Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Stepparenting Advice

Hi all! I'm grateful the interview with Carly was so well received yesterday. I got lots of e-mails to my personal e-mail box as well as the comments that were left here. I think it's almost one of those subjects we still sort of push under the rug because we pretend to be this super steppie, and we're sooooo not. There were days, more than I care to admit, I wanted to stay under the covers all day just to get away from it all. A couple of you asked some questions to Carly and some were directed at either of us. We are going to attempt to answer them here.

The first question was from Margaret about siblings. She asked if there were any issues there and this is what Carly had to say:

C: I think my situation was a little different as I am a triplet and we were 10 years older than our step-brother, Luke. When my dad and steppie first got married it was weird because Luke was only 2 (almost 3), and we were 12. So of course he was spoiled...but he was also mothered big time by all of us. It hasn't been until recently that I feel as if Luke and I have really gotten to where a sibling relationship should be because of our age difference. He is my little brother, so of course we had the bickering and annoyances but now that he is older (13) it is cool to see how I influenced him and how he has some of the same passions as me so it is fun to speak words of encouragement and challenge into his life.

S: I'd like to add to that as well. (Shari) The hardest part about the sibling thing was that we shared custody with the girls' mom. So every 2 weeks (on Friday at dinner) was transition time. That was hard. It was hard for the girls coming from one set of rules to another and it was hard on Luke having the girls come and have his little world of "only child" be completely disrupted. It was hard on all of us. We all knew that for about 3 days, each of us, including Dave and me would be in transition. It was hard. Did I say it was hard? The kids fought alot, blamed each other on things, picked at each other, all just to get their biological parent to come to the rescue. Hard stuff. I don't miss that. Neither do they. We did see a christian family counselor for this and at the time we had custody one week on, one week off. This very wise counselor recommended we change it to every 2 weeks (which we did) because by changing every week, the whole family was going thru transition 52 times a year! By going to every 2 weeks, this dropped to 26 transition times a year. This was a HUGE improvement. But we knew that with each transition, we needed about 3 days of getting used to it all.

The next question I want to address actually came from several of you. It has to do with "how to connect and bond" with your stepchildren. First is Carly's answer then mine.

C: I would suggest expressing an interest to their mother that you would like to get to know the children better. It may be a hard thing because she may feel as if you are trying to take her place...but assure her that you are not, and that you are simply another person in her children's life who would like to know them and encourage them. I know that my mom and steppie talked a lot in the past, both expressing concerns. I feel as if this is an essential part in the success of a step parent...just so both mom and step-mom can discuss how they are feeling. This could in turn prevent ill will wished on either mom or step-mom. I would also suggest letting the children know that you want to know them better...make sure you do not divulge any ill will towards their mother as they may turn that in to resentment towards you. Re-assure the children that you are not taking the place of their mother, and make sure that your actions back up those words. Tell them you simply want to know who they are and encourage them along the way in their life. Something that my steppie and I ask each other is..."how is your heart." Not meaning literally how is your heart, but how are you really doing. Make sure that you use your judgement in talking about how you are really doing...as they are still children. Also, maybe sending them a little card or a little note just to say Hi will help as well. Let them know who you are as well, faults and all.

S: Wow....that was really good, Carly. Isn't she amazing? But, I'd like to say something here as well. One thing I started not too long ago with my son (the girls were gone by that time) is something we termed as "Moso Day". It actually stands for the first 2 letters of Mom and the first 2 letters of Son...we came up with it together. When I started traveling alot with my speaking and as he grew older, I knew we needed to find a way to connect on a deeper level on a regular basis. Moso Day is a time we take, usually right after school, and spend it alone, just the 2 of us. Usually we go to our favorite little restaurant and sit outside and share an appetizer and just talk. Sometimes we go to Starbucks. But basically we talk about 2 things. I ask him who his top 5 favorite friends are that week, both male and female. He knows it's not an option to not tell me. He has to tell me. We made that a rule in the beginning. This way I get to keep a pulse on who he's hanging out with in his teenage life and he gets to open up about other stuff that's going on. This has been one of the most bonding times of our lives together. I would suggest you find time to do this with each of your children AND stepchildren. It will truly change your lives. Even if you don't think they want to spend time with you, remember, they are KIDS and they do. They WANT you to take an interest in them and take time for them. Ask them the big question, "How's your heart?" and really mean it. YOU must make a commitment to spend time with them...and don't break the date. Ever. You might sit silently for the first several Moso's or Moda's, but just keep doing it. They'll open up soon. And it's never too early OR late to start. I wish I had started this with the girls when they still lived at home.

Wishing all of you blessings today.....hugs! Shari www.ShariBraendel.com


Valarie said...

Good stuff girl! I'm a Steppie as well - one of each - and I really love them both so much! My situation was a bit different in that my stepson was 8 and my stepdaughter 2 when Jimmy and I met so our "situation" is all she's ever known. (Maybe helped me a bit) But there were still issues in transitioning as well. We get along GREAT and my stepkids introduce me as their "Evil Stepmother" and then just crack up laughing at the expressions on the faces of those they are telling! GREAT kids and now you know why we get along so well! hahaha

Thanks for this post!

GOD'S LADIE said...

Thanks for the great advice! I will start a Princess day for me and the girls and take each one out so they can feel extra special and so that we can bond. I have felt a tug in my heart to do this, but wasn't quite sure how to approach this. Thanks again for sharing this part of your life. It has helped more than you can imagine. It is nice to know there is someone who has went thru what you are going thru and that you are not alone. It is also refreshing to see what your stepdaughter has to say on this matter. What a blessing!


Family O'Foxes said...

I miss you! I hope you come back soon and post on fashion & things.

Could you tell us which celebrity fits into each color category? So, we can see the colors they wear. I hope that made sense.


Family O'Foxes said...

okay, I know my comments don't pertain to your post....:( I miss your advice and hearing about what is happening in your life.

I just recently read something that suggested wearing "soft" colors is wearing "old lady colors" and that to not look old you should wear bright colors. Yikes. That goes against my coloring. I hope people don't think "old lady colors" when I wear my lavendar and pink.


Anonymous said...

Mine is more of a question than a statement. I have 2 step children that live with us full time. (my children are grown) His are 15 and 18 we will be loosing the 18 year old soon. But what I struggle with is they have never had consequinces for not doing chores or not coming home by curfew. I am a neat freak and the kids are very messy.. I am very close to both of the kids but I the messy house and not structure is driving me crazy.. I feel like I stay mad all the time.. I have broke some of their bad habits but I can't break them all.