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.

 

 

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!

Why you are not getting along well with your stepchildren

Having a great relationship with my stepkids is something I thank God for everyday. It’s a blessing that I do not take for granted. People who have had the opportunity to meet my children and I are shocked at the great relationship we have. My own husband is amazed at just how well we get along. What no one realizes is that it did not happen overnight, neither was it handed down to me on a silver platter. There was a lot hard work behind the scenes, a lot of sacrifices, deliberate choices I made, disappointments and tears and lots of God’s grace. Despite it all, I stuck with it even when sometimes every inch of my body wanted to run away. I pressed on through my self doubt and every single setback that came my way. Giving up was always an option, but it was never my choice. I eventually found my freedom in that which I was not, their mother.

Children are at the very center of any new blended family. They tend to get forgotten because the couple is so in love, optimistic and ready to start the new life with their new partner. It’s important to always remember that all step-families are born out of loss. Your partner lost a husband/wife and the children have lost either mom and dad through separation, divorce or death. It is difficult for the children to deal with this especially since all children have an innate need to have their parents together regardless of their age. The truth is children are usually many steps behind when it comes to dealing with the loss of one or both parents and therefore it takes a lot of time to adjust to having a new parent; the step-mom or step-dad in their life.

Not all children adjust at the same time. It’s not surprising to find that one child warms up to the step-parent faster than his/her siblings. In my case, my son took a lot more time to adjust and accept me compared to his little sister. Other factors that affect this period of adjustment and new family formation include the ages, stages and sex of the children. Its key to always remember that all children need loving and trusting relationships and it is up to biological parents to reassure them of this through words but most importantly through their actions as well.

Not all kids will warm up to you at the same time

Here is what to expect with regards to gender and different ages of the children. It will help you understand your child and their behavior toward the stepparent enabling both of you to respond and react in a manner that will foster good relationships for everyone.

What to expect by gender:

Girls will often be uncomfortable with physical displays of affection from a stepfather. Therefore do not take offence as a stepparent. It’s not a rejection of you as a person. As the mother do not push your child to hug or make other physical gestures that they are uncomfortable with. With time they may come around to doing it but it’s also possible that they never do. Do not take it personally.

Both girls and boys prefer verbal affection such as compliments to physical affection like hugs and kisses. Try and stick to this. The children will generally guide you so go with their pace. When I first got to know my stepchildren I made the mistake of telling my daughter “I love you” after a telephone conversation. There was dead silence on her part. That is when I realized that although our relationship had grown, she was not yet ready for that so i refrained from saying it ever again. One day though during our usual bedtime rituals she hugged her dad and myself and said “I love you”, naturally I assumed that was for the dad so I remained silent as he responded. To my shock, she stood there and said “Wendy, I said I love you” and waited for me to respond. Moral of the story? Let the children set the pace for the relationship, all you have to do is follow their cues.

Boys also tend to accept a stepfather more easily than girls do. It may take stepmothers a longer time to be accepted simply because its a lot harder for children to accept another mother figure.

What to expect by age

Children Under 10:

At this age children are usually very open and tend to be more accepting of new adults. Usually easier to for a stepparent to form a relationship with. They may also adjust more easily to the new family setting because they usually have a strong desire for a complete family. At the same time they are prone to competing for their parents love, affection and attention.  A stepparent may feel like they are in some form of competition as they too are seeking the attention of their partner. As a step parent you need to allow your partner spend time alone with his/her kids in order for them to get this love and affection. This works to your advantage since the children slowly stop viewing you as the threat, the person who is stealing mummy or daddy.

Being younger of course means that the have more every day needs and therefore will require attention of the biological parent.

Kids between 10 and 14 years:

Children in this age group have the most difficulty adjusting to step-family. This is because they already have a strong relationship with their biological parents. They also had a great deal of family history before the parents split. This means that they require more time to get over the loss and additional time to bond before they can start accepting step-parent and getting in line with the new family norms. They also take longer to adjust to the stepparent being a disciplinarian so slow down on this one, let their mum and dad take the lead on this.

At this age children will not openly demonstrate feelings yet they will also be the more sensitive ones compared to younger children. They need more love, support, and attention than younger kids so it’s up to dad and mom to constantly reassure them of their unwavering love and support despite the new family arrangements.

As a stepparent be patient, and don’t push them. Slowly work on forming and building a relationship with them.

Teens

They are just discovering themselves and usually slowly move away from family life. Their involvement becomes less and less as they try to form their own identity. It tends to be more difficult to form a relationship with them as a step-parent so please be patient. Try to find things you have in common that you can do together. They also need to know and feel loved, they need to be secure even though they will not openly express it. Reassure them as you would younger children

Adult children

Contrary to popular belief, they do not understand the new family arrangements and share the same issues as younger children.  They feel betrayed by a parent’s decision to remarry, they too desire to have their parents together. If they are in the same age bracket it makes it even harder to accept the stepparent. They may hate seeing displays of affection between their bio parent and the stepparent. Pressure from the bio parent to accept their new love is also difficult to cope with.

Having been in the family for so long, letting go of the family history is extremely difficult. Since they have moved out of the nest, with their own careers and maybe even their own family life makes it difficult for the stepparent to establish a relationship since there is no day-to-day interaction. Other factors that come into play are inheritance.

The best thing to do is to give them time as well to adjust the new situations. Being adults also means that they have the capability to step up and proactively work on establishing a relationship with a stepparent. The biological parent should explain their actions, why they love and need their partner and request their child to understand and respect their decision. After all they are human too. And just like all human beings they need a companion, love and happiness.

I hope this has helped you gain some insight as why children may act a certain way when a stepparent comes into the picture and how you can respond and act or help your partner and children reduce the friction during the transition.

If are already a stepmom or are dating someone with children from a previous relationship and you would like to learn more about what to expect when it comes to raising stepfamilies download a free copy of my ebook “The Truth About Stepfamilies” HERE

LISA celebrates dads: Alex Warinda

Every week this lovely month of June we will do something that is not done often enough. We will be celebrating dads. We will feature a dad, son or daughter in order to appreciate the crucial role that dads play and the impact and influence they have on their families. Today we applaud the incredible Alex Warinda, a single dad who raised four amazing young women; Nina, Rina, Emily and Leila. These four ladies give a sneak peak of how he managed to do it and what his love and sacrifice means to them.

 

Alex Warinda

  1. Describe your relationship with your father.

Apart from being our dad he is our best friend, a confidant, a brother we never had, and above all our role model. He is our ideal man, we trust him with our lives, he taught us everything from cleaning, cooking delicious meals to sewing our hems he’s the coolest dad ever. He is the only man who makes us believe there are few genuine good men in this world.

  1. How much time did your father spend with you?

All throughout our childhood dad spent each day with us. He would mostly leave work early and we would find he had prepared us evening tea with njugus, started working on our dinner, and helped us with our homework’s. Our dad has always been a full time dad to us he is the one who woke up first very early in the morning to prepare us for school, ensured we had breakfast and packed our lunch all this time our mum was still in bed catching her beauty sleep.

  1. How often did your father tell you that he loved you?

Each day since we can remember to date our dad calls us daily every evening individually since we are all grown up now and no longer staying with him. From the first born to our last born and to his grandson without fail. He is usually just checking up to see how our day was any challenges if any and to wish us a good night. To us that’s the greatest way of saying I love and care for you so much.

 

Nana and her son

  1. What did your father teach you about life?

Our dad has taught us patience. That nothing good comes easy and the importance of allowing God’s timing in our lives. To always strive to get the best of anything our hearts desire. To accept that not everyone will view life and issues from our perspectives and therefore learn to accept it and love them all the same. Our dad has taught us the value of forgiveness, of letting go the bitterness and pain that it’s not because the offender deserves it but we do so for our own peace and healing

  1. What did your father teach you about love and relationships?

That you will never please everyone in this life, that you will be heartbroken and betrayed but still give your best. Those relationships are not a bed of roses. Communication and appreciation is the key. He also taught us by example that you need to know when to let go before a relationship kills you.

  1. What did your father do that made you happy?

We are so proud that our father during his lowest time in life became a real man and stuck with us when all hell had broken loose after his relationship with our mum was going to the dogs. He didn’t care what people said or thought of him only what we his children thought of him. He held on tight to us and never let go. This we hold dearly. He is currently building us a very beautiful lovely home which is in the final stages.

  1. What did your father do that made you sad?

When he said tumempikia ugali mbichi  and that the meat had too much spice. We were very furious at the time since we had taken our time to fix him a good meal (Laughing out loud). Also how much he struggled when he would cycle miles just to come see us when he and mum were separated before they divorced, it was the most painful sight ever of our dad.

  1. What is your fondest memory of your father?

(Laughs) When he used to have afro hair and we would plait him, he used to have a motorbike and he would carry us around and every Friday. He still roasts meat for us to date. He also enjoys music and dancing. Every evening he would play some music and ask us to dance and reward the best dancer.

 

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Rina, Leila, Rina and her son

  1. Describe how you are like your father.

Patient, have a big heart, give our best in any situation. We like good living hence we give ourselves the best we can  and live in the moment, to the fullest.  Tunajiachilia vi deadly (Laughs)

  1. What do you wish you could tell your father?

That we, together with his grandson are super proud of him and we shall forever love him. That we value and appreciate him. Never in a million years would we wish anything different from what we have. We wouldn’t choose any other father and he is the greatest blessing in our lives. We are the women we are today because of how he molded us and brought us up. He is tough when he needs to, alituchapa sana tukiwa watoi yet so sweet when things were ok. We are the Warinda daughters!

BEST FATHERS DAY EXPERIENCE/MEMORY

Ever since our mum left us we ensured that every Valentine’s Day we took our dad out for valentines’ dinner bought him a cake, card and his favorite drink. We shared and laughed our pain away……

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Emily

LISA celebrates dads: Moses Likhanga through the eyes of a true daddy’s girl

Every week this lovely month of June we will do something that is not done often enough. We will be celebrating dads. We will feature a dad, son or daughter in order to appreciate the crucial role that dads play and the impact and influence they have on their families. Today we applaud the amazing Moses Likhanga whom we get know through the eyes of a real daddy’s girl, Vivienne Ayuma Likhanga. Vivienne is a law and administration professional and a proud mother of a 10 month old daughter. When I inquired about her age in all she could say is “I am an adult… Hehehe!… Twenty Something. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it (smiles).

Vivienne (right) with her dad

 

  1. Describe your relationship with your father.

He was my best friend. Ever since I could remember the two of us were like two peas in a pod. My parents having divorced when I was just 5 years old, my dad who became sole caregiver – took the mom and dad role greatly in his stride and he was the best single dad in the whole world. There were several days of instant soup and bread or ugali and milk for dinner but I will forever be grateful to him for how hard he tried to be everything to us before he remarried. Very few men can step up like this. I owe much of who I am today to him, if only he could see me now, he’d be proud of the woman that I’ve become.

  1. How much time did your father spend with you?

He tried his best to spend as much time with me as I was growing up. When I was little, after school in the afternoons I would go do my homework in his office then we’d proceed home afterwards in the evening when he was done. After he started working outside the country, it was a little difficult to spend so much time together but we would hang out all the time every time he got a break. We also had a letter writing tradition when I went to boarding school. He wrote to me a letter every two weeks telling me everything about where he was travelling to, the people he met and his work and of course reminding me to be a good girl and to work hard. I still have those letters. I read them whenever I miss him.

  1. How often did your father tell you that he loved you?

Every time we’d meet. He’d hug me good bye at times giving me a forehead kiss and tell me he loved me. He’d also occasionally do it on phone calls.

  1. What did your father teach you about life?

My dad taught me many things about life from how to always look people in the eye when I spoke, how to ride a bike, how to tie my shoe laces and tie; to how to multiply three digit numbers by other three digit numbers when I was just six years old. I went on to learn how to multiply numbers in school but I still did it the way he taught me; from left to right. I loved how he taught me the value and importance of hard work and a good education. If I have any success in my life it is because I am able to understand thoroughly and well what I read and I owe this specialty first to him. I appreciate him so much, for being in my life. He did all he could to give my siblings and I the best education he could afford. He worked almost 7 days a week from 5 am to 8 pm or even later, without complaining, all day standing up and never lost his joy of life and the humor.

The most important thing, he taught me was to never give up and most importantly never to panic when things go wrong. There’s always a way out but first you have to be calm to get everything in the right perspective. Being a high achiever he naturally made me always want to win and therefore I was a sore loser. But he always used to tell me: “Failure is good for you. So, accept your defeats, be aware of your mistakes and keep going. Failure sucks, but it’s not the end of the world.”

  1. What did your father teach you about love and relationships?

To love unreservedly. However he also taught me to not be a push over and to always know when to walk away from a relationship that no longer serves me. My dad’s life screamed “I love you” without saying the words. He made so many sacrifices. Watching his life taught me the greatest lesson on love: Actions speak louder than words. What we do is louder than what we say.

  1. What did your father do that made you happy?

Everything. He loved me unconditionally and was unafraid to show it. He made so many sacrifices at times personal ones just to make sure we were happy and OK. He was always so proud of me whether or not I deserved it. The greatest gift he gave me was believing in me.

  1. What did your father do that made you sad?

He got sick and there was nothing I could do to make him better. Then he died. Though I know death is inevitable and his suffering finally ended, it still broke my heart. It felt like I lost a part of me I could never replace. He was the only one besides God that I can honestly say I could always count on 24-7-365.

  1. What is your fondest memory of your father?

Listening to his heartbeat every night he held me close as he read me my bed time stories. It was the most calming moment growing up. Feeling his strong arms around me and hearing his big heart pounding away. I felt so invincible and protected.  Sometimes when I close my eyes and go back to those moments, I could almost still remember his scent and voice. It still is one of my best memories of him whenever I miss him. I also remember his love for music.. Most times you’d find him whistling or singing along to his favorite artists. It was hilarious catching him at times miming the words to our favorite artists too. One day I caught him singing along to Tupac’s “do for love” another day while we were stuck in traffic, he started singing Harry Belafonte’s, Banana Boat Song: “Day-O, Day, me say day, me say day, me say day, Me say day, me say day-o, Daylight come and me wan’ go home!” He could be so funny! There are songs I can’t listen to without thinking of him.

  1. Describe how you are like your father?

This is such a hard question. The people who knew him say that I laugh like him. Heartily.  I think I’ve got his cheeks and facial structure. I think I also took my easy going nature towards life from him as he was a free spirit. My dad was so strong, patient and kind to everybody no matter their position in life. He was the most generous, warm hearted of men you could ever meet, but at the same time, very stern when he meant business. This lesson bleeds into everything I do. Being humble and generous of heart to everybody I meet and being strong especially inside.

  1. What do you wish you could tell your father?

Oh how I wish I could resurrect him and tell him how much I love him! I would hug his neck and hold on for dear life trying to make up for all the years that I missed out on with him because I was too caught up with life. If I had one last moment I’d tell him that even though he’s gone there’s never a day that passes without me thinking about him. In everything I do I still wonder whether or not he’d be proud. I love you, dad. Thank you for everything.

BEST FATHERS DAY EXPERIENCE/MEMORY

Having lunch with him as he enjoyed his favorite scotch. He told me the first day he held me in his arms my eyes screamed at him for him to love me. And he could never stop. He told me no matter how old I am and I will always be daddy’s little girl.

 

LISA celebrates dads: Andrew ‘Keeplah’ Byama

Every week this lovely month of June we will do something that is not done often enough. We will be celebrating dads. We will feature a dad, son or daughter in order to appreciate the crucial role that dads play and the impact and influence they have on their families. Today we give it up for Andrew ‘Keeplah’ Byama, a 38 year old Organizational Learning & Development Consultant & Trainer at Training Connections and father to a 9 year old daughter and 5 year old boy.

Keeplah and his whys

1. How did you feel when you found out that you were going to be a father?

I was absolutely scared. More so because the only questions in my head were “what will the baby eat “? our salaries back then were quite small. “Will her Dad kill me” (we were still dating) and many other risk management questions.

2. Were you present for the birth of your child?

For both of them. Adrenalin is not in bungee jumping or kayaking my friends.

3. How did you feel at the birth and at the first sight of your children?

I actually had not prepared myself for the feelings that washed me over for that day. I was so busy focusing on the mother’s well-being  and the twenty two hours of labor journey, that I never prepared myself for the actual moment of seeing my daughter. She was born silent as she had been stressed so much due to the prolonged labor. As a result she was tangled in umbilical cord. She was slightly blue and had tubes to help her breathe, but that first sight on that May afternoon, made me realize my ‘why’. She managed to breathe and held on to my finger 10 minutes after her birth and I fell in love.

4. What are your concerns as you bring up your children?

I am overwhelmed by what our children are exposed to through the numerous media sources. As parents we try our best to censor but what they pick up from schoolmates, estate friends and other sources is really giving parents a run for their money. I am also concerned about my children living their lives along their gifts and talents without having to conform to society or peer pressure. Being comfortable with who they are, to reach for the stars and live their larger-than-life dreams.

5. What do you feel your role is as a Dad?

I feel my role as a dad is just that – to be a role model. In my dealings with society, with men and with myself.

6. What do you like about being a Dad?

I like the attention I receive from my children. I might be having a tough day but coming home to have small people run towards you smiling and happy that you have come, hug you and ask you how your day was. That, I like. Also just seeing them grow into their gifts with our encouragement makes me very proud and encourages me to keep doing what I am doing.

7. What do you not like about being a Dad?

I do not like that there is no customized manual for bringing children up and this makes me infuriated especially when I lose my anger with my children. I wish there was a manual for what to do when shit hits the fan, but this also is part of the journey.

8. What do you wish for your child/children?

I wish for my children happiness, a life full of integrity, a life lived full of achievement and little regret and most importantly that they can learn to love humanity and leave the world a better place than they found it or than I taught them. I also wish that they will not fall into the trap of always of living their lives only to get to the end of it. That they realize that success is not the destination but the journey. To enjoy each day like it was their last, build as many bridges and smile often.

9. What do you teach your children about love and relationships?

I teach them that all men are born equal but different because of the various mountains that make us who we are. I teach them that we love all humans equally regardless of their mountains. I encourage them to try and  get along with their friends and peers but not to get bullied.

10. What do you teach your children about money?

First, I tell them that “I DO NOT HAVE IT”; most of the time anyway, it’s a parenting instinct and default answer. I have been making them work for their money by running extra chores above what they are expected to do. For example, helping me to wash the car. My daughter started selling loom band bracelets two school holidays ago to estate children but would end up buying candy for the whole estate with the money she made. This made me start teaching them about the essence of business, expenses, profit and loss.

Finally, once a month we have a Saturday evening family monopoly game and I can see them slowly gaining their dad’s hustling mentality.

BEST FATHERS DAY EXPERIENCE/MEMORY

It’s the same each year. They wait till I have gone to the shower, then position themselves on my bed. Their mother is the chief collaborator each year. They “surprise” me when I enter the room shouting Happy Fathers Day! I do not know what it is but every year it gets better and better.

This month LISA celebrates dads

Men are totally shafted when it comes to Father’s Day. I mean, think about it. Mother’s day starts getting hyped at least one month prior to the celebration. All the major malls are decorated with eye catching Mother’s day themes, shops have impressive displays of possible gifts, restaurants have all manner of fancy brunch and dinner offers, not forgetting the spa treatments, hair, makeup and clothes makeover offers all in honor of the beautiful women who birthed and/or raised us. It’s a colorful and pompous affair.

Compare that with Father’s Day. I still have not heard any hype around anything to do with Father’s Day which by the way is in another two weeks or so. Dads are lucky if they get a card, a mug, one of those ‘greatest dad in the world’ trophies or a nice bottle of whiskey. This month however L.I.S.A wants to change this and celebrate and honor the men that we love so much, our dads, our heroes. These men have made the conscious decision to be there physically, financially, emotionally and spiritually for their families. A mother’s job is not easy but neither is theirs and yet they do it well and more often than not, without complaining.

Every week this month, I will feature a dad, wife, son or daughter on the L.I.S.A blog giving you a glimpse into the influence and impact dads have in the family.

This June, let’s hear it for the MEN!
 

 

Money questions you should ask before marrying a single parent

When I was doing my pre-marital counseling sessions there was one thing that really frustrated me, all the content, good as it was, made reference to the ideal first time couple. The virgin couple who would experience sex for the first time on their wedding night. The one that had no children from previous relationships, no exes constantly in your business and no extra set of relatives to put up with. The couple whose past remained exactly there, in the past. My hubby and I didn’t quite fit in this mold and I am pretty sure we were not the only ones. The advice we got was good for an ideal situation but we needed a little extra because some wheels were already in motion. We were a ready made family therefore the questions would be different and would require a different answer and approach all together.

Money is one of the biggest causes of friction and conflict in a marriage.  Anne Landers said “All married couples should learn the art of battle as they should learn the art of making love. Good battle is objective and honest – never vicious or cruel. Good battle is healthy and constructive, and brings to a marriage the principles of equal partnership”.

 

Discuss every dark detail of your financial life before embarking on marriage to your new partner

In order to have that healthy and constructive battle there are some specific aspects of marriage that every couple needs to discuss and address before they marry. Aspects such as the family values to be upheld, whether to have children or not and how many, dealing with in-laws, finances, spiritual life, couple sex and intimacy and many more. That is why we are encouraged to get pre-marital counselling in order to bring these areas to light and to give the couple an  opportunity to air their views of each matter and then together agree on what the family approach will be.

Couples with no children have the benefit of starting on a blank page and defining everything a fresh. They have no one else to consult but each other. They call the shots. For those who come into marriage with children from a previous relationship this is a much more complex and difficult discussion. The budget will include more items and considerations such as the children, the ex, already established lifestyles; making it an even more crucial discussion to have.

Discussing every dark detail of your financial life before embarking on marriage to your new partner will make your lives easier and help your marriage succeed. Here is a list of twelve questions that you should ask your spouse to get the conversation started and agree on the way forward for your family’s financial well being. During the discussion please adhere to the ‘no heat, no judgement’ rule. Do not go off on your partner for having a different opinion and don’t judge them either. Let it be a safe space to share and agree on what you will do for your family going forward.

 

‘no heat, no judgement’. Let it be a safe space to share and agree on what you will do for your family going forward.

 

  1. What are your current financial obligations?
  2. Are you financially supporting your children/ Are you receiving child support ? What is the agreement with the ex spouse? How much and how frequent are the payments? Will they increase or decrease in future? When will they end? What do we do when we don’t receive scheduled child support?
  3. Do you have any joint debts with your ex spouse? (loans, mortgages, businesses, credit cards etc) If yes, how do you plan to remove yourself from these joint debts?
  4. What expectations do you have for me to support your family?
  5. Do you have any financial commitments to your parents, siblings, or other family members?
  6. Do we both have active employment? How will we handle childcare given our work schedules?
  7. What will our individual financial responsibilities towards running the home be? rent,utilities,insurance, education
  8. How will we handle the holidays?
  9. How will we unify our finances? Are we comfortable with one bank account or will we have “yours,” “mine,” and “joint”?
  10. What do we want to teach our children about money? Will we give allowances and in what amount?
  11. How will we resolve differences in spending and saving practices?
  12. How will we handle investments, property titles/deeds, insurance, wills?

Remember that whatever plan you come up with will not be static but will evolve as the seasons of life and other factors come to play in your every day life, so set some time discuss this and adjust the plan as and when change presents itself.

 

The single parent and dating

I remember when I started dating. It was only a matter of time before I discovered just how difficult it is. Now when you have children it is downright complicated. Everyone is involved, and I mean everyone. There is you and your partner. The kids are engaged, at least on some level, even when you don’t think they are. The Ex is also engaged and everyone has strong emotions and opinions about everyone else who is involved and what the end result might be. Now if both of you have kids multiply all that by 2. No wonder single parents cringe at the bare thought of dating someone let alone settling down and marrying them.

As complicated as it is, its possible to climb this mountain and create a successful family the second time around. However it requires hard work, wisdom, patience and deliberate choices from the beginning and at every phase of the dating period. If you are a single parent or are dating one here are some best practices for you to consider as you start and go through dating.

Avoid a Quick U-Turn

Do not date soon after the end of a relationship whether by death, divorce, separation or breakup. Single parents who decide to marry/date someone shortly after the previous relationship ends will often find their children more resistant to their new partner. This is because the children are still grieving and cannot understand how their dad/mum has moved on so quickly. This also sabotages the ability of your partner the new stepparent and stepchild to get off on the right foot with one another and puts the whole family at risk.

So relax, sit in your pain and understand why the relationship ended, what was your contribution to its end? What lessons have you learned for the experience? Are you ready to let go, to forgive and move on? Unfortunately there is no reset button. You have to go through all the motions.

Mirror! Mirror! on the wall

The smart single parent takes a good long look in the mirror before they start dating. Find out what is motivating you to start dating. Your answers will let you know whether you are truly ready to date or are looking for an ‘elastoplast’ solution to deeper unresolved issues. Look out for reasons rooted in fears e.g. your children not having a father, being the only one in your family or circle of friends with a broken family, loneliness or unresolved pain after a divorce or nasty break up. These are red flags and ignoring them can only lead to more pain and disappointment if you enter into a new relationship

Have “What if?” Conversations with your children

Way before you even start dating, single parents need to begin a series of conversations with their children that go a little something like this, “What if I began dating? How would you feel?” If it’s someone they are already familiar with mention their name. “What if John and I were engaged?” “What if John’s kids came over every Friday during this December holiday?”

Each conversation will help you assess how your kids feel about these possibilities and/or realities. It also prepares them for what might happen. A smart single parent listens and gives serious consideration to how the children are feeling. Engage in these conversations throughout your dating experience, in anticipation of each stage of a developing relationship.

Acknowledge your Child’s Fears

Based on the “what if” conversations you have with your children you may uncover some fears they have with regard to you dating. Validate your child’s fears. It shows them that their feelings are important to you; it keeps the communication door open. Reassure them constantly. Later in the relationship, you new partner will also needs to do this in order to help them deal with the threat of having someone new in their lives

You’re potentially creating a Family

The truth is when you start dating the couple’s relationship creates competing attachments. The choice to be with the dating partner or children generally means the other is left waiting…and wondering how their relationship with you is being influenced by your relationship with the other. This is why your new partner may complain that you spend too much time with your children and not enough with him/her and your children may feel you spend all your time with your new partner. In addition, children commonly feel some insecurity by mom or dad’s relationship with another person.

Do not assume that becoming a couple necessarily means that you can become a family. As a single parent you have to attend to both ‘being a couple’ and ‘being a family’ always assessing how the potential stepfamily relationships are developing.

Introductions

The first few dates should be about  and between the two of you. Spend time together without the children. At the beginning you can refer to your date as “a friend” or if your kids are prepared, call them your “date.” When you start off go for casual introductions. Don’t put your kids and the person together until you are sure there are real possibilities for the relationship especially if your children are under the age of five. They tend to bond to people very quickly.

As your relationship grows, gradually become more intentional about finding time for your boy/girlfriend and kids to get together. Be cautious and conscious at first and monitor everyone’s feelings, fears or concerns. If the other person has children as well, it might be prudent to have get-togethers with just one set of children and a separate activity with the other set of children at a later date. This is because managing multiple relationships can be overwhelming. Eventually, though, if your dating relationship continues to deepen, you’ll want to get everyone together for a shared activity.

Teens and adult children need to move toward your dating partner at their own pace. If you take it upon yourself to get them to love and accept your partner you are only sabotaging yourself and creating room for resistance. Instead, create opportunities for them to get to know each other without forcing it. Show respect and allow the relationship to develop at its own pace.

Pace yourself… it’s a marathon, not a sprint

When you fall in love it’s tempting to want to spend all of your time with your new found love. Don’t abandon your kids by spending all of your free time with your new partner. Doing so only taps into your child’s fears that they are losing you and also gives the false impression to your dating partner that you are totally available to them. You’re not. Don’t lose your balance.

If You Don’t Have Kids

Encourage the single parent you are dating to be with their kids and spend time with them, without you, every once in a while. This helps lessen the fears of the children; and it keeps perspective in your relationship. You might you feel a little left out and lonely but then this relationship is as much about the children as it is about you. If you can’t get used to this notion and learn how to deal with it, then you’ll be a miserable stepparent

Expect Hot and Cold Reactions

Liking mummy’s/ daddy’s new boy/girlfriend creates a loyalty problem for kids: They don’t know how to embrace your partner without hurting their biological parents feelings. Because of this they can be warm and accepting sometimes and other times turn cold. Don’t panic or judge the children too harshly. Relax and work with what they give you. Reacting negatively will only make their loyalty stronger and in turn work against you

What’s Your Family Vision

What vison do you have of your family and the spouse you allow into it? You cannot judge lasting love and relationships by physical attributes or the ‘chemistry’ between you and your partner. You need an objective measure of the values and character of the person you are looking for not just as your partner but also as a parent for your children. You cannot have one and not the other. For example if the person you are dating isn’t good parent material with your children or with theirs you ought to move on even if you love them as a partner. Some things will not change because of marriage

 Learn All You Can About Step-family Life

Finally the secret to success of stepfamilies is getting smart about stepfamily life. Getting smart means learning all you can about stepfamily dynamics, how stepfamilies function, operate best, and why they have the unique challenges that they do. This will help you make informed decisions not just based on your emotions/feelings. Adopt the attitude of a learner.