What do you do to be the best parent you can be in your blended family? - Mothering Forums

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Old 04-21-2005, 10:13 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I was wondering what people do to try and make their blended family work for themselves and especially their DC. I am a stepmother to 4 (we married 2 years ago and DD is 15 months) and DH and I try to remain neutral despite his ex's issues. It is hard. I do understand how hard it must be as a bio parent to see your ex with someone else and more especially your DC. If talking to her was an option we would, but its not, and even the three older kids are tired of the games, but the youngest is stuck in the middle and very confused and angry.

I thought it would be good to hear from other step-parents and bio parents and see what has worked, as that might also help to see it from the other parent's perspective.

Anyhow we just try to do the following things:

1. Focus on the moment and do quality things together.

2. Remain neutral and mature about the ex and do not denigrate her in front of the kids, or say anything negative or untrue or call names. We try to avoid discussing her but if it comes up we try to answer as best we can and be as neutral (and honest as possible - umm yes she did cash your college fund in but you will have to ask her about it.)

3. I have read the non-bio parent should not be the primary disciplicarian and we do mostly adhere to that except issues which need to be dealt with or are pertinent to that person only, and this must be a little different if they live with you.

4. Try to help them talk about it, and tell them its normal to feel guilty, angry, confused (this goes for the youngest one mostly unless anything comes up) and tell them I cannot replace their mother and its ok to like me or not, this helped I think with some of the guilt issues.

5. Be very very patient!!!!!!!

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Old 04-21-2005, 10:25 PM
 
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We've only been married for 7 months but he has a son who just turned four. We haven't had a whole lot of interaction til just recently. Basically though we try and keep our feelings under control. I come from a divorced family so my emotions are a lot different than DH's and his ex's. I probably can relate to DSS more than either of them and that's hard on me. I always want to jump in and say they need to look at it another way. I have to bite my tounge so to speak on issues they are dealing with until I'm asked. I just think that's common curtosy there. We try not to discuss things when heated emotions are involved and that's really all we can do for now. When visitation gets started up again and is more consistent I'm sure my tune will change. So far all we do is phone calls so we stick to those and make sure everything goes smoothly (i.e no fighting or anything over the phone). I've noticed that the more pressing issues between DH and his ex-wife are dealt with over email or on a seperate phone call. To cut my rambling short, we don't let DSS become an outlet for our emotions and we keep the "parenting" issues out of the limelight. We focus on his emotions and how's he doing with it all.

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Old 04-25-2005, 02:24 PM
 
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wow. thats a good question.

I guess our situation is different as dh has custody of the kids so we see them all the time. So, if I think back to when he didnt for a short period of time.......lets see.

We never used the "I'm not your mother, I'm your friend" stuff. We presented a united front and we were both authority figures that were to be respected if they were to get the respect back. (it sounds harsh after I read it but really it wasnt! )

We gave them rules; structure and rituals when they came to visit. They had minor chores; dh and I would take turns reading a book (usually a chapter book) to them at nite. Um...what else? We made a "talking chair". The talking chair was where you could go to talk about anything with either of us. Funny, the kids usually picked me to ask about my feelings. Like, "do you hate my mom? she says you do." Or the sort of funny one from the 3 yr old (at the time) "wow." Wow what? "I've never met a real witch before. can you do spells?" why do you think I'm a witch? "my mom said so" I just laughed it off.

We always tried to look at their feelings and acknowledge them. When they did move in f/t, there wasnt much of an adjustment.

We also try to mention their other parents. I wish they didnt exist sometimes but it truly does mean the world to them if they are allowed to talk about them and how much they love them (or how much fun they had doing something, yada yada).

I dont know. I guess sometimes I wonder if I am doing the best by them.
They are happy, healthy, respectful; loving; caring; and full of hopes and dreams. So, maybe we're not doing to bad?

But at the end of the nite, dh and I still take time to call the ex's bad names under our covers :LOL its a release I guess!
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Old 04-25-2005, 07:37 PM
 
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Let's see, lesson 1, things change all the time. We've been married 5 years, dh has had custody for the whole time. I got used to being the mom when the bio mom moved 300 miles away and was a crazy, raving alcoholic. But, she cleaned up, moved back, had another baby, and how shares dss with us (2 days one week, 3 days the next) so I had to give him up a littleand hand him back to her.
I try to encourge dss's relationship with his mom because he feels happiest when he feels loved by us all. I make sure he gets her a present on her birthday and mother's day, make copies of his report card, etc. Make double prints of photos. That makes her less crazy too.

I found that I could talk to her better than dh so I became chief negotiator in the house and she never objected since we got more done that way. She would call and ask for me when she had an issue.

No yelling, ever. If she starts, hang up on her, is my rule. We don't yell. If it is a sensitve issue, I write her a letter on the computer and keep a copy. That way I am saying exactly what I want to say.

I used to feel like an equal disciplinarian, but now less so. He's 10 now and takes it a lttle better from dad. Though, I do most of the little stuff, clean your room, do your hw. However, he is less emotional for me than he is for his biomom or dad so that is helpful sometimes. Like, if we catch him in a stupid lie, it's better if I talk to him because he'll be calm and reasonable where he would feel soooo bad if his dad was dissappointed in him. Its not always necessary that he feel that emotional over something.

Have a sense of humor. Who cares about most of this stuff inthe end? Fight fair. Take the high road and all those cliches.

My last rule, give stepkids a little extra love. Biokids know they are loved, but stepkids aren't sure. I have room over my table for 3 photos. 2 are of dss and one of ds. I figure dss will count photos to see if I love him enough but my bioson won't even think about it.
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Old 04-25-2005, 07:49 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jmoreno
My last rule, give stepkids a little extra love. Biokids know they are loved, but stepkids aren't sure. I have room over my table for 3 photos. 2 are of dss and one of ds. I figure dss will count photos to see if I love him enough but my bioson won't even think about it.
I think thats good advice and my DSS 12 (in 5 days) *did* count the photo's when I made a photo collage for DH last year on Father's Day of all 5 of his kids. I just out 2 of DD in (and one was with her big sister and brother and niece) and I think his other kid's appreciated it. But yes they counted!

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Old 04-25-2005, 07:51 PM - Thread Starter
 
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[QUOTE=Shenjall]Or the sort of funny one from the 3 yr old (at the time) "wow." Wow what? "I've never met a real witch before. can you do spells?" why do you think I'm a witch? "my mom said so" I just laughed it off.
QUOTE]

Lol that is a hard one! I am sure bio-mom tells them the same about me!

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Old 04-26-2005, 07:13 PM
 
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Wow. They really counted. I assumed they would, but . . I had based that belief on my (half) sister. She seems to remember every preceived slight against her by my mom (her stepmom) about little things that I as the biological child would not have cared about. And, she appriciates my mom, but still has these memories of thetime I was given the last cookie.
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Old 05-09-2005, 08:32 PM
 
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Most of the communication takes place between dh and his ex over e-mail. This is really helpful when switching times, etc., because you have everything in writing and can pull it up if she tried to pull something. She has gotten better, but in the past it was a major concern so having those e-mails were a big help. Plus, when disagreements come up, it is easy to address and as long as you keep emotion, anger, etc. out of your dialouge, you can always ask the other person to do so as well whenever they get out of hand saying something like it is important for us to treat each other respectfully for our child's sake. It took a couple of years of my dh being the Bigger person, but she finally got the point. Actually, sometime dh like "she was so mature that I felt a little proud." lol We do feel like in some ways we've forced her to be better at those kind of interactions, but hey, it can't hurt the kid for his parents to treat each other better, right? Sometime dh would say, until you can respond in a more appropriate manner, I am not going to respond to your e-mail. It has helped!!

Also, we do mother's day and christmas gifts from dss. She did x-mas gift the first year, but then we had to take her to court to get a formal agreement. So she stopped. Last Christmas she have dss give us a gift, but we don't really worry about that. Our whole deal is do everything the best that you can and that's all you can do. If there is anything we can do to foster positive interactions, then we do it.

We set dss his own e-mail account, even though he is only 5, b/c both my dh and my famiy lives many states away. (My family is all spread out.) So sometimes we have dss e-mail his mom at work and for some reason she really has responded well to that. (I thought she would be mad b/c her typical response would be something like she is his mom and should set him up an e-mail account even though she doesn't own nor want a computer in her home.) She calls either on Sat. or Sun. on the weekend to talk to dss, and dh husband calls dss every other day when he is at his moms. Dss often asks to talk to me so it is all good.
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Old 05-10-2005, 07:25 PM
 
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On the whole picture and fairness with other kids issues, I don't think it will come up much, but I'll keep an eye out for it, now.

Dss really wants siblings and keeps asking when he'll get some. Plus, I've been a part of his life since before he has memories so I don't think it will be a big issue. He actually prefers cuddling with me to dh cause we are blanket buddies.

I guess the thing that I try to do most is to make sure our interactions with him are full of quality, simple adventures. Dh and I make sure he gets outside activity everyday he is with us, even in winter, b/c otherwise we know he doesn't always get it.

We also make sure our discipline is 100% consistant, which I think has been good, b/c every couple of years she wakes up to the whole need for it and goes overboard. I think she might have finally set a new workable system up (in the last 2 weeks so we'll see), b/c she is terrified his bad listening skills will get him into trouble when he starts kindergarten.- I don't think it will be an issue cause he listens fine here and at daycare.

We also limit his tv intake cause he was getting way too much. Actually, I am grateful that his dr. recently told her to cut down on the tv. b/c it can lead to ADD. Yippie!! I don't mean to bash for a sec., but he was watching Way too much tv. So we try to limit tv. and go adventure scouting on the canoe, trails, on his bike, etc. as much as possible. At the very least we play in the yard. Oh, I guess that is a thing, we make sure we play with him and interact on a personal level.

And we also make sure he has friends over here that he gets to play with on a regular basis. He only gets to play his her niece over there, so I think it is important for him to have friendships that he can grow with. While it seems like we cram a lot into our bit of time with him, we also try to limit the hurry of the world as much as we can.

Sorry, I'm long winded. I should be working so it is easy to get carried away!!
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Old 05-10-2005, 07:47 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SillyTreeFairy

And we also make sure he has friends over here that he gets to play with on a regular basis. He only gets to play his her niece over there, so I think it is important for him to have friendships that he can grow with. While it seems like we cram a lot into our bit of time with him, we also try to limit the hurry of the world as much as we can.
This is important. In that book I keep quoting, the Unexpected Legacy of Divorce, kids from joint custody families had little social life. Their childhood memories didn't include many friends but was focused on their family. Family is great of course, but I try to be more aware of ds's social life as well.
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