Sunday, April 27, 2008

Tip of the Week, April 28, 2008

Repair, repair, repair … any damage to your relationship while having a disagreement. Winning the argument is much less important than maintaining the friendship. Look for ways to let your partner know that you love him or her, even if you disagree with them. Find ways to use humor, loving comments and positivity while having an argument or disagreeing.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Tips for Stepfathers

While stepfathers do not start out with a “bad name” as stepmothers might, they also often have many obstacles to overcome. Natural dads may have some jealousy about another man in the lives of their children and children often struggle with developing positive feelings about this new person who is important to their mother, while also remaining loyal to their father.

One of the biggest mistakes that men often make is to think that they can “get things in shape” as they frequently see the mother as too lenient or soft and believe that what the children really need is a firmer hand and clearer rules and consequences. If he has children of his own, a stepfather may be used to setting rules and enforcing them, and yet, that is one of the last things that he can do when entering this new family.

Mothers and their children may have developed a close connection before the stepfamily began and the stepfather may really struggle with finding his place in the family. He may literally have to kick children out of his bed in order to connect with their mom.

We will share with you some of the ideas we have for guidelines for stepdads and invite you to share some of your thoughts as well.

· Build a positive relationship with the children before attempting any kind of discipline. You can do this from conversations about them and their lives, playing sports or games, attending school events and initiating family gatherings. Children will rarely accept discipline from someone that they do not respect … and respect takes time to grow.
· Give the children space when they need it. Don’t ask too many questions, just be there if and when they need you.
· Look for things to like about your stepchildren and try to think about those things more than you think about the problems with them.
· Support your wife when she needs some alone time with her children. This will help the children to understand that you are not a threat to them and want them to continue to have a close and loving relationship with their mother.
· Nurture your marriage. Find ways to have dates and build on the positives in the relationship.
· Talk lots with your wife about the small successes and steps in the right direction, even more than you talk about the problems. It often takes a couple of years before people can say “we are okay now” in stepfamilies. Going slowly and celebrating small steps is the quickest way to get where you want to be.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Tip of the Week, April 21, 2008

I didn't marry you because you were perfect. I didn't even marry you because I loved you. I married you because you gave me a promise. That promise made up for your faults And the promise I gave you made up for mine. Two imperfect people got married and it was the promise that made the marriage. And when our children were growing up, it wasn't a house that protected them; and it wasn't our love that protected them - it was that
Thornton Wilder, The Skin of Our Teeth

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Tip of the Week, April 14, 2008

In one study of couples going through divorce, growing apart and distant was given as the main reason for the divorce in 80% of the cases. A high level of conflict was given as the reason in 40% of the cases. When couples distance … and often lose interest in discussing or disagreeing, there is a greater likelihood of divorce.

Friday, April 11, 2008

"Wicked" Stepmothers

There has long been a stereotype of stepmothers as wicked. Women who are in that role often begin their new relationships feeling as if they are facing an uphill battle. Stepmoms often start out the process with strikes already against them and it can be hard just to get to neutral. What is that all about?

Some of it comes from fairytales like Cinderella. Children grow up connecting stepmothers and “wicked” together in the same sentence and it is hard to change that thought pattern.

At times, just her presence reminds others that the parents are no longer together and this can be very discomforting for the children and the others involved with this family such as the grandmothers who may have mixed feelings in seeing their own daughter “replaced”.

Women are also often seen as the primary caregivers and so are expected to be in charge of many life events related to the children and the operating of the household. Not all decisions or behaviors are welcomed and the stepmother may get the blame for anything that goes wrong or is unpopular … even if she has absolutely nothing to say about it.

Stepmothers make mistakes as well. They may try to hard to create a loving family, well before the children are ready. They may enter into issues of discipline too quickly, maybe out of necessity because there are times when she has primary care of the children. They may also feel resentful because the children do not seem to appreciate their hard efforts … and that resentment shows.

Dads sometimes contribute to the difficulties that stepmothers experience by listening too long to their children’s complaints about her or by not requiring respect for her.

We are going to share with you a few tips about how to handle being a stepmother, knowing full well that each family is different and there are also differences depending on the age of the children. We would be interested in some of your comments about stepmothers and how to break away from that negative idea of “wickedness”.

Expect to go slowly and measure progress in very small steps
. Celebrate those steps. Acknowledge them and let others in the family know that you appreciate them.

Find time alone with each stepchild, even if only a few minutes a day, just to ask them about what is going on in their lives
. Expect slow progress; however, as the adult, it is important to take the initiative and continue to try to develop a positive relationship.

Stay out of any discipline, if at all possible, for the first yea
r. Just use that as a time to build a relationship with the children. Share your concerns with the children’s dad, but let him be the “mouthpiece” for any decisions and changes that are made.

Never say anything even remotely negative about the mother of the children
. You can complain to your husband, just make sure that the children never hear it.

Do not expect appreciation
. Remember that the children have divided loyalties and appreciating you may feel disloyal to their mother. Keep doing things for them, however, your efforts and friendship will eventually reap its rewards.

Go to bat for them when you can. Be their advocate with their dad when it is appropriate.

Make sure that the children have some “alone” time with their dad, time that does not include you. This may seem like something that will not build the “family”; however, it actually allows the children to feel better about their stepmother when they do not feel that she is always in the middle of their relationship with their dad.

Stay positive with your husban
d. Listen and strategize with him about how to handle issues with the children and respect the fact that this is hard on him as well. They are his children and he loves them.

Accept the fact that you may not really like your stepchildren, especially if they might be teenagers
. That can be very normal. Just look for a place to build respect and find aspects of their personality or behavior that you do like.

Be kind to yourself
. Take time to be alone, visit with friends, talk with other women in the same situation. Expect this to go slowly. There are no easy “fixes” for this situation and the mere fact that it is difficult is not just about your efforts, in fact, most of it probably has nothing to do with you at all.

Please share your ideas here. What thoughts do you have? What stresses and successes have you experienced.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Tip of the Week, April 7, 2008

Make sure to notice and comment on the positive things that your partner does, especially the things that you have asked him or her to do. We are all more likely to repeat the things that we are told are good than to stop doing the things that we are scolded or criticized about.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Older Couples Report Stronger Love

A recent study by The Longevity Center at Stanford University reported that couples who stay together report a deepening love as they develop better ability to solve problems, resolve conflict and keep the flame of attachment and interest alive. While younger couples decide that they do not want to “settle”, older couples report that they do make that decision and grow happier with each other as time progresses.

The ongoing study of 156 couples showed that love and marriages get better as couples stay together and weather difficult times and normal life changes. As people age, they are able to calm themselves more quickly, use positive thinking and emotions more readily, let go of small hurts or disappointments more easily and regulate their emotions better.

This does not mean that couples do not need to be active in finding ways to connect with each other, especially as they move through life transitions, however, as we “mellow with age” it is much easier to have less investment in “winning” and more investment in pleasure and appreciation.