After reading many educated articles, I decided to detail what works in our home – in our family. We may not go about it right, and people may disagree but in our home, we are happy. We follow these 10 rules and are a very close blended family. I hope this helps you a little.
- Discipline when the discipline needs to be done and per the situation – (no fair about it, and no waiting)
One of the reasons our blended family works is because we are a family. When my children do something that needs reprimanding, punishment or discipline, they get it per the situation and in that moment. There is no waiting until Dad gets home, or waiting for Mom to get home – and no difference whether step-child or not. If you have trust within your relationship, then the basic understanding of appropriate punishment should be understood. Ensuring that children’s behavior and respect for the parent exists at all times, not just when a certain parent or both parents are home. It also shows the children that you are a team!
- Keep a united front – (even if you agree only to disagree)
This is the one I still struggle with, although I see and feel the importance. If you are anything like me and have Bio-Kids as well as Step-kids, you may suffer from ” they are just kids babe, geez!” for all kids involved. I stick up for ALL of them and can be a little pushover at times. But, trust me when I get my fill – I get my fill! After my repeated interjections, I noticed two things. First, they would go around husband all together and come to me to ask for, ask to, or ask anything. Second, if my husband told them to do something, they would come to me to “check” if they had to obey. This made me snap out of it and I started answering any query’s with ” I don’t know what did Dad say?”. They caught on pretty quick and it created better communication with my husband and I, and the kids learned to respect my husband more, and even me for not being a pushover. Remember children crave discipline and schedules, normalcy is key.
- Tend to your marriage – (without you two, this family would be broken again. Let them see that happiness can exist after divorce)
Following a tough couple of weeks, and endless crap from “the other parent” I felt like the glass was half empty. The husband and I were fighting, I was going to bed sad and worried about our marriage, the kids, everything. We had lost focus on us – we focused only on all the negative going on and the kids and their needs but not us at all. We forget to talk, to ask how the others day was – to even greet the other with a simple kiss. My husbands grandmother told me that regardless of her day, or her husbands day, she would be waiting by door when he got home with a big kiss and hug. Sounds a little silly, I know, but – it makes a huge difference. Go on a date night, go see a movie, order pizza in and have it by candle light. When the kids go to bed, play a game of cribbage, or even a video game – maybe a boxing game if your frustrated!! Any interaction is better than none, and will almost always open up the lines of communication. It is important for kids to see that just because they are part of a broken home, that they don’t have to continue to be. That sometimes things fall about in order to let other things work out. Seeing your parents happy, whether step or otherwise is a good feeling for a child and an important feeling.
- Take a trip – (even if it’s just a couple hour drive to a water park)
Following the tough couple of weeks above, I planned a trip without anyone knowing, not even the hubs! We were going only 3 hours away to a water park. We would leave on Saturday and stay one night in a hotel (kids always love a hotel-especially if there is a pool) and then come home Sunday in time to get our youngest back to mom. The excitement of them not knowing where we were going, was a thrill for them and myself. We all talked during the car-ride and played some games, the husband reached over to hold my hand as we drove. My love tank was filling up – and everyone was happy. Getting away – no matter the distance is huge for any family, but blended families where you get to deal with two sets of “other parents” sometimes we just need a break! With work and everyday life, we drowned out and sometimes take advantage of the people closest to us. Taking time to remedy that works wonders. We didn’t spend tons of money or eat at 5-star restaurants – but we did have a fantastic weekend that put everything back into prospective and back on track.
- Encourage them talking about the other parent, discourage any negative comments as well. (I know, but trust me)
During our week with “little man” he talks non-stop about uncles, grandparents and even mom. As annoying as sometimes it is, and even hard to seem actively interested in every story – it’s worth it for a few reasons.
First, you can almost bet – the other side isn’t like that. In our situation he isn’t allowed to talk about me and dad to anyone on their side. This creates confusion, self-doubt, and unnecessary concern for a child. They should be able to love and share about anything they feel. I won’t lie and say that I don’t ever nod and say “oh really, wow, that’s great” without full knowing what awesome thing mom did – but to him he is happy he is allowed to say it! I still have to elbow my husband, when I hear him muttering under his breath, but he for the most part gets it too.
Second, is that “kids say the darnedest things” right? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve participated in a conversation where all of sudden I will click in that something is being said that we should be listening to. Kids share all kinds of stuff, mom’s moved, mom has a new job, mommy’s boyfriend locks me in a closet – you just never know! Pay attention, and when necessary keep track and document it.
Third, and most importantly is that you are creating a bond, a trust with your stepchildren. If they feel like they can talk to you about anything, they will do just that. If they feel like you hate the other parent – they will withhold, reject, and even possibly remain loyal only to the other parent. They should love their parents, even if they are crappy parents and we just wish they’d take a long walk of a short pier – its about them, not us. It goes the same with badmouthing the parent – if you allow it in your home, they will carry it to the other home and vice verse. Its always best to air on the side of caution and expect the same and you provide.
- Don’t treat them any different (Treat them how you’d want a stepparent to treat your children)
When the kids are home, they are home. This isn’t a pit-stop, it isn’t temporary or pretend – this is real life and a real home. We eat meals together, run errands together, attend kids sporting events and school functions together. It should be the same in your home. Children need to feel included, welcome, and at home whether they share your home full-time or part time. If you have children in your home all the time, and one or two that are part-time – they need to feel like it was still their home, their room or whatever else while they were gone. If there is a rule for one child, it should be the same for the other, within reason of course. Your stepchild should never be less while in your home, ever.
- Allow them to call you what they want (respectfully of course)
Here it is, the elusive, she we or shouldn’t we allow them to call us mom or dad? The answer is quite simple – YES. If the child wants to call you mom or dad, let them. If they want to call you Joe, or Molly, let them. Any variance of the two are acceptable per your home when it is their choice. Should you force them to call you mom, or force them to call you Molly? Absolutely not! This goes with the Don’t treat them any different above, most of the time children especially younger – mimic siblings. When you have children calling you mommy or daddy and one that doesn’t, he most likely will at some point because he wants to be just like them. Or, even school age kids who will talk about their mom and dad at home, and you’ll see that even if they don’t call you it at home, they may at school to friends or officials, just to not be different. I couldn’t tell my 1 year old at the time, that he couldn’t call me mommy, and that only brother and sister could. All it does is make them feel like less, not part of the family – and in our home we are a FAMILY.
- Ditch the word: Step (unless you’re talking about the ones that lead upstairs)
We never introduce the kids on either side as our step-son or step-daughter. My husband always says “these are my kids” or “this is my daughter” even though they are technically his step-kids. The same goes for me. In fact most people don’t know where a blended family until we share it, if we share it. The kids call their step-dad by his name or whatever rendition slips out, but at school, practice, or talking to others they always refer to him as their dad. By their choice. Step is an ugly four letter word and we just don’t use it. If you are looking for a way around it, and your uncomfortable saying they are your children, may be try “This is my husbands daughter”, or “My wife’s son”…etc.
- Find a common hobby and share it ( or encourage their talent)
Every child has a desire or something they excel at. Watch them, interact with them and learn what this may be. It may even be something you do, that they begin to like or want to do also. Encouragement with children of any age is huge and goes a long way. Not to mention the undivided personal time with them is priceless.
- Don’t step-back while they are in your home. (Remember: it’s your home too!)
Almost every article, at many educated women with years more experience and degrees, all say to step back – I say STEP UP. Last time I checked we lived in a world where the women are equal to men, and this home I live in is as much mine as it is his (even though the ice cream in the freezer & the hubs don’t seem to agree). Therefore, when his son is in our home, he is just as much mine as his – okay? Granted, on Sunday when he goes home, he is not mine as much – but still is mine in our home. If he is sick, or my children are home sick with my husband, we care for them, if they need to be taken to a doctor, we take them. We do not sit back and wait for the other, nor will we ever. It is no different then if my stepson were on the potty and needed to be wiped, and I go do it. Am I supposed to tell him to wait until dad gets home, or just hold your potty till later because I am only your step-mom? NO WAY! We are a family, all for one and one for all. Even daycare providers care more for children than “they say” Step-moms should be allowed to. That’s ridiculous – and I refuse to step back.
What do you think is missing? Did I forget a key element?
See you next blog – Jess