Tips for successful co-parenting

Tug of war: what children get stuck in when parents do not cooperate

Co-parenting is the cooperative parenting by exes in the best interests of their child. It involves sharing parental duties. It may also include step-parents should the separated couple seek new partners.  It is of utmost importance that the parents work together to raise well-balanced, disciplined children despite any differences that they may have. This involves some level of civility towards each other, which may seem obvious but which is not always the case and many fail at. They engage in constant arguments, belittling and bad mouthing each other and sometimes going as far as alienating the other parent, denying them access to their child and cutting off all communication. This is bad for the kids as they have a right to have a relationship with both parents.

When you behave badly towards your ex in front of your child, or bad-mouth them to your child, you diminish yourself, your ex-spouse, and most of all,  you diminish your child. You dent their self-esteem. You put them in the awkward position of choosing between parents whom they love in equal measure and worst still you make them blame themselves for the breakup.

So how then do you make co-parenting work? How do you create an environment that allows the children to enjoy the love of all their parents while not sacrificing important aspects such as discipline?

Realize that you are ex-spouses not ex-parents

Whereas your relationship may have come to an end your parenting is forever. As painful as the breakup is, you will have to put that aside when it comes to matters that concern the well-being of your children. Talk to each other and cooperate on all issues regarding the children such as school activities, hobbies, interaction with extended members of the family, birthdays and other milestones in their lives. Your children desire to have a relationship with the both of you. They don’t care about what happened or who did what to who. Focus on loving them and demonstrating this love by showing up for them. That is all they want

Speak positively about the other parent or don’t speak at all

When parents badmouth each other or use mean and unkind words when speaking about the other parent, the children feel like they are being put down as well. In their minds they translate it to mean that they too are just as bad simply because they are an extension on their parents. Using comparison statements like “you are just like your mother/father” especially in negative light, chips away at your children’s hearts and should be avoided at all costs even when there is truth to the statements. For example if a parent promised to pick up the children to spend some time together,  doesn’t do it and the kids get upset or sad about it say something like “I know you’re sad that daddy/mommy wasn’t able to make it today. I am pretty sure there is a perfectly good explanation for it and he/she will tell you the next time you meet “. This is a much better response than “Your father/mother can’t keep his/her promises, this is one of the the reasons why I left her”. Get the gist?

If you really cannot say anything positive then don’t say anything at all.

Have and keep visitation schedules

After separation or divorce it takes time for the children to adjust to the new living arrangements. They will miss their old family and want it back. They will also really miss the absent parent. Parents need to provide some level of structure and predictability in their interactions. Children thrive in environments with structure so try to have this as much as you have control over. Make visitation schedules that allow them to spend time with the parent who is away and try as much as possible to stick to it. Agree on certain routines to be practiced in both homes for example meal times, playtime, bedtime, household chores, curfews and the like. That way both homes are similar to some extent and you can spare yourself the agony of having the kids being spoilt while with the other parent which is a very common issue.

Not all the rules will necessarily be applicable to the other household but both sets of rules need to be honored. It is your job as parents to reinforce them not just with words but in action because children are constantly watching your actions.

Your children are NOT messengers nor are they spies

Your children should really be left to be just that. Children. If you need to convey a message to the other parent and especially if it is a matter that frustrates you do it in person and resolve it without putting your children in the middle of it. Do not send your kids to deliver your messages or pry into the other household’s affairs by questioning them about the other parent and their activities. This puts them under pressure to watch what they say and do in a particular home. They will be afraid to mess up or let you down, which is completely unfair to them and robs them of their childhood and innocence.

Respect the privacy of the other home.

Co-parenting is not easy but you have to make it work for the sake of your children. Putting them and their happiness first is a good way to keep yourself in check as you work through whatever obstacles that come your way.

 

 

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Four useless things I packed in my hospital bag thanks to google

I have been a mother to children I did not carry in my belly for years, last year however, I had the privilege of carrying life inside me. For forty-one weeks I marvelled at God’s invisible qualities. I downloaded the baby apps and every week I would check to see what size my baby was. From a tiny seed to the size of a watermelon. That really used to fascinate me. Every first time mom can relate. Apart from the apps though I consciously stayed away from google and didn’t pay much attention to all the unsolicited motherhood advice I got. I didn’t want to know the nitty-gritty details of pregnancy and motherhood. I was happy just carrying this tiny human inside me. I was satisfied when my doctor summed up my visits in one line “You and the baby are fine”. That was what was important to me.

When I made it to thirty-eight weeks, I started getting the famous ‘have you packed your hospital bag?’ question. I hadn’t. Not sure why I kept procrastinating. When week forty came along with zero signs of labor, the panic monster checked in and I decided may be it was about time I packed that bag, so I did what any first time mom would do. I googled. Printed a check list and packed all the items on it. Weeks after I came home from the hospital when I was unpacking this bag I realised all the useless things that I packed and never got to use. We had a good laugh with my hubby when I explained why each of those items was in the bag. I had a full proof labor and new mom starter kit.

A book

The book, preferably a new mom book would help me get to know all the basics that a new mom needs to know. Stuff about breastfeeding, expressing, baby routines and all that. I didn’t have one of those so instead I packed ‘Year of yes’ by Shonda Rhimes. I bought this book just before I discovered I was pregnant and for the life of me I couldn’t read more than one page without falling asleep. I carried it everywhere and in nine months only managed seventeen pages so this was an opportune time to catch up. NOOOOT! the book never made it out of the bag. I was tired and too busy worrying about breast milk supply. All my energy was directed towards that otherwise I would not be discharged. Or so they threatened but I really did not want to find out.

Not to mention all the visitors I received. That book didn’t stand a chance. It’s still on my bedside table with the bookmark on page seventeen.

An iPod

During labor you are encouraged to walk around. I read that it helps, that gravity works to your advantage. The iPod was to play my favourite songs to help me relax and distract me from the pain as I paced around the hospital ward. Visions of YouTube women in labor dancing in hospital corridors ran through my mind as I packed it. Cool! I thought. I even downloaded Salt n Pepa’s ‘Push It’. That would me my song. That would be my motivation to get this baby out. I practised in front of my husband and instructed him to play it for me in case I forgot. He laughed, and just shook his head with a look on his face like “who on earth did I marry”? It might have been my first time on this journey but it wasn’t his. He had an idea of how it would go down but he humoured me.

The iPod never made it outside the bag either. I ended up having a precipitate delivery. Which basically means that I experienced an unusually rapid labor where all stages of labor happen at once. One minute I was fine, the next I was yelling profanities I didn’t even know I had in me and just before I swore that was my first and last child mama bear was holding her cub.

Essential oils

Essential oils were to help facilitate labor and relax me through whole ordeal. A week earlier I had bought some Clary sage and jasmine which I had read would help induce labor now that my little one was in no particular hurry to see the world. They didn’t induce anything. Nevertheless I threw these into my bag. I also made a massage oil with sweet almond oil, 20 drops of Clary sage, 20 drops of jasmine and 20 drops of lavender. The instructions said 15 drops but I’m badass like that. At the hospital as we waited for my doctor to come and induce me I gave my hubby and my best friend who would be my birth partner directions on where this magical massage oil that was to be used on my back would be. They were also supposed to put a few drops of the lavender on a cotton ball for me to inhale during labor.

Again, precipitate labor threw all that nonsense out the window

Sugar free chewing gum

Finally the chewing gum was for me to chew on (obviously) in order to quench my thirst because of all the saliva I would swallow. It had to be sugar-free because anything with sugar would automatically make me thirsty. Yeah, I didn’t remember that either.

Looking back I cant help but laugh at myself. If I get a second chance, I know exactly what to NOT pack.

What crazy things did you do when you were carrying your first child that you look back on now and wonder “what the hell was I doing?

 

 

Tips for the widow who is ready to start dating again

 

 

Whether you are young woman or not; dating after the death of a spouse can be a daunting task not to mention an extremely awkward experience. It is common to have feelings of guilt and betrayal of your deceased husband. You may feel confused about whether it is actually possible to get back on the horse in the first place. What will your children make of it? Will your family and friends approve of your decision to start seeing someone else?  What about the in-laws? I’m sure they would have a mouthful to say about the situation. Lets not forget that the dating scene of course has changed tremendously from the time you and your partner were courting so you will have to literally learn what dating looks like NOW.

The bottom line is that it is not easy. Should you feel you are ready and are looking to date again, here are 7 answers to questions majority of widows ask when they want to start dating that will make sure you’re able to successfully navigate the dating waters.

1. When should I start dating?

The truth is there is really no specific time period that one should wait before dating again. It will differ from person to person. Men generally tend to move on faster than women after the death of a spouse. The process of grieving is unique to each person. Therefore, you take your time and come to terms with your loss and your own pace. Do not be driven by what others make of your progress. Make sure that it is really something that you are ready to do before jumping into it. Sometimes you might think you are ready and then after that first date realize that you really aren’t. It’s OK to take a step back and re-calibrate.

2. Am I doing this for the right reasons?

It is important to search yourself and be honest about the real reasons behind you wanting to start dating again.  Is it because you are lonely and need a companion? Are you getting pressure from your friends and other people to move on? Is it that you are looking to fill the void and emptiness left by your spouse? There are right and wrong reasons for dating and if you do it for the wrong ones in order to please society then it is bound to be a disastrous affair. No one is going to fill the void or heal the pain that you have. You have to accept that and understand where your new partner will fit in your new life.  If you do it for the right reasons then it provides you an opportunity to open up your heart again to a different and unique person and a chance to experience love in a whole new unique way from your previous experience.

3. Is it okay to talk about my late husband?

Being a widow will definitely raise questions from the man you are dating about your previous marriage and spouse. They will want to know what happened? How long you have been a widow? Did you have children? How old are they? It is okay to answer these questions and talk about your late spouse every now and then however do not go overboard. Do not spend all your time talking about your past life with him. Constantly doing so makes you look like you are not ready to move on. If that is the case then consider taking some time off the dating scene. Otherwise be genuinely interested in your date and his life. This shows that you care and also sends a message that you are willing and making steps to move on.

4. What if I make a mistake?

We have all made dating mistakes even when we were single so this is absolutely normal. It’s what you learn from your mistakes that counts. Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me right? I have known my husband now for about six years, married for two yet I cannot even imagine what it would be like to start dating again. There is a certain comfort level and familiarity you have with your spouse that can work against you when you start dating. Your date is not going to know you as well and neither are you. You will have to exercise patience and adjust your expectations accordingly since this new person is nothing like your late husband and it will frustrate you sometimes.

Don’t worry about it though. If you are dating a reasonable guy they will understand where you are coming from. That said don’t repeatedly make the same mistake. Learn from them and keep it moving.

5. Why don’t people understand why I am dating again?

Not everyone will understand why you have decided to get back on the horse and quite honestly not everyone needs to understand it. What they need to do is respect your decision whether they agree with it or not. Do not allow anyone to give you a hard time because of your decision. What matters is that you are ready and you don’t need to justify that to anyone.  It is a lot harder to deal with if the people in question here mean the world to you, like your children whom may have a difficult time accepting your position. You will have to have a conversation with them about it and agree on the way forward even if that means agreeing to disagree.

6. I feel guilty. Is this normal?

Yes it is. Especially at first. You will wonder whether to take off your ring or not. You may feel like your cheating on your late husband or betraying him. You might feel weird when you bump into a friend of yours while on the date; like you have been busted. May sound cuckoo but it happens. These feelings will fade with every subsequent date you go on  so I wouldn’t worry about it too much. However if you realize that the feelings are not subsiding it could be a sign that you are not ready to date again. Take a time out and try again when you feel you are up to it.

7. What if my friends and family don’t like him?

When you introduce your new man to your friends or family they will either like him or hate him. They may not treat him very well. They may ignore his presence at family gatherings or start talking about your late husband just to tick him or you off. Of course by the time he is getting to meet the family it means that you’re both taking the relationship seriously. This means that you have to defend him. You need to talk to the involved parties privately and let them know there is a line that they should not cross. That you will not tolerate certain behavior toward your new partner. They do not have to like him but they need to respect him as the person in your life.

Being a widow should not hold you back from dating even though it can be awkward and difficult. Dating is a great way to start living again so live and enjoy your life.

What has your dating experience been like? Easy? difficult? non-existent? I would love to hear from you. Simply leave your comment or DM me.

 

Stop doing these 6 things if you want to be a good stepmom

” I want to be a good stepmom”.  This is the number one reason given by the women who walk into my office for one on one coaching sessions. They yearn to have great relationships with their stepchildren. They want to have a functional family so badly despite all the stuff that is going wrong. I have learnt from my own experience as well as that of other women that the ones who make it are the ones who stick with it despite swimming against the current. The hard headed, relentless ones who fail and pick themselves up time and again. Those are the stepmoms who reap the fruits of love and happiness and acceptance.

How can I be that woman you ask? well you have to be prepared to roll your sleeves up and go get it. It will sure as hell not be given to you by anyone. You will have to earn your stripes. The only way to do that is by changing course and tact. You have to stop the things that are holding you back in the first place. Quit doing these 6 things this year and start experiencing that change that you yearn for.

 

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Stop giving up

Step-families are not the kind of thing where you’re in today and out tomorrow when things do not go your way. Remember that they are born out of loss and everyone is subconsciously hoping that they do not have to go through another one. Purpose to check in and stay in no matter what curveballs come your way. No one is asking you to be super woman. Its absolutely human to feel hurt, drained, like giving up, to want a break or change of scenery. Do whatever you have to do to get rid of the negative thoughts and get into a better mental state to continue with your journey. Remember, those who succeed are those who stick with it.

Stop thinking you are alone in this

The stepmom journey can be a very lonely one. First of all people around you do not understand or relate to what you are going through. You might have low self esteem feeling like you don’t belong or second guessing yourself and your abilities or you may be down playing your success. All these can make you feel like you are all alone. The truth is you are not. I have always been vocal about my stepmom journey even when I felt like crawling under a rock and living there for the rest of my life. Over time I realized that the more open I was about it the more others shared their stories as well. Trust me, there are so many other women just like you and I out there who have made it. So you are not alone. Surround yourself with such people who are not ashamed of their truth. Being able to openly share your experiences also lifts the burden of perfection off your shoulders.

Stop focusing on everything you are not and start shining the light on everything you are.

At the beginning of my journey I really struggled with this one. I would think and really marinate over all the things I was not. How I was not a mom, how I was never going to give my partner his first child, basically very many family related firsts for me would not be the same for him. It bugged the hell out me and overthinking it definitely stole my joy. Then I realized what I was doing to myself and to my relationship and decided if I was going to make this work I needed to accept the things that I could not change and embrace all the Wendiness that I was bringing to the table. I am a unique individual with my own unique talents, gifts and experiences that I could share with my new family including my partner. That yes, while some things were not a first time for both of us, it was the first time he wa doing those things with me and that meant something. I embraced these truths and shifted my focus to who I was and believe me it paid off big time with my relationship with my partner and stepchildren as well.

Stop being so hard on yourself

No one ever dreams of being a stepmom. Its not on any woman’s bucket-list. Prince charming has no children. For this reason no woman who ends up as one has a blueprint for navigating this journey. You will make mistakes so don’t punish yourself for them. Learn from them and keep it moving. Remember the goal is not perfection, it’s progress.

Stop running away from your problems

Problems will not disappear simply because you have chosen to sweep them under the rug and pretend they don’t exist. Every family has its own problems, not just stepfamilies. Whatever issues arise, own them and deal with them together with your partner. Make sure you come up with a solution that works for everyone. Otherwise the more unresolved issues you pile up on your self, your marriage and your children the messier it gets later on.

Stop dwelling on the negative

You need to stop swimming in negative thoughts or keeping the company of negative people. This will only make you have a negative mindset and attitude towards everything and it will drag you down. Life is such that you have good days and you have bad days but if you choose keep a positive attitude , you accept what life throws your way and make the best out of it. Stay positive

 

 

 

 

Single moms dating single dads, are you prepared?

 

I can’t count the number of times a single mom has declared that it is easier to date a single dad than it is to date a single man especially if you are looking for a long term commitment. I always wondered is it really? Sure it’s easier to hit it off, understand each other and bond over kid-talk but when the warm fuzzy feelings die down and you now have to focus on partnering to raise a blended family is it still easy? Well I don’t think so and here is why. There are far too many issues that get overlooked and yet need to be carefully considered before taking the plunge whether you are a single mom or a single dad. If you deal with these early enough then you will be in a much better position than letting the issues creep up on you unexpectedly and creating fertile ground for serious conflict in your family. What exactly do then look out for and need to know well in advance before you take the big plunge?

 

 

It’s a complex family

Think about it, two parents, two sets of children who now have to accept and adjust to new siblings, two exes to deal with, two extended families or four if we count your exes family has close tie with the children, four homes that the children will be shuffling to and from, and that is just on the relationships side. Add on to that schools and church, visitation schedules for the other parents and finances. It’s a lot to handle not just for the couple but for their children as well. This complex dynamic needs to be addressed by the couple because it will definitely not be a seamless fit. Ask yourself the following questions;

  • What is the current custody agreement and how will you manage as a couple in future?
  • How old your children? This is important because it will alter the order of birth in your new family and the children will have a hard time adjusting. For example a child who was first born child when with the mother is now a middle child because moms new partner has an older child.
  • How are the exes involved with the children? Are they active or passive?
  • How will you handle your respective exes?
  • Where are you going to live?
  • Which schools will the children attend?
  • Child support? Who is getting it or paying for it, how much? how frequent? What does it cover?

Make sure you are the right fit

Take time to observe the relationship between you and your partner as well as between your children and his. It has to be more than just love if you want a successful long term relationship.  Ask yourself

  • Are you the right fit?
  • Do your children get along and are they OK with having new step siblings?
  • Are you  willing to share responsibility over all the children not just your own?
  • Do you intend to have children with your new partner?

Get involved at the right time

All children regardless of their age love their parents and dream of them being together again one day. Introducing someone new to them kills that dream and so it is important that your new partner gets involved at the right time. Introduce them gradually so that your children can get used to the idea of them. Get to know them better and form their own relationship at a slow pace. This also gives you time to have private chats with your children and find out what they think about the person and address any fears or concerns they might have about your new partner.

The older the children the harder and longer it will take for them to adjust

Set new boundaries

You have been raising your children now for ‘x’ number of years now. You have your own style and know whats best for them, what works and what doesn’t. All this changes when you have a new partner who is now a new parent to your children too. You will have to trust him to do right by your children and yet he has been raising his children in his own style with completely different set of boundaries. You will therefore need a new approach to parenting that is inclusive of both of you. A new set of boundaries for you and the children to live by. The boundaries are not just with regards to the children but also apply to your exes, communication with them and visitation for the children, extended family involvement, basically on every matter. You will need to operate a team and the only way to do that is by playing by the same rules. Make time to come up with your new family rules.

Couple time

Your blended family will only be as strong as your couple’s relationship. Its easy for couple time to be sucked up by parenting duties. Too much time spent on making sure the home is running smoothly and that there is peace and harmony among all involved. You will need to be very deliberate about setting time apart to spend with each other as a couple, away from the children. This keeps your friendship and bond strong. The stronger your relationship the more capable you are of positively driving your family onto the path of love and happiness.

Parenting Styles

This is a biggie. You need to look out for signs that that your parenting styles do not conflict. Does how you approach your own children work well on his children and vice versa. Who is the strict disciplinarian and who is the liberal? Once you have these details then sit down and discuss on what the best approach will be for all the children.

Are you single mom dating a single dad? what was your experience like and what lessons have you learnt from it? I would love to hear about it. Drop your comment below

 

 

 

 

Dating a single dad? Here’s what you need to know

At 25 years of age I met the man who I would later call my husband. Of course I had no idea back then, it was not love at first sight  or anything like that. Well at least not for me. Before we even became an item he was very open with me about being a father. Something that I never gave much thought to at the time but which would later play a very big role in our relationship. I thought it would be a relationship like any other but experience revealed that the dynamic was quite different. I grappled with ego issues, jealousy associated with the ex, feeling like I was not his number one priority; the list of emotional challenges is endless. These are all challenges that we had to work out as and when they came up which was not easy. I wish someone had given me a heads up on what to expect, then maybe I would have spent less time trying to fit the relationship into the traditional relationship mould where there are no kids involved, and more time into understanding my particular situation and making the best out of it. In a bid to pay it forward I have summed up some of my crucial lessons and what you need to know  and expect if you are a single woman dating a single dad.

Loyalty is to his children first

Be prepared to hear a lot about the kids when you spend time together, after all he is a proud single dad. I know it doesn’t make for good conversation when you are out on that date. He may have to cancel a few dates, postpone some plans due to some conflict with the children’s events or unforeseen circumstances like the illness of child; all of which may hurt or frustrate you but remember, THAT IS A GOOD THING. It means you’re not dating a deadbeat dad. It says that he has his priorities straight and he will not compromise on his role as a father regardless of what happened between him and the mother of his children. Give him some time, be supportive and patient and eventually he will get to the point where its it is about you and him.

On the flip side should you meet a single dad who drops everything, alters his plans with the children for you then that is a serious red flag for your relationship.

Respect his children and the relationship he has with them

You have to respect them before and after you meet them. Your actions towards his parenting responsibilities will tell him if you respect his relationship with his children and his responsibility over them. Say you had planned this romantic getaway to spend some quality time together, God knows you need it right? After all, you never really get to spend quality, uninterrupted time with him. Flights booked, hotel booked, itinerary is all set and then at the last minute he has to cancel. For some reason baby mama who was supposed to have the kids this weekend is suddenly not able to and needs him to step in. That’s enough to make any woman flip. Taking it out on him doesn’t help you nor the relationship. If he feels attacked of course he will back off, have reservations about making plans with you in advance, may be even end things. Instead try and take a more supportive approach, express your disappointed but willingness to try. By doing so you are indirectly encouraging his parenting and he sees that you understand his situation.

There is no escaping the EX

Unless of course he is a widower there is definitely an ex somewhere. Whether you have met her or not, know about her or not; know that she exists and there is no way you can ignore her presence and influence. If you still think this is not an issue for you wait until you get a little closer to the kids. Its not uncommon for some mothers to be completely out of touch with their children, hardly seeing or speaking with them or being in any way involved in their lives only for them to come out of the woodwork when they hear their kids are getting close to daddy’s new mate.

Avoid trying to be a replacement mother or trying to make everyone get along. If you did not break it, you have no reason or right to fix it. Understand and support the fact that due to co-parenting responsibilities your man will be in contact with his ex every now and then especially if she plays an active role in their lives. Its not easy being with someone who’s past is in your present, who has shared so many of his big firsts with somebody else who is now permanently in the picture. You will have to be honest about how you feel and deal with the challenging emotions as they come along with your partner. Knowing when you have genuine concerns or are just being driven by emotions and feelings.

Expect a different dynamic

A lot of the expectations you will have will be based on your experience dating men who had no kids. Some of the dynamics will definitely be different. For example you may find yourself dating in secret for a while simply because he doesn’t want to introduce someone he not sure about to his children. He doesn’t need his children to be emotionally attached to you and then have to explain things when you break up. I dated my husband for a little over a year before I met his kids. Something which I didn’t understand then and made me question his love for me because of it but which I now fully understand and appreciate as a wise decision on his part.  A dad with physical custody of the kids means he has less availability than one who has visitation so be prepared to share his time. Just roll with the punches. Experience has taught me that when it comes to children so many unpredictable things can happen that will throw out your ‘plans’

Decide if this is for you

Single dads come as a package. You cannot have the man without the children. If you say yes to the man you are ultimately saying yes to the children and all the responsibility that comes with that decision. Think about it in advance and decide whether you can do it or not.

 

 

 

Avoid the holiday step-stress

Christmas season is here with us. The joy and excitement of the holidays is so real. Family and friends coming together to celebrate the birth our Lord Jesus as well as the years accomplishments, ups and downs. Its a time to celebrate, a time to learn from the year behind. Warm fuzzies everywhere. Perfect right? Not quite. You see the holiday season can be quite stressful for step-families. It’s a reminder of the loss in their lives, it’s a time of conflict over various holiday matters for the bio/step parents involved, the children might dread the holiday season, they might act up or be rude due to the emotional strain.

For those in step-families here are 10 tips to help you enjoy this Christmas Holiday;

Have a plan

Planning is the key to having a smooth and pleasant holiday season. With every step-family there is usually more than one home involved. It’s therefore important for the co-parents to plan in advance. Which holiday will the kids spend with whom and for how long? This should be done way in advance in order to iron out early enough any colliding schedules.

Consider the children’s need. The kids never choose to be in a step-family and the also struggle with it just as you do so consider what they would like to do for the holidays. Be flexible and sensible for example if you have them full time and they would like to spend more time with their other parent allow them to do so without making them feel like they are asking for too much.

What about the gifts?

The best part about holidays is the gifts. Children can be particularly fond of this part. It’s therefore important that parents (bio or step) ensure that the gifts given to the children are equal. There should not be any excesses as this creates a feeling of favoritism which can be a source of conflict for both the parents and children. Parents should be able to sit down and agree when a major gift is involved.

Work out everyones role and responsibilities 

Agree on the roles and responsibilities of the children and grown-ups wherever it is that they will be spending the holiday more so if the holiday will be spent at home. Children thrive in an environment of direction and predictability. It also builds their sense of responsibility and parents should be keen to praise when the roles are performed well.

Let the children help with the festivities for example putting up the tree, decoration, helping with some cooking, setting the table, singing carols, dressing up in costumes etc. these are fun activities that everyone will enjoy and get them in the holiday spirit

Respect

Respect and civility is important especially in cases where holidays will include everyone. Exes should act respectfully toward each other. Any conflict only hurts the children and creates a dull holiday spirit.

Don’t forget about parenting 

Its easy to overlook parenting and discipline during holidays. Do not tolerate bad behavior and manners. If you need to put your foot down or even punish a child for something unacceptable do it. Holidays are no exception for good behavior.

Create your own history and memories 

The holidays are great opportunity for you to create some family rituals, instill good morals and behavior. So think of something that you can do every holiday season. For example everyone can take turns to say something they are grateful for that year, family lunch with everyone where each members cooks something etc. whatever tickles your family’s fancy

Be grateful

Make sure to thank everyone for their contribution to making the holiday special. Thank Mum, dad, step-mom, step-dad and children (bio and step) for making it a blessed day.

Finally, make sure you have loads of Fun. After all it is the holiday season right?

Have yourselves a fantastic Christmas Holiday!

Married to widower? Tips for a better relationship with his children

Last week we looked at some of challenges that women face when they marry a widower. The transition can be challenging for everyone. As a stepmom to his children how do you best handle this complex and emotional family situation? The truth is, there is no single answer to this; simply because grief is a very personal experience, not forgetting that it never quite goes away but is re-experienced with the presence of certain triggers. That said here are a few tips will help you and your family move past the hurt and challenges to a comfortable place of love and acceptance.

Embrace your feelings

There is nothing wrong with you. No you are not weird and neither is your situation. If anything, it is perfectly normal and all step-families of this nature go through this.  Be kind to yourself and allow yourself to feel what you are feeling! Many women suppress their feelings because they want to appear as the perfect stepmoms while deep down they are hurting.  Bottling things up only makes the situation worse and builds resentment towards your partner and your stepchildren.  The very same people who you are trying to have a relationship with. Deal with all situations with your partner and protect family.

Build a rock solid relationship

Your relationship with your partner determines whether you will make it through or not so make sure it is rock solid because the journey really is rough. Realize you are marrying him and his children, they come as complete package.
You will have to embrace and love the children as they are a part of him and you have to be all in, otherwise do not bother yourself as it will only lead to more heartache and loss. If you and your partner commit to your relationship and to being a family, to making it work despite all the issues and you give it everything you have got, you will definitely reap the reward.

Allow your children time to grieve

The children’s biggest fear at this time is that their deceased mother is being forgotten. Seeing their father moving on with you will make this fear even greater. You need to address this fear and allow them to grieve, work together with your partner and step-kids to find appropriate ways of honoring their departed parent and help them to remember her significance. Don’t be afraid to talk about the loss and the parent that has died, speak freely about them, allow them to take  a trip down memory lane whenever they feel the need to and listen to them carefully when they do. Allow them to celebrate anniversaries such as birthdays and the day their mother passed away. This will communicate that you respect their parent and how important they were in their lives. It also demonstrates to your stepchildren that you are not trying to take their mothers place.

Step down

It’s normal for stepmoms to feel pity on their stepchildren, to want to help them overcome this loss and make them better people. Its not unusual for stepmoms to desperately want to build a good relationship with the children but this will obviously take time. A lot more time than many anticipate. When the children pull away from you or openly reject you, your natural instinct will be keep pushing, trying to force them to see that you are a good person who is only looking out for their best interest. This usually back fires. As counter intuitive as it may sound it important to know when to back off, especially when it comes to the children. Give your stepchildren the space to allow them to get used to the idea of you.

Patience! Patience! Patience

If you have ever lost a parent, then you know that it changes your life forever. Take things slowly and be patient with yourself, your partner and his children. Remember that they are adjusting to a very difficult situation and it will not happen overnight. The sting of death never quite goes away, you just learn to accept and live with it as time goes by, therefore accept that your stepchild’s time scale will be completely different from yours or your partners. You need to be ok with this. Not taking things personally but realizing that each situation will present a different challenge that will need to be addressed slowly, with patience and in love.

 

 

5 things no one tells you about marrying a widower

One type of step-family dynamic that we don’t seem to talk or hear enough about is being married to a widower. There is a notion I have heard from ladies when it comes to this subject matter. Many of them believe that its easier to marry a widower than it is to marry a single dad or a divorcee. The main reason being of course that there will be less stress because the ex in this case is no longer alive so there is no bio moms to battle with, no child custody or visitation issues, no child support and so on. However, the women who have been in this position, women who have dated and married widowers will tell you its a whole different ball game. They are clear that it’s not as easy as people will make it out to be. They confess that supporting a grieving partner and stepchildren is an uphill task and that they do face serious challenges in their new families.

What many stepmoms in this kind of situation forget is that grieving the loss of a loved one is a very personal journey. For some, it’s brief, they seem to move on pretty fast and get on with life as usual while for others, it’s long and onerous. Your partner will be grieving and so will his children. The kids may grieve differently from their parents and a lot of it will be influenced by the kind of relationship they had with the parent they lost. That is why our stepchildren may react very differently to us once we step in as new parents.

So what is it that couples in this kind of family need to know, look out for and handle graciously in order to provide everyone with a comfortable transition? From my work with stepmoms who are married to widowers the following five challenges are common and you will experience them should you be in a similar relationship.

A guilt ridden partner

When my dad passed on, I found myself thinking of what I could have done better or changed while he was still alive. I felt guilty. Guilty I didn’t call as much as I could have, guilty I didn’t take as much care of him while he was alive and more so when he was taken ill, guilty I didn’t visit him at the hospital in what would have been out last afternoon together. I should have been more patient with him, a little more aggressive with his doctors. I could go on and on. The list was endless. I kept feeling that there was always something more that I should have done. If you have ever lost someone dear to you then you know exactly what I am talking about.

Its not different in the case of a widower. They are bound to feel guilty about some things they did or did not do while their partner was alive. They may try to compensate for it in other ways either personally or through their children. For example, a dad may worship and adore his children more than ever to compensate for not being supportive of his wife or children, before her death. This may in turn affect parenting or discipline. He may not be able to say NO to his children when he needs to and this affects his relationship with his new wife.

Grieving stepchildren

Children tend to be a couple of steps behind the adults when they lose a parent. Not all the children will grieve the same way or learn to live with the loss at the same time. Some children may take this out on the newly introduced partner especially if the relationship is perceived to be too soon. Grieving stepchildren are not sure how to take the prospect of having a new parent figure. It feels like a betrayal to mom if they do and chances are they will feel that their dad is also betraying her by marrying you hence their rejection of you.

Living up to an angel

When someone dies, we tend to elevate them to some sort of sainthood. Our minds block out any bad they did and chooses to recall only the good. This means that when you come in as a stepmom the children will compare you to a perfect image of their mother and so will other members of the extended family especially those from moms side. So how on earth do you live up to an angel? How do you respond to constant comparison and always playing second best? All this adds on to the stress and strain of your relationship with them as well as your partner.

Extended family and friends that disapprove

You may endure a long list of opinions offered up by extended family and friends. These opinions may not always be positive. In fact some will be downright disrespectful and hurtful. You may be compared to the mom at every turn and no matter what you do never measure up. Some may make it very clear that they do not approve of you nor do they accept you into the family.

Living in a home that you didn’t choose 

There are cases where your partner or children or both are against the idea of moving to a new house. Their old home has more sentimental value now that “mom” is no more. Its not a surprise that they would want to hold on to it to uphold the memories and special moments shared in it. As the new wife you may find yourself with no option but to move in to this home that has memorabilia that serves as a continual reminder of your stepchildrens mom and this may present some challenges for you. Simple things such as redecorating, moving paintings or family pictures, packing and putting away moms old stuff may cause serious conflict between you and your partner and or the children.

All these are dynamics that you have to deal with when you marry a widower. The earlier you become aware of them and discuss them with your partner early in your relationship the better chance you have to avoid some of them or be well prepared to tackle them should they materialize. In next weeks blog we shall explore how you can overcome these challenges.

If you are dating or married to a widower what was your experience like? What challenges did you face, how did you overcome them and what advise would you give ladies who are in similar relationships? I would love to here from you. You can share by commenting directly on this article or write to me wendy@livinginstepafrica.com

 

 

 

 

The ABC’s for stepfamily life

A is for a fresh start . It can work but you will require extra effort and wisdom to make a strong family.

B is for blood, which is thicker than water. Don’t compete. Rather strive to compliment the already existing relationships.

C is for co-parent . Do this effectively, your children need you to be the adults you are supposed to be.

D is for discipline, your children need your guidance and training that will correct and mold their character. 

E is effort, you will have to put in work and time to build and maintain healthy step relationships. 

F is for fear of failure, beware of it to overcome it.

G is for God, he will pull you through it all. Trust in him.

H is for homes, there will be more than one and the kids need to feel wanted and loved in every single one of them.

I is for information, learn all you you can about stepfamilies. 

J is for jealousy. Beware of the green eyed monster and the damage this can have on your relationship.

K is for keepsakes, build them.

L is for love, your greatest weapon, generously use it all day everyday.

M is for marriage. Your family is only as strong as your marriage so make it a priority.

N is for new beginnings, forget the past and start working towards a better future, embrace the journey.

O is for open up about everything, the good, the bad and ugly and be ready to roll up your sleeves and make things better.

P is for plan, for visitation schedules, finances, co-parenting structure, family holidays basically every aspect of family life. Otherwise you will be overwhelmed.

Q for is for quit second guessing yourself.

R is for respect each and every member of your new family as a minimum requirement 

S is for sharing, your love, time, your life.

T is for trust, develop and nurture it.

U is for unfairness, be careful not to fall into this trap especially when it comes to the children.

V is for values. What values does your family live by?

W is for work, work work on your relationships everyday.

X is for ex spouses, you can’t wish them away, learn how to co exist respectfully.

Y is for YOLO, life is too short to sweat the small stuff, have fun, laugh out loud and let no one drag you down.

Z is for zip it. If your words will destroy rather than build up, keep it to yourself.

Want to learn more about stepfamily life and what to expect? Download a copy of my free ebook ‘The truth about stepfamilies’ HERE