Co-Parenting, stepfamily, step family, blended family, stepmom, stepmom advice, blended families

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

If you want to become a successful Co-parent team with your ex-spouses, there are some guidelines that should be followed in order to make Co-parenting successful. Become a “One team” instead of a “Two teams”. Here are the guidelines that I know from experience and that I have researched through many books on stepfamilies.

Co-parenting Guidelines to be successful:
  • Always speak positively about your ex-spouse, no matter what. When angry with them, do not get the kids involved, resolve it between the two of you, don’t include the kids in it.
  • Respect each other and step parent.
  • If the rules differ from one house to another house, always be supportive even if you don’t agree with the other parents’ rules.
  • Recognize special occasions such as the parent’s birthdays, Christmas, Fathers or Mother’s Days and take the kids to get them something from them. Give them the opportunity to see them for those occasions.
  • Be Supportive of one another. For example, if one of the children has an issue and is angry at the other parent, do not take sides with the child. Comfort them and try to say that “I am sure your Dad means well and that he does things only for their best interest”. Don’t ever put their Dad down or stoop to the child’s level.
  • Be Flexible – In case the parent wants the child on a day where they are not scheduled, try to give them the opportunity to see them whenever they want.
  • Make sure the kids have everything they need for their visits with their parent
  • Communicate with the ex-spouse when needed about any concerns with the kids or upcoming events at school that they need to know about. Make sure they are always informed about any sporting event, school meetings, or anything relating to the children.
  • Always keep scheduled visits, try your best to avoid having to cancel or move them around.
  • When a babysitter is needed always ask them first before seeking someone else to watch them.
  • Help the children adjust to going to the other home as much as you can whatever way you can do that.
  • Try to always negotiate the Holidays, Birthdays or special occasions to make sure the other parent gets time with their children.

Things to avoid:

  • Don’t capitalize on their hurt when the child is upset with the other parent or stepparent did, do not berate the other parent or stepparent especially in front of the children or with an ear shot away from the children.
  • Not calling the ex-spouse about a sporting event change in time or location or school meetings.
  • Don’t expect the spouse to carry out a punishment from one house to the other house. Let them be able to have time with their kids freely.
  • Never punish the kids by taking away their visitation with their parent as a form of punishment.
  • Don’t talk about your personal life or current marriage problems with your ex-spouse.

If you follow these guidelines and avoid the other things, you should be successful at becoming a co-parenting “One” team.

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


money talks within blended family, step family, blended family, stepmom, step mothers, blended family advice
This time of the year is always hard on any family yet alone a blended family as far as money is concerned.  Yet, it is important to talk about and it’s usually the second thing most blended families argue about the most. The first thing is about the kids, the second is money and how it is spent.  Due to our kids being different ages, mine is: 21, 11 and 10 years old and his are 18 and 15 years old, it makes Christmas hard on us.  Because I have the two younger kids that we still do Santa gifts for, whereas the older ones we don’t do Santa gifts for. So it is hard trying to spend the same amount on all of the kids and split the gifts and say they are from Santa. Just wish the younger ones had a higher amount that way it would be possible to do Santa gifts better.  This year I even thought about telling my girls that Santa isn’t real that way it would make Christmas a lot easier.  Talking about money is a hard thing when it comes to spending money on them and we do get into arguments about it sometimes.  Let’s face it money is always going to be a major issue with blended families whether you decide to keep your money separate or together it is a hard one to agree about. Blended families always have a combination of three money pits: yours, mine and ours.  Some blended families cannot fathom putting all of the money together while other blended families cannot imagine not doing it.  How you handle the money in your marriage is one of the most important things to talk about before you get married.  However it doesn’t stop there, you will always have to discuss money issues throughout your marriage not just before you get married.  For us, we personally decided to put all of our money together except for my girls’ child support that goes into separate savings account for my girls.  I put their child support into a separate account because I always want to use that money for whatever my girls’ needs are. 
There are married couples that want to keep their money in separate accounts because they don’t want to ask permission to one another to buy something or sometimes they are avoiding dependency.  They end up splitting their income equally to pay for household expenses.
Then there are couples that put everything in one big account. Which means each spouse asks permission to spend money. Ultimately there is no wrong or right way to handle the finances in a blended family, it’s whatever you both decide that are comfortable with doing.  Just talk it over and write down the pros and cons about both ways. Here’s an important tip: When the ex-spouses request money to pay for things outside of their child support that they receive always directly pay to whomever the money is owed to. That way you can help ease tension and know that it’s going to the right place and not in the ex-spouses pockets.
Money Discussion Tips (to go over with your spouse):
  • To have an emergency fund set up that is readily available for each spouse.
  • Each spouse should have discretionary money available to meet their personal needs that they may have.
  • Each spouse should have some credit in their own name just as a protection in case of a spousal death.
  • Every budget/expense plan that you create make sure to include money for date nights with each other.
  • Decide on who will pay the bills and manage the bank account. Little tip: Let it be the spouse that is a Saver, not the Spender spouse.
  • What is the limit to which each spouse will need to get permission from one another to spend on something?
  • When should credit be used? And how often?
  • Establish life insurance and make sure the beneficiaries are in each other’s name.
  • Make new Wills up. When dealing with Wills, it’s advised to seek an attorney and a financial planner who specializes in blended families.
  • Prenuptial Agreements should also be discussed.
When or if you decide the money should be separated in two or three accounts:
  • Decide on how much each spouse will contribute to the household expenses
  • What money is to be separated in checking, savings or investment accounts

When or if you decide that the money is going to go in one account:

  • What money is shared
  • How much money is personal
  • What expenses are most important
  • How much money goes into a savings account
  • How much money is put in an emergency fund
  • What yearly budget plans be created and by whom?

Have you had problems talking about money to your spouse? What have you found that worked best when discussing money?


Blended Family, Step family, Blended Family Therapy, step family therapy, stepmom, step mom
Therapy is another word for counseling; the two words mean the same thing. I know most people think therapy/counseling is for people with a lot of problems, but that is not true. Therapy is for everyone who needs it. Did you know that over 65 percent of Americans are step related and that there are 2,100 blended marriages created every day? That only one-third of the blended marriages actually last. There is a 70 percent chance of divorce within a second marriage and 73 percent chance in a third marriage.  The odds of it being successful are against us.  However, one way to beat the odds is to look into therapy before you get married or at least within the first year of marriage.  If you are in a blended family, you definitely may need it at one point or another.  My suggestion is to get therapy within the first 6 months of the marriage or if you are living together. Getting therapy early on makes a better chance of having it all work together.  Don’t wait until three years later like we did.  I started my own individual therapy about 3 years into my marriage and I am glad I did, however, it was too late.  Meaning I should have started it within the first year of marriage only because being a Stepmom is the hardest thing I have ever done.  Therapy has helped me tremendously with dealing with all of the stress I have faced with the stepchildren and with the drama the biological mother has caused.  It helped me gain insight of who I am as a stepparent and also showed me what I have done wrong in the first 3 years of marriage.  I just wish I knew back then what I know now and then things would have been much different and a lot better. The first three years of a blended family are the hardest and to get through it, it’s best to have support as in other Stepmoms, Stepmom support group and definitely therapy.  Make sure when you do seek therapy you get someone who deals with blended families.  Even seek out support groups for Blended Marriages within in your church; they are starting to form in many churches. And if you don’t have a support group for blended marriages, maybe you might be the one to start it. 
As far as the children and stepchildren go, they might need therapy to and can really benefit from going.  Not all of the children will need therapy, but only the ones that can you tell are struggling with adjusting to the blended family. How can you tell if a child is struggling with fitting into the family?
The signs to look for to know a blended family needs therapy
Here are the signs:
  • Being disrespectful to biological parent and stepparent
  • Not getting along with new step-siblings
  • Tends to want to do things by themselves
  • Grades are suffering in school or other school related problems
  • Not getting along with peers
  • Ignores step siblings and step parent
  • If they stop doing activities they once enjoyed before
  • If they are suffering from depression since remarriage
  • If you know for sure that the child is dealing with PAS (Parent Alienation Syndrome)

For a marriage – Here are some ways to be able to tell if you need marriage therapy:
  • Arguing a lot over the discipline of the children/stepchildren
  • Having trouble communicating about each other’s children to one another
  • Disrespecting one another
  • Stress with the Biological Mother, Father or both
  • Stepchildren and biological children are often arguing or fighting
  • Having a hard time establishing boundaries and discipline
  • Having money differences about spending money on the children or stepchildren
  • Lack of communication
  • If either or both of you are depressed
  • Not meeting each or one another’s needs

All of these are just some of the ways to tell if a child needs therapy because they might be struggling with being in a blended family.  Sometimes the marriage struggles, the ways to tell are listed above.  Don’t wait to long to seek help either one can be very serious. Children who get therapy end up fitting into the blended family very well after going to therapy.  Blended marriages do very well after seeking therapy for the issues you may be going through. Don’t forget the first three years of a blended family are the hardest; it takes time for everyone to adjust to a new family dynamic. Don’t do it alone, seek support from others whether it be a support group, friends who are blended, therapy or from church.  Don’t be another statistic; get help if you need it. Become a successful blended family and not another statistic.

Another Year, Another Birthday

step family, blended family, stepmom, step mother, blended birthday
Tonight, I sit here sad, down, depressed because another birthday has gone by where I can’t be a part of and I just feel broken inside that I am not allowed to help celebrate another year.  It’s so hard to sit here at home wishing I was there to help celebrate with them. I feel so torn in this blended family life because I want to be there for my stepchildren but am not allowed to be there. The biological mother might have taken away my rights to see them, but she can’t take away the years I did have with them or the love I still have for them. Just hurts when you love your stepchildren but are not allowed to be in their lives and you miss important events in their life but can’t do anything about it. 
It’s sad when people have grudges that they just can’t learn to forgive and move on.
It’s sad that the biological mother can’t allow her children to be loved and cared for by another parent. 

It’s sad that the stepchildren are not allowed to spend time with their stepmother if they want too.  
It’s sad that they believe all of the lies their mother has told them over the years and won’t let me defend myself against all of the lies.  I don’t even know what the lies are but I know they are all lies because I do care and love my stepchildren a lot and only wanted the best for them.
If I was a bad and wicked stepmom, then fine I would agree to not being able to see them, but I am not.  I have not done anything wrong, I have never abused them, all I have ever done was care for them, love them, correct them when they needed to be corrected and took care of whatever they needed.  It sucks that there is no real way to prove in court that their mother alienating my step kids away from me and their Father. I only wish I knew the things she has said that made them believe that I am a bad stepmom so I can defend myself. If she was a good mother and actually cared for her children as much as she says she does she would sit down and have a family meeting with all of us and work out the issues as any blended family would. But instead she lets her children hold on to grudges and bitterness like the bitterness she has for my husband for getting the divorce from her.  Am I blamed for that to even though I didn’t even meet him until a year after their divorce? Who knows what goes on in that mind of hers! All I can do is pray, hope, and try to have faith that one-day things will be different and better between all of us. After all my step kids will grow up and hopefully be able to think for themselves and be able to speak up more and realize that all of this is ridiculous and that all I ever did was care and love them. I look forward to the day when they stand up and say: “Enough is Enough” to their mother and realize that she took away precious family time with us and how much they missed out on so much because of their mother and her lies they were made to believe as truth. Unfortunately all of the fun they would have had with us can never be made back up.  When that day comes and they do come back hopefully we can all start fresh again without any hurts or grudges in the way. I just wish that day was today. This blended family of ours just isn’t a family without them in it.

Document Everything!

Document Everything, blended family, stepmoms, stepmom advice, court advice
If you have an ex-spouse that is difficult and is a court acholic (meaning takes you to court over every little thing) you need to document everything.  You need to protect yourself and protect your custody arrangements. Having everything in writing is better so that there is proof in case you ever need it in court.  It also keeps both parties honest and it also helps with your memory of recalling how things go on.

How do you this?

Need to tell the ex-spouse that from here on out any communication with them will either have to be in an email or a text message.  No more talking on the phone with them or in person. That way you can save everything they send to you. Make sure to save your responses that you send back to them too.  Emails help with being able to take your time with making a decision. Emails give you time to check schedules and most importantly talk to your spouse about it before making a decision. I also keep a notebook and write down all of the times you have the kids or were supposed to have the kids and reasons why it did not take place. I do this with my stepchildren, I write down every request his ex-wife or my stepchildren want him to do, meaning if he has to pick them up from school or a football practice.  
I even write down conversations that I have with my stepchildren whenever they say something that could go against the ex-wife. Any information is better than no information to go to court with.

That way if you go to court you have a defense of how much you have been helping out and being involved with your kids’ lives.  I also make sure my husband saves all text messages from his children and ones from his ex-wife and convert them to emails.  That way when and if you do go to court you have proof against whatever they might be claiming. Keep any receipts of having to pay for anything extra for the children, that way if they claim that you don’t help out with things you have proof.  If you have to pay any doctor bills for the children, make sure you make a copy of it for your records. Pretty much anything they ask you to do that costs you money, make sure you have proof of it somehow.
A rundown of what you need to save:
  • Emails & print them out
  • Text Messages – convert them to emails & print them out
  • Receipts of anything you paid the ex-spouse
  • Document in a Notebook – any conversations with children that you could use against the ex-spouse.

If you have a passive spouse, you might want to consider attending the court hearings with your spouse in order to help them with their defense against the ex-spouse. Never lose hope, don’t give up fighting for your kids. Even when it feels like a never ending battle and it feels like the system is against you.

Things to Avoid

things to avoid, stepmom, step mother, blended family, blended families
When you become a stepmom it is hard to know how to treat your stepchildren. Sometimes it can be very stressful. There are certain things though that should never be said or done no matter what because it leaves permanent scars that every stepchild will remember forever.  Try to always keep the relationship positive and never negative.  Just like the bible says in Proverbs 18:21 our words can either speak life or death.  Just one misstep and our words and actions can blow up a good relationship with our stepchildren to kingdom come.  I put the following list together from not just my own stepmom experiences, but also what I read in many stepmom books over the recent year. I hope you take this information and use it to help better your relationship with your stepchildren and not make any of these mistakes.

12 Things you should avoid Saying or Doing to your stepchildren
1. Calling the stepchildren names of any kind.
2. When are you going home? Or I can’t wait for you to go home.
3. Anything bad about their mother.
4. Don’t share any legal matters or any conflict you have with their mother with them. That’s adult business.
5. Don’t talk about money problems or even money positives.
6. Don’t share anything with them that you don’t want the ex-wife to know about.
7. Making them feel like they don’t belong.
8. Don’t break any traditions they already have with their Dad, just add new ones.
9. Always try to include them in everything, meaning family vacations, family events and so on.
10. Never say Yes when really the answer should be No. Don’t be a pushover – Because they will walk all over you and have no respect for you.
11. When you say you’re going to do something with them, Do IT and be consistent.
12. Do not discuss any issues you have about their father to the stepchildren. That’s adult business.

If you do slip up and do some of these things on the list, it may take a while to repair the relationship with your stepchildren. But don’t give up hope, everyone makes mistakes sometimes, so don’t be to hard on yourself. What you have done in the past doesn’t define you. You can be forgiven and renewed and set free of guilt and shame and condemnation. The biggest thing is asking your stepchildren for forgiveness and it’s not easy to do, but apologizing and saying you were wrong for what you did is the best approach to take in the right direction.  Hang in there and know you’re not alone, all of us parents and stepparents make mistakes from time to time. But it takes a lot of will power and strength to go and ask for forgiveness.  So make things right, it’s never too late to turn the relationship around.

How to Talk to Him

talk to husbands about their kids, stepmom, step mothers, blended family, blended families
Do you ever notice how our husbands get so defensive when we have a question or discussion about their children? Then all of a sudden it’s an all-out war? Did you ever take the time to think about how you might approach the question or discussion differently?
My husband and I have gotten into many arguments because the stepchildren and mainly because I sometimes question something that he does and he just blows up.  I never thought it might be the way I am approaching it, could be the timing, could be my tone of voice too.  At one point, I got to where I don’t question anything about the stepchildren and just let it go because it’s not worth the fight.  However, there are times where you do have to question him especially when it comes to money.
Before having this question or conversation with your husband, sometimes we should think and practice it in our heads or even get advice from a friend about it. Definitely try not to have it when you’re angry, try to be calm and relaxed. A few key things to think about:
1. Timing – The best time I have found to have a talk is right before bed, don’t do it right when he gets home from work or right before a meal. Also, make sure the kids are not around when you have this talk in case it gets heated.

2. Tone – How you present the talk with him. Make sure your voice is soft and relaxed. Using a gentle tone of voice and kind words will go a long way when discussing his kids.  Try to be calm and express yourself fully in a constructive way but not in a negative way.  As Rachelle Katz said “When we learn to communicate with our husbands with acceptance, love and respect, we can avoid pushing each other’s buttons”.  When or if we start off in a high pitch tone or initiate harshly, there is a great chance that it is not going to go over so well and your husband will get defensive and pretty quickly.  

3. Use “I” statementsUsing “I” statements can be very helpful and also tones down his defense mechanisms.  Try to avoid using the words “always”, “never”, “you”, “every” and replace them with “I” for example:
Bad: Every time the kids are here they never want me around.
Good: I feel when the kids are here that they don’t want me around.

Don’t forget to your tone, it can’t be high or whiney, but settle, calm like you’re talking to a counselor or your best friend. If you have time chat with a friend ahead of time and see what they think of how you’re going to talk to your husband.
Men and woman have different ways of communicating and that is why it is hard sometimes to have a talk with our husband about their kids.  Men try their best to avoid conflict at all costs.  Whereas women like to discuss issues until they are resolved.  For example you want the stepchildren to clean up their clothes in the bathroom after a shower; your husband gets defensive and doesn’t want to talk further about it.  When you just want them to pick up after themselves and put things back the way it was before they took the shower. Sometimes it is hard to get our point across to them in a way that they know, it’s not that your picking on them and you would get your own children to if they left their clothes and the bathroom a mess after a shower.  You just need to find ways to communicate better to them, so they don’t get defensive.

Here’s another example if you start a conversation like this:
Bad: “Why didn’t you tell me about the change of visitation plans”
Good: “How are you doing, how was your day. I know you were busy and forgot to tell me about the change of visitation. But I feel disrespected when I’m not included in the schedule changes. Could you tell me about them before agreeing to them in the future?”

Doing it this way, is like you are leading into the conversation gently and more calmly but you are still getting the point across about how you felt.
Here are some great overall ways to initiate communication to your husband in a nice way:

1. Don’t make assumptions that your husband knows what the issue is. He would be happy to solve it if you approach him gently like even holding his hand or cuddle with him.

2. Start off with a positive comment such as “You know how much I love and respect you”.

3. Use an “I” statement to explain your viewpoint.

4. State your concerns politely, calmly, clearly and firmly.

5. Lastly, listen to any concessions he may make and acknowledge them and communicate with him respectfully.

The key thing is to use a soft and calm voice. Try to remember men are problem solvers/fixers. If a man feels like he can’t resolve an issue he will start to become defensive. Before he can truly listen to you, your husband’s emotional walls will come down. If you need to express negative emotions about his kids, just to release negative energy, you need to do it with a friend or write it in a journal do not do this with your husband.  If it’s a personality problem with your stepchildren, it’s something your husband cannot fix and it might lead to him becoming defensive.
Sometimes no matter how you present the conversation about his kids, he might not be immediately receptive to all of your comments.  He may still get defensive no matter what. When or if this happens maybe it’s good to call a time out and just say we can talk about this later after we both have had time to cool down.  The biggest thing is to be patient and know it’s sometimes hard to hear something bad about your kids and put yourself in their shoes.
I still to this day sometimes have a hard time talking with my husband about my stepchildren. Eventually, you will find the right way to approach your husband and what works best.  Communication is hard work; it will take time to figure out how to do it effectively and respectfully. It also helps you build up the positive aspects of your relationship in your marriage.

Rachelle Katz 2010. The Happy Stepmother. Stay Sane, Empower Yourself, Thrive In Your New Family. Harlequin


Guilt Parenting

guilt parenting, blended family, blended families, stepparents, step parent, step parenting, stepmom
(Collins 2004)
Guilt Parenting can also be called Guilt Father Syndrome where the Father feels guilty about the divorce and feeling bad for what his children may be going through.  It’s much worse for a Father if he was the one that filed for the divorce.  The most pain the Father feels after a divorce is when they have to spend a lot of time away from their children due to the divorce. Often times, the relationship with the children become fragile as a result from the divorce.  Fathers often feel like their children have been to traumatize by the divorce that they tend to try their best to make every time they spend with them the best time ever.  What happens when a Father is feeling this way, he often times doesn’t discipline his children, therefore when us stepmoms come into the relationship, it makes it really hard because we see this Father that just wants to have fun with his children.  The father often times feels like he doesn’t get them as often, so he wants to make sure they have a good time and that he doesn’t want them to feel bad or feel like their Father has yelled at them the whole weekend.  When there is no discipline established in the house, it will often look like his children “rule the house”.  This makes the Father having an inability to embrace all of the responsibilities of parenthood, which makes the Father more of a playmate more than a parent.  Some Fathers often become the “Disney Dad” where they buy them things every time they get them.  When really what they need is just your undivided attention, not a lot of toys.  The Father’s biggest fear is having his children angry with him, therefore there is no rules or discipline established and he caters to they’re every request they make.  Pretty much they become a “yes” man, more than a “no” man.  Living in the same home with a Father like this is very difficult especially if you have children of your own. 
blended family
When my husband and I first moved in together and combined both of our families together which was his two kids and my three kids it was great at first, but then it quickly wore off because my kids had rules and structure in place where his didn’t. So there were a lot of not sharing, hitting and name calling going on which really needed to stop. I had a very hard time with this because his children were used to not really having any rules and that everything they touched became theirs and that they didn’t have to share anything that was theirs.  And they were allowed to literally fight with one another and whatever they wanted was given to them.  My stepdaughter would constantly talk down to her brother like she was the parent, which bothered me a lot. Anytime my stepdaughter would have a meltdown, my husband would cave into her and reward her for her bad behavior.  It just felt like there was no end to the drama.  So we sat down after one hellish weekend with the kids and decided to put “House Rules” in place and I talked to him about how all of these rules applied to “all” of the children, not just mine and that he would have to be the “bad” guy sometimes with his kids.  He agreed and we came up with a list so that the next weekend we could have a “family” meeting and go over the new list of rules and consequences to those rules in case they were broken.  The first three years of our marriage was pretty rough and very hard on us because of the rules and how his kids didn’t want rules because there were no rules before I came into the picture.  At the ex-wife’s house, there was no rules or structure over there, so it made it even harder when the kids came over to our house.  Sometimes I don’t even know how we got through it all but we did.
It is very hard when dealing with a husband who has guilt parenting syndrome going on, but it is not impossible to change things around.  The first thing is to sit down with him and tell him what the definition of guilt parenting syndrome is and then share with him how you think he has it with this children.  Then hopefully he will admit that he does tend to do guilt parenting with his children.  Secondly, explain how children need rules, boundaries, and accountability to make them feel loved and cared for.  Then explain how it needs to be dealt with right away because a house with no boundaries will open the door for everything you don’t want for your children such as depression, disrespect for parents/adults, poor grades, entitlement issues, drug experimentation and reckless promiscuity. When parents love your children, you have to parent them. Children do eventually understand the difference between showing love and buying affection. A guilty Father or Mother needs to understand that, too.  There need to be limits, rules, boundaries, tough love shown, and consequences established.  There also should be zero tolerance for disrespect of a stepparent or parent. The best way to make it all work is to have one style of parenting.

Here are some ways to break away from guilt parenting:

  1. Establish Rules and Boundaries of the house together
  2. Establish Consequences in case the rules are broken
  3. Chores list of either 1 or 2 things for the stepchildren. Do not make it any more than two chores for them especially if they are only there every other weekend.  If they are there 50% of the time, then you should evenly divide up the chores with all of the children.
  4. Stop buying toys every weekend, only buy gifts for special occasions and holidays; let them earn what they want. This also teaches them responsibility too.

Once you go through this list, the next following time you have the stepchildren and all of the children are present, have a family meeting. And go through the “house” rules together. Take turns going through each rule that way all of the children know you made these rules up together and they are not just because the Stepmom said so. Another suggestion is the Father disciplines his own children and you discipline yours until good relationships are established with the stepparents.

Guilt parenting syndrome needs to be addressed and talked about and dealt with in order to have a successful blended family. Do not let it tear your family apart.  You can overcome it early on and use the steps above to help change things around.  If you manage to hang in there and change your parenting style and stay married, maybe one day, when you least expect it, you will receive an unexpected, “thank you” for doing all of the heavy lifting of parenting or you might not receive a thank you, at least you know you did the right thing for all of your children.

Collins; AP 2004, No Toys at Toys R’ Us. Photograph viewed 12 November 2015

Being a Stepmom

being a stepmom, stepmoms, step mothers, blended family, blended families
When we were a little girl, playing with our dolls or barbies, we didn’t think to ourselves “When I get older I want to become a Stepmom and take care of children who hate me for marrying their Dad”.  We often thought that we would marry a Prince and that we would have two children of our own.
Being a stepmom is much harder than just being a biological mother because you have all of the demands of a biological mother, but none of the power.  You do everything a biological mother does but get hated for it and no appreciation. When us stepmoms feel powerless and run down emotionally and physically remember this scripture in Joshua 1:9 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”  Write this scripture on an index card and put it some place where you can see it every day and be reminded of it.
The role of a stepmother demands strength, wisdom, endurance, patience, resilience, flexibility, sacrifice, a willingness to serve, an ability to love unconditionally and show love, requires to put others needs before our own, acceptance and a constant reliance to God.  Being a stepmom can be demanding and draining at times, even though it can sometimes be rewarding too.  When I start to feel this way and become discouraged I take out some scriptures that I wrote on index cards and read them out loud to myself.  If things get out of hand and it feels like your walking on eggshells in your own home, play some praise and worship music or Christian music softly and concentrate on it.  It will change the atmosphere. I have done this in the past and it’s made such a huge difference on things.  God doesn’t want us to live in depression, distress or discouragement. God has a plan for each of us stepmoms to live in fulfillment, joy, grace and contentment. God knows what we need and how to take care of us, turn to him and pray.  You need to be strong and go to God’s word and stay there until you feel like the heaviness has lifted off of you. His view of who you are is the only one that matters.  Don’t let others define your worth as a stepmom. Don’t let a person determine what you are worth by the kind of job you are doing as a stepmom. The only view that matters is God’s view.

Here are some other scriptures to help encourage and lift you up:
  • I can do everything through him who gives me strength. Phil 4:13
  • In all things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. Romans 8:37
  • We must constantly be renewed in our minds and attitudes.  Ephesians 4:23
  • Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate. Mark 10:9
  • May the God of your hope, so fill you with all joy and peace in believing. Romans 15:13
  • But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:31
  • I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Psalm 16:8
  • Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in everything. II Thessalonians 3:16

Write some of these on index cards and when things get rough and it feels like you have nowhere to turn, pull these index cards out and read them out loud and pray that God will meet you where you are at and he will help you in your time of need.  For he says in Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  God has never intended for us to be a stepmom alone, he is there for us. There are support groups that are willing to help and listen and most importantly stand with you.  When the demands and pressure get to hard and we feel like we can’t do this anymore. Be reminded that God said: “Is anything to hard for me” Jeremiah 32:27.  Keep God close and keep others who support you and are positive people in your life.  Because every one of us, stepmoms all need someone, sometimes.  
There have been many times in this past 17 years where I felt and thought to myself I can’t do this anymore, maybe my husband would be better off without me.  Don’t believe those negative words because if you weren’t married to him, it would be another woman who would go through the same struggles as you are going through. We need to accept the way things are and stop fighting for what we cannot become and become content with what is.  As the book author, Kathi Lipp & Carol Bowley said: Accepting our circumstances also empowers us and keeps us from viewing ourselves as victims of them. When we bring our challenges to God and invite His participation in them, an inner peace and confidence reminds us that those challenges and circumstances are in good hands.  “Every problem is a character-building opportunity, and the more difficult it is, the greater the potential for building spiritual muscle and more fiber,” writes Pastor Rick Warren in The Purpose-Driven Life.  “If you will give God all your distasteful, unpleasant experiences, he will blend them together for good”.

We need to accept our new role in life as a Stepmom and also accept these three things:
1. Accept our Situation – It is what it is now, only God can help make the best of it.
2. Accept our Husband – We can’t change who he is as a parent, only God can change who he is. So love him and accept him for who he is.
3. Accept our Stepchildren – Love on them, they are hurting inside. Accept them for who they are even though you didn’t have anything to do with who they are when you married their Dad. Ask God to help you to accept and love them for who they are.
We all do hope that our stepchildren will on day come to appreciate everything we have done for them, but that day may never happen and we need to learn to accept it and be okay with it.
Then we need to take care of ourselves because the demands of being a stepmom can often lead us to feel drained, exhausted and feeling all alone.

Try to do these things to help recharge our batteries:
1. Go out with a good friend. You need to laugh and have fun.
2. Do an activity you enjoy either by yourself or with a great friend.
3. Get some “Me” time.  Like a spa or get your hair done.
4. Spend time with just your kids. Go out and do something fun they will enjoy which also helps your husband get some 1:1 time with his own kids too.
5. Encourage another stepmom that may be discouraged.

Something that doesn’t help is being around people who are negative or toxic in your life. Being around people like that just makes things worse.  This brings me to another point, sometimes it’s not good to pour out all of your stepmom problems or issues to family members.  Because often at times, family members hold grudges and may treat your husband and stepchildren differently.  Find a friend, support group, or another stepmom or even a counselor to confide in. 
I made the mistake of sharing things with close family members which I really regret doing to this day because of how they treat my stepchildren now.  Remember God’s plan is for us to not be alone, find a support group of stepmoms who will have your back and where it will be a safe place to express your feelings and a place to be yourself, a place where you don’t feel like an outsider. I have started a wonderful small group of stepmoms on Facebook, you are more than welcome to join, it’s called: “Stepmoms Are Us”.  You don’t have to do this alone.

Here’s a prayer I put together to help you, the Stepmom:

Lord, help me with being a stepmom it is the hardest thing I have ever become and it’s a struggle for me. I often feel all alone an outsider in my own home and often times feel like running away. Being a stepmom is much more complicated than I thought it would be. Lord, I need your strength and a new attitude and peace. Please guide me to make the right decisions and to show love and compassion for my stepchildren. Please help me to keep my emotions and anxiety in check and to not respond in anger but respond with love and understanding. Help me to know when to talk and when to keep quiet. I desire to love my stepchildren like you do, Lord. Help me not to make too many mistakes, but when I do, help me to own up to them and apologize when I need to do so. Please help me to be the best stepmom I can be. I want to be a blessing to my husband, my children, my stepchildren and to those you bring in my path.  Thank you for all you do in my life, I love you, Lord.

Rick Warren, The Purpose-Driven Life (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002) pages 196-97.
Kathi Lipp and Carol Boley, But I’m not a wicked, Stepmother! Secrets of successful blended families. Focus on the Family, 2015) pages 25-26

Chosen Love

chosen love, stepmom, blended family, loving your stepchildren, step parenting
A chosen love is a special love that you develop over time with your stepchildren.  It’s not like the love you have for your biological children, but it doesn’t make it any less strong.  Because let’s face it falling in love with our husband was easy, but loving children that we didn’t give birth to or didn’t plan for, yet alone didn’t help raise them is hard and it doesn’t happen overnight. It’s like going to the mall shopping and just picking out any random child and feeling instant love for them, that doesn’t happen or work that way.  A chosen love will take time to grow. It first starts with a connection between you and your stepchildren.  That connection or bond if you will develop through spending quality time with your stepchildren.  The younger the stepchildren are the easier it is to build this connection. The older the stepchildren are the harder it is to build this connection. I would say stepchildren 12 and up, you have to work harder at building this connection and it takes longer than it does with stepchildren 11 and younger.

My stepchildren were ages 8 and 11 when I first met them. It was more difficult to bond with my stepdaughter who was age 11 years old and it got even harder the older she got.  I did develop a connection with her, but it wasn’t as strong as I would have liked it to be because of her mother hating both my husband and me. Unfortunately, my stepdaughter has the same personality as the biological mother which also made it difficult for me.  But it didn’t stop me from trying, I did a lot of things with her 1:1 to develop this connection and it did develop and I do have this chosen love towards both of my stepchildren, but it took a lot longer with my stepdaughter than it did with my stepson.  I would say I spent more time investing in my stepdaughter than I did my stepson, which I really regret because now my stepdaughter is off to college out of state and now my step son who is 14 years old, doesn’t really have a connection with me.  So when there’s more than one stepchild, make sure you to invest your time evenly with both of them regardless of how difficult one stepchild might be compared to the other one.

How do you develop a connection?

Well, it is different with each stepchild because all children are different. However here are some ways that I used and researched.

  • Doing little things for them: Do something for them that you have heard them talk about. You could take them somewhere 1:1 or get them something small that isn’t expensive that they either said they needed or something they wanted. It goes a long ways and helps you start to build a connection with them.
  • Take them to get a gift for their Mom: If her birthday or Mother’s Day is coming up, you take them out 1:1 and help them shop for a gift for their Mom. Not only will they appreciate it, but once their Mom finds out that you took them instead of their Dad, it will make her hate you less. So in a way you are scoring points with not just your stepchild but their mom too.
  • Do an activity with them: Such as teach them how to cook something or play a game with just them.
  • Run an errand with them: Ask them to go on an errand with them and while driving in the car talk to them.  All children talk 90% more when they are driving in a car with their parents, so take advantage of this time, turn off the radio or turn it down and find out what’s new with them.  Don’t ask about school either, find a topic they like, only you know what they are into and talk about it with them.
  • Befriend Them: Stick up for them every now and then whether it be against some other kid that mistreated them or if your child did something wrong against them.
  • Exchange Interests: Find something that you might enjoy that the stepchild enjoys and do it together.
  • Family Games: When you do family games, be on their side against others. For example, we had a water gun fight and I was on my stepson’s side once against the other kids and my husband.
  • Do NOT Discipline them: Especially the first year, let your husband be the disciplinary parent. If you step in and discipline them to early on, your connection will be very hard to get.

If you do everything and you still don’t develop that connection. Its okay maybe it will come in time or maybe it won’t the best thing to do is to be honest with your husband. It’s okay to tell your husband you don’t like their children, however, you still need to be a good parent to them and don’t take it out on them. If you tell your husband how you honestly feel, it will be a lot better than faking it and hiding it from your husband.

What can I do if my stepchildren do not like me?
All you can do with that is give them some space and continue to be nice to them and love them from a distance. Do not punish them from sharing their feelings with you or push your way onto them.  Sometimes the stepchildren do not like the stepmom because they have been told to do that.  In that case, it makes it even more difficult to be around them.  But when you are around the children, be nice to them. In other words, kill them with kindness. Eventually, they will see that you are very nice to them and that it’s okay to like you.

Please try to understand that sometimes a stepchild admitting to liking the stepmom might mean that they are going against their mother’s back and hurting the mom.  This is where loyalty issues come into play, where they want to like you, but feel like they can’t because of their mother. Sometimes understanding where they stepchildren are coming from really helps to know that it isn’t about you.  Once a stepchild has said they “hate you”, you need to sit down and have a family meeting. If you’re not comfortable, then have your husband sit down with that stepchild 1:1 and find out why they hate you (the stepmom). If they can’t give a good reason, then chances are its loyalty issue with their mother.  But if they do give a reason, then the husband needs to talk to you about it.  For example, a stepchild said they hated the stepmom because she always yelled at them worse than the other children in the home.  Make sure you go to them with your husband and validate their feelings and tell them you are sorry they feel that way and tell them that you always try your best to treat everyone the same.  Have a family meeting and ensure to all of the children in the home that the rules are the same for everyone and that everyone will be treated fairly in the home. Then after that, make sure you do that and be consistent.  The best thing to do is to have your husband take over the discipline for a while.  The feelings of the stepchild will change over time, but it will take a lot of time and a lot of being respectful and showing kindness whenever you can.  Give that stepchild space; don’t push your way onto them. Eventually, they will come around at their own timing, just be patient.  If they don’t come around at least they can never say that you weren’t nice to them. The younger they are, the better your chances are of them coming around.  Sometimes you might even want to consider counseling for your blended family; it will also help you get through the hard times.

Step-parenting can be very hard, but don’t give up, you might have to lose the unrealistic expectations and most of all be patient. Don’t give up hope and pray for your stepchildren every day besides your marriage. It takes time for everyone to get along and accept everyone and love takes even longer. If you truly love your husband, then it’s worth the wait.