways to overcome hard adjustments within a blended family, stepmom, blended family, step family

When you first come into a relationship with a man with children it is going to be hard for the children.  They may not like you right away and the reason being is that in their minds they were hoping that their parents would get back together and having you (the stepmom) in the picture put an end to that.  They also have a hard time because of their loyalty to their mother. It’s even harder if the biological mother is bitter about the divorce or separation and doesn’t get along with your spouse to begin with.  Often times the biological mother will put thoughts into the children’s minds that are negative. For example:  “Don’t listen to her, she’s not your Mom” “She took your Dad away from me”, “She’s the reason why I and your Dad are not together”, etc.  Sometimes the children will have a hard time getting adjusted if they moved to a new home. They even have a hard time when there are other children in the picture.  Everything takes time to get adjusted.  The timing for this is different with every child.  Some children take longer than other children do.  Having children go through a divorce is hard enough then you add a remarriage into it, it makes it even harder for children.  One thing I do recommend doing right after you move in together is established House Rules and Consequences if those rules are broken.  Every child needs structure it teaches them respect and responsibility for their actions.  To learn more about how to create House Rules, click here.

Then after House Rules are created, I suggest creating a chores chart especially if the stepchildren are living with you 50% of the time or more.  To learn more about setting up chores, click here.
Another hard adjustment for the stepchildren is having step-siblings.  It’s going to be hard at times for all of them to get along and that is why establishing House Rules will help.  Just expect that all of the children will not get along that way when they do have issues you will not take it so hard.  When they do get along praise it and make a big deal out of it.  Sharing toys with one another is going to be the hardest thing for all of them to do especially if there was only one child. So expect there to be a few bumps in the road especially during the first five years of a blended family.  Just remember it’s how you handle the bumps in the road is how you’re going to be able to recover.  You can’t expect everyone to all get along all of the time.  You have to remember that your stepchildren also take after their biological mother and that your children also take after their biological father, so when you put all of those personalities together, they are bound to not see eye to eye on a few things every now and then.
If you notice a lot of bad behavior from one child versus the other children, they may be lacking attention from their biological parent.  They may need more undivided attention from their biological parent.  Make sure the child is getting enough 1:1 time with their biological parent, you will see their behavior improve once they are getting that attention and love they need.
I found eight ways of helping your children adjust to hard adjustments through reading the book called: Co-parenting with a Toxic Ex. I hope these eight ways help you with your children.

Be an Active Listener. When your child is talking to you, nod and acknowledge that you are listening to them. Another way to acknowledge that you are listening to them is giving nonverbal cues and then use words to show you are listening to them for an example “I see” or “go on” then recite what they said to show that you understand them.  Active listening also involves asking questions about what they told you and then lastly offering to problem solve it.  However, not everything needs to be solved or fixed; they might just need someone to talk too.
Give Encouragement and Praise.  Try to find ways to encourage them.  Then find ways to praise them whenever they do something right.  Give them positive attention like hugs, smiles and words of admiration.
Use Nondirective Attention.  Give them your undivided attention which means, no distractions when they are talking to you.  That means put down the cell phone or turn off of the TV to show them that they have your undivided attention.  As Amy Baker co-author of Co-parenting with a Toxic Ex states that when you engage in nondirective attention, you’re as fully present as possible, but your child runs the show.  Try to show your child nondirective attention a little every day, because it really shows the child that you are interested in what they have to say and it also makes them feel important.
Give Emotional Coaching. Anytime you feel an emotion talk about it with your child and label that emotion that way the child learns from your example and then will start to label their own emotions when they have them.  Try to always validate your child’s feelings when they are expressed.  Make sure they know it’s okay to have those feelings.  An example of a validation is saying “It’s okay to feel that way right now. I would feel that way to if it happened to me too.” Model how to cope with their feelings of emotions.  Always encourage them to label what kind of emotion they are feeling.
Give Training. Sometimes our children need to be trained on how to do something that is required of them to do.  It could be a really hard adjustment when they don’t know how to do something and are afraid to ask for help.
Offer Choices.  Instead of saying no to a request they made try to offer the child reasonable choices that you would like.  For example: instead of asking “Do you want to take a shower”, ask this instead: “Do you want to take a shower before or after dinner”.  If there is something your child must do but you don’t want to hear them say No to it, offer a choice in the question with it leading to doing the task you want them to do anyways.
Offer Inviting Cooperation.  Providing an invitation to help out with something might be a great way of getting them to help out more with things without having to ask them directly.  For example: “If anyone wants to help me make dinner, feel free to come join me now.”  It’s a different way of asking for help and it might work with some children.
Hold Family Meetings.  When children are having a hard time adjusting to things within a blended family.  It’s good to have family meetings about things.  Every new blended family should be having family meetings in order to help adjust to the family dynamic.  As Amy Baker co-author of Co-parenting with a Toxic Ex states that having family meetings help build family cohesion which helps strengthen family bonds and prevent conflicts and discord.  To learn more about family meetings and how to create them, click here.
A great way to parent that will help get through hard adjustments is to enhance your relationship with your children and to always keep the communication open, engage in active listening, always give them a lot of praise and encouragement, always invite cooperation, offer choices to them, give emotional coaching to them when they need it.  Children really want to feel like they are being heard, understood and valued.  Always try to encourage your child to speak their mind with you and always try to listen to what they are saying. You don’t have to do what they say, but just listen to what they may be feeling at that moment and somehow work through those feelings with them.  Sometimes they don’t need something fixed, they just want to be able to vent and pour out their feelings to someone.  Sometimes they just need you to listen, show care and just be present with them, so that they will feel like they are being understood and heard.  Being a child in a blended family can be very difficult especially if they feel like they have no one to talk too. Having an open door policy with your children will help ease the hard adjustments they may be feeling and will help them adjust to your blended family better.
What ways have you found help children get through hard adjustments?

References:Amy J.L. Baker & Paul R. Fine (2014). Co-parenting with a Toxic Ex. What to do when your ex-spouse tries to turn the kids against you. New Harbinger Publications., Inc.

First Steps

first steps to a blended family, first steps, blended family, stepmom, step family
You’re now a new Blended Family.  What do we need to do first to make this blended family a successful and loving one? Here are some important key steps to help you get started in the right direction. I am not going to number them because every new blended family can start at any one of these steps to help be a successful one.

Kid Weekends. When you first come together, make sure to schedule your kid weekends on the same weekends, if you have to switch things around with an ex-spouse, do it. That way you can have some kidless weekends where you can have time for one another without the children.  Having the children on the same weekends helps the children bond more and also helps with becoming a better-blended family.

Money Matters. Money is a difficult topic no matter what, but even harder in a blended family.  In a blended family commitment, trust, and the guarantee of permanence can be underlying issues when dealing with money.  It can be difficult to put together the best way to manage money in a blended family.  It’s very important when combining incomes that you discuss where the money goes and how it is spent and on what. Learn the different ways on how to manage the finances and whether you want to have separate or joint bank accounts.  To learn about the many ways to manage money, click here.

Establish Boundaries. Setting boundaries is important, it teaches everyone to honor one another, to respect privacy and values each family member. Setting boundaries are not just for your stepchildren but also for the ex-spouses as well.  Boundaries for the ex-spouses can be only contacting when it is related to the children. For example: Not having the ex-spouse call you when they need to talk about a recent breakup or when they need someone to fix the garage door.  The ex-spouse needs to rely on someone else to do those things; it isn’t your spouse’s job anymore. As for the children, an example of establishing boundaries could be about them sleeping in their own bedrooms and not sharing a bed with you.  For more on boundaries, click here.


Discipline with Children.  Before you move in together, you need to talk about discipline and how you will handle it with the children.  In the first few years of marriage, I strongly suggest that each parent is responsible for disciplining their biological children. To find out why it’s important to handle discipline this way, click here.

Family Meetings.  Now that you are a blended family or living together under one roof and brought each other’s children into the marriage, you need to hold family meetings. You need to have family meetings to go over things such as house rules, chores, conflicts, or talk about upcoming vacations and events.  In the beginning, you want to have these family meetings at least once a month. To learn more about family meetings and how to facilitate them, click here.


House Rules & Consequences. Establishing house rules help provide children with structure and teach them how to have & show respect and responsibility. Both parents should establish these together and agree on them before presenting it to the children. To learn more about house rules and for an example of them, click here.

Chore Chart. Every family should have chores whether the family is a biological family or a blended one. Establishing age appropriate chore chart helps children learn life skills that they will need when they become adults and move out on their own.  To learn more about it and see examples of age appropriate chores, click here.


Blended Family Therapy. Find out the benefits to seeking therapy early on in your marriage and how it would really help prepare you for the challenging situations and conflicts that will happen.  It’s not a matter of “if they will happen”, it’s a matter of “when they will happen” and how both of you can better prepare yourselves for when they do happen. To learn more about therapy and why it’s important to go, click here.

Schedule Family Fun Nights/Days.  Depending on when you have all of the children together you need to establish family fun activities to help bring you close as a family. It’s good to always set a day to do it and always try to keep it scheduled for that day so they can expect it every time they are with you.  Like, for example, set it on a Saturday, where every Saturday or every other Saturday you do something as a family. To learn more ideas on how to do this, please see The Fun Box and the Fun with Children posts.


Schedule 1:1 Time with Children.  It’s very important that you encourage your husbands to spend 1:1 time with their children during their weekend visits. It doesn’t have to be an all-day thing either; I recommend it, at least, being two hours. This way the children feel like they still have their Dads undivided attention and don’t feel like their Stepmom took their Dad away from them.  While your husbands are having that time with their children, you can also do the same with your children too.
Optional – Even doing 1:1 things between the Stepparent and Stepchild could also help strengthen relationships too. To learn more about the benefits of 1:1 time, click here.

Date Night Out.  It’s so important that you put your spouse first in your marriage. It is important that you don’t loose touch with yourselves as a couple.  You need to go on dates with just the two of you without the children once a week or at least twice a month if possible. It will help strengthen your marriage and keep you both feeling connected with one another as a couple.  To learn more about date nights, click here.


Family Traditions. Make sure you discuss what traditions you have as a family and combine them.  Don’t stop the traditions you currently do with your children, find a way to incorporate each others traditions into the family. Create new traditions as a blended family.  For example, each year around Christmas time, going to a soup kitchen place and serving out meals to the homeless as a family. Another good example is each year on Thanksgiving Day, that everyone go around the dinner table naming, at least, one thing they are thankful for.

Church & Religion. Talk and discuss attending church and how often you want to attend church as a family. Also, talk about whether you want to have family bible studies and family devotions together and how you want to teach your children about God. “Do all that you can to take your kids by the hand and lead them in the way of the Master.” Ephesians 6:4.


Document Everything. If you have a difficult ex-spouse learn to document everything you do for them, changes in visitation, any requests made such as picking up the children from school when they are sick because an ex-spouse cannot do it. When an ex-spouse is difficult to communicate with only communicate with them through email or text messages that way there is a paper trail just in case; you go to court. To learn more about why it’s good to document things, click here.

Educate Yourself. Pick up, at least, five books on blended family topics and read the books. The books will help get you ready for any challenging situations you may face whether it may be a toxic ex-spouse, being a stepmom, dealing with difficult teenagers or learning how to co-parent. There are books out there that will help your blended family become more successful. Here are some books that I have read that will help you, click here.

Find and Join a Support Group.  Look for a group for Stepmoms and one for Stepdads where you can go ask questions, get advice, and encouragement when you need it.  And believe me; you will need it from time to time.  Don’t do this journey alone. Talking with other Stepparents will really help you become a successful blended family. There is a closed group on Facebook just for Stepmoms called: Stepmoms Are Us, come check it out and request to become a member, you will be glad you did.

I hope these steps help you become a successful blended family.  There is, even more, to learn on what to expect when expecting to become a blended family, click here.

Is there any other First Steps you recommend to add to this list that may help new blended families out?

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.