How Often Do You Vacation Without the Kids?

Diane and I received a question from a reader last week regarding vacationing WITHOUT his kids or stepkids. His wife wanted to keep it from his children until the last minute because she didn’t want them to be upset. However, he didn’t/doesn’t understand why his wife’s stepkids feel as if they are entitled to go. His stepkids expressed that it was unfair that they weren’t included in the vacationing plans.

In my opinon, although I think it’s completely normal for kids to be disappointed that mom and dad are going on vacation without them, I don’t feel the need to beat around the bush, or figure out a way to tell them (as if to ask their permission), that the adults/parents are going on vacation without them. This holds true if the children are older – which his are. In my opinion, it just feeds into that sense of entitlement.

As I told the reader, vacationing WITHOUT the kids, from time to time, is a great way to get some extended time just focusing on you as a couple, instead of you as parents/co-parents/step parents. Couples NEED that in order to nurture their marriage and be better partners and parents.

Below is the reader’s story. What do you think? How often do you vacation without your kids/stepkids?

READER QUESTION:

Hi Kela and Diane…

Wanted to pose a question for the advisory board if I may…

My wife and I are going on a vacation in a couple of weeks.  Hawaii specifically.  My wife didn’t want to tell her kids (pre-teens) until just before we were flying out.  I didn’t quite understand this because my ex and I had travelled a number of times when my kids were younger and there was no problem with them knowing.

A few days before the planned disclosure date to her kids, I accidentally let the cat out of the bag at the dinner table.  My wife was shocked and a little disappointed but she took the opportunity to explain the context of the trip.

Kids reacted fine at first, but then became mopey and expressed that they thought it was unfair that we go without them.  I had not seen that there was any precedent set that they come on all trips with us.  However, this is the first major trip my wife and I have taken together where we are gone for more than a few days to such an appealing place.

They came up with some of the most amazing rationalizations as to why this wasn’t fair and that they deserved to go.  None of which made sense to me or my wife.  We had launched a new business this past year and agreed that we would not take any holidays other than long weekends due to the commitment it required.  Glad to say the first year has been a success so this is somewhat a reward for much hard work.  It is also a sort of deferred honeymoon for us.

I just don’t see where the “we deserve to go with you”, thing comes from.  I don’t recall feeling that way as a kid, nor did I experience that with my own kids when I was in my first marriage.  I’ve spoken to a few friends, and the responses are mixed, but the majority see no problem with parents vacationing on their own and few have experienced much resistance.  None on the level we just went through.

In the end, one of my step kids admitted he was envious.  The other still contends it is just not fair.  We are going all the same.  I am paying for it.  Fabulous arrangements have been made for kids to stay with a wonderful friend in a wonderful setting.

So, I know there aren’t many do’s or dont’s on an issue like this.  Wondering if you can provide any thoughts or experiences.  I was just left quite puzzled and perhaps feel a little guilty and bothered that my wife and I can’t take a well-earned vacation after a very hard-working year without such resistance and commotion.

Helping Children Develop Healthy Lifestyles and Body Images

teengirl1Recently, a reader emailed a question that he had about his 11 year old step-daughter. He said that he and his wife were concerned about her weight, and fear that she might develop issues with her body image. Below is how I responded.

Kela’s response: Many parents have concerns about their child’s weight and body image, whether boys or girls, nowadays. It doesn’t help that our society has created inactive children who are prone to be overweight because of video games and television. When I was kid we had cartoons on Saturdays and the Atari, which came with like 3 or 4 built in games. We didn’t have Disney Channel 1 -35, 20 different forms of Nickolodeon and 35 different forms of Cartoon Network. We also didn’t have Wiis, XBox 360’s, PsP’s, Nintendo Ds’s, Ps3’s, etc. As such, it was normal for my brother and I to stay outside from sun up to sun down, and even when it snowed we were out building snowmen and making angels in the snow. Our generation was WAY more active.

Today’s generation is not only inactive, but they are also plagued with other stress that affects their eating habits. For example, children of divorce may be more apt to turn to food as a means of control. They may feel like they can’t control anything else that’s going on in their world, but what they do have control over is what they put in their mouths. As such, it may seem like they are overeating because they are eating all the time. The good news is that parents don’t have to sit back and watch it happen, and more importantly, can monitor the situation while teaching their children to be more in control of their choices by offering healthier choices and making lifestyle changes as a family.

You have to be really sensitive with your approach when it comes to talking to young girls and boys about their weight. My suggestion would be to not even broach the subject of weight. Kids are way too sensitive at the teens/tweens age and you might create some future body image issues. What I tell parents and have done myself, is approach it from a health standpoint. Emphasize how important it is to make healthy eating choices, and how important it is to do something active everyday. For example, I love the Wii Fit! Because it’s a video game format, it appeals to children. I encourage (okay I make) my son do 30 minutes on the Wii Fit each day. He isn’t an overweight kid or anything, but I noticed that he was choosing the wrong foods and not being as active as I would have liked, years ago. Daily exercise also release some powerful endorphins, which can help to relieve any stress that children might be experiencing.

The next thing I did was talk about his eating habits. We have a history of diabetes in our family, so I approached it from that angle; telling him how important it was to make healthy choices now, so he doesn’t have to deal with the disease that his grandpa passed away from and his uncle is dealing with now, in the future. I then realized how important it was for my husband and I to LEAD BY EXAMPLE! To this day, we keep a limited amount of junk food in our cupboards; usually healthy chips and popcorn. We don’t keep candy bars and snack cakes, or anything like that. So, when he does sneak something, it’s healthy and he can’t sneak a lot because we don’t keep a lot in the house. We have replaced junk food with healthy choices like fruit, nuts and chex mix. We have changed our lifestyle as a family; opting to go roller skating instead of going to the movies, as well as having Wii Fit challenges as a family. This overall lifestyle change has done wonders for not only our son, but our family as a whole.

It’s also important for parents not to worry too much about their child’s weight. As children grow, their bodies go through MANY different transitions. At some points they may be heavier and at others, thin as a rail. What’s most important is that you focus on healthy living, including healthy eating habits and regular exercise.

What about you? How do you encourage healthy lifestyle habits without talking about weight? Help this reader out.

Aren’t divorce decrees supposed to provide more structure?

stk23561sisReader’s Question: I have two challenges that I could use some help with….
I have been divorced since May ’08. My ex is presently in Mexico getting remarried. They called tonight to leave a message for our 7 year old daughter. After her message, their phone line did not cut off and the machine taped several minutes of them bad mouthing me and making comparative and hurtful statements. (These were all perspectives on me, our relationship and the break-up that I had never heard before.) When we split, my ex had been more compassionate and insightful about our relationship and seemed to view it within a holistic context in which we each shared responsibility in both its success and “failure”. We are already relating poorly and now I really feel like I cannot trust him (them). How can we move out of this when our perspectives are so radically different?

The second challenge is in our child custody arrangement (and relates to the first challenge as well). My ex is an ER doc. He argued that he cannot commit to a regular schedule as his shifts are inconsistent. He also has never felt strongly about maintaining a relationship with our daughter- feeling like he couldn’t do it because of his work- and, that the adoption was my idea and he didn’t really want to do it. He couldn’t quite admit this in court so he did agree to average 10 days a month with her. When he is with her, he seems to enjoy his time and she enjoys being with him. What’s happened is that he gets looser and looser with following through. (Doesn’t let us know his schedule until the last minute, doesn’t follow through with his agreements, schedules trips without coordinating as agreed…) When confronted, he rebels. His words and actions don’t match. Out of frustration, I said I was ready to go back to court to establish a consistent schedule so that we would all know what to expect and could plan our lives. He reacted by stating he would argue for physical custody (which I now have) and would stop paying child support. So, its all or nothing. How can I work with this while maintaining some boundaries for our daughter and myself?

BTW, these entanglements are similar to ones I had hoped to divorce myself from in the marriage. I really thought that the divorce decree would provide more structure and I would have more autonomy. Ironically, I still feel controlled.

My Response: First off, let me assure you that I can identify with how you feel as I have been where you are. I’m sorry that you are experiencing the same pain.

I can understand you being a little, well maybe even a lot, upset by the comments you overheard your ex and his new wife saying. It’s always hurtful to hear someone saying things that aren’t so nice about us. That being said, I’m an avid believer in truly accepting your reality. The reality is that even though you may not have heard these things before doesn’t mean that your ex never felt this way. It only means that he was ‘kind’ enough not to say it to your face. If you’re really honest with yourself, I’m certain that you’ve said some not so nice things about him, too. After all, you said that you two were already relating poorly, so don’t be too quick to blame this one phone call (that you weren’t even supposed to hear) on your inability to trust him at this point. That phone call has nothing to do with the child and if you have any chance at co-parenting effectively, you must learn to separate the two. I tell all of my divorced parents to be conscious of “I” versus “our child” statements. If all of the statements out of your mouth are…”I was hurt when you…,” “I didn’t like it when you…,” “It makes me sad when you…,” then how you’re feeling probably has more to do with you than with your child. Your perspective on how your relationship ended bears no relevance in how you move forward to raise your daughter. One has nothing to do with the other and you must adopt this mentality if you want a chance in co-parenting effectively in the future.

girldivorce1That being said, this next issue is definitely about your daughter. Children definitely benefit from consistent meaningful contact with both parents. I can certainly understand, however, his work schedule, as an ER doctor generally isn’t a 9 to 5 profession. What was your husband’s work schedule like before the divorce? Did he consistently spend quality time with your daughter when you were married? If not, it isn’t realistic to think that he would change when you divorce. I’m certainly not condoning his behavior. I’m simply trying to get you to accept your reality. When we truly accept our reality we know how to move forward. But if you have a false sense of reality, your expectations will likely far exceed what they should.

I was in your position at one point, too. My ex was and honestly, still is (from a physical and emotional standpoint), very inconsistent. He is an overseas basketball player and he too blames his actions on his work schedule. I used to fight, but now I just don’t anymore. The court order (we have an order for consistent visitation in place), fighting, or even communicating in a friendly way hasn’t changed him and never will. I realized that he has to make that decision all on his own and hope that our son is here to receive him when and if that happens. You stated that you thought about going back to court to establish a more consistent visitation schedule, but that will only work if your ex-husband decides to follow that schedule. Unfortunately, he will not do so until he realizes the importance of doing so.

Reader, there really is no easy answer to setting boundaries for you and your daughter. Yes, the divorce decree is SUPPOSED to provide more structure but that only happens when both parents mutually agree to put their child’s interest above their own. It simply doesn’t work, if you both aren’t on the same page. And, there is ALWAYS compromise involved when trying to get on the same page. You can’t expect him to meet you where you are and he can’t expect the same of you. You BOTH are going to have to make some concessions in order for you to communicate effectively enough to co-parent! Also, be advised that it hasn’t even been a year and it’s going to take some time to move past the hurt and to a peaceful existence. Often times, when we are stewing over hurt feelings we don’t focus on what’s right because we don’t want to. It’s a natural human reaction to being hurt and pissed off. Allow you both to have some time to move past it instead of assuming that you are automatically going to be the loving happy divorced parents who co-parent their child perfectly. Trust me, it takes time to get to that point, if you even arrive at that point at all. It’s all about accepting your reality.

So, my suggestion would be to try to COMMUNICATE with instead of CONFRONTING your ex-husband. When you confront someone it automatically puts them on the defensive. Remember, you’re not interested in being right or attacking him. Your main goal is to communicate, with an intent to understand, so that you can begin to co-parent your daughter in a manner that is most beneficial to her. You set the tone for how things are to going operate from this point on.

When going through a divorce, be prepared!

divorcedecreeBelow is a conversation I had with a reader, offering advice as she prepared for her divorce. Be advised that names have been changed to protect her confidentiality.

Reader: This Wednesday, we have child support court at 1pm. Currently, we are maintaining separate households, and I know that the court will establish visitation and address child support.

I am writing you because I was wanting to know if you have any tips on how I can ease the transition for the kids. Boy is 2 and Girl is 7 months. A major concern of mine is that  Ex-husband hasn’t developed much of a relationship with Girl. Also I am going to need a divorce lawyer, as well. I am thinking that it should be a fairly simple case since we have no assets to divide. Any input or thoughts that you have would be greatly appreciated. I have not told anyone of my discussion except for my parents. Thanks in advance and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

My Response: Frequent contact and maintaining some sort of routine will be essential to easing the transition for your babies during this time. It’s important that visitation pick up and drop off times are strictly adhered to. Additionally, it’s better for them to have similar surroundings at both mom and dad’s house. For example, they should have a room at your house with some of their favorite things, as well as a room at dads’ house with some of their favorites. Basically, it should feel like home no matter where they are laying their heads for the night.

It might also help to start reading some kid friendly books to them regarding divorce. I’ve included links to a few below. The first one, Where Am I Sleeping Tonight, is for slightly older children (3rd or 4th grade), but you could “dumb it down” so to speak, for Boy. It will help to answer his questions or address his frustrations in a very matter of fact type of way. Remember, the children feed off of your emotion. If you embrace this change, your children will eventually embrace it. If you act anxious, nervous, heart broken (in front of them), then they will pick up on that as well.

As far as the visitation is concerned, I can definitely relate to your concerns. My son was 3 and a half when his dad and I parted ways and his father had never really had any involvement in his life. He is an overseas basketball player who works in Spain for 10 months out of the year. As such, he never had the opportunity to bond with him prior to our break up. The courts took this into consideration and awarded him frequent short visits, as opposed to longer overnight visits, during the summer months. As a matter of fact, this is automatically taken into consideration when deciding visitation for infants and toddlers. Attached are the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines concerning infants and toddlers. The courts usually adhere to such guidelines.

Regarding the attorney, I’ve recommended a few below. I’ve only personally used one of them, but the others are highly recommended.

Overall, be advised that it will be a huge mistake to go to court unprepared and without an attorney. No matter how simple the case may seem to you, I’ve always found that they are a lot more complicated than what we might think. Protect yourself and your children’s best interest by getting a good attorney in the very beginning. You’ll find that it will likely save you tons of money in the end.

Let me know if you have any additional questions. I’m here to help. Oh and check out those links to those books below.

Grace and Peace,

http://www.amazon.com/Where-Sleeping-Tonight-Story-Divorce/dp/1878076302/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1242503478&sr=8-1

http://www.amazon.com/Dinosaurs-Divorce-Marc-Brown/dp/0316109967/ref=pd_bxgy_b_img_c/179-2123306-1893056

http://www.amazon.com/Was-Chocolate-Pudding-Little-Divorce/dp/1591473098/ref=pd_bxgy_b_img_b/179-2123306-1893056

Reader: Court went very well and a tremendous burden has been lifted from my shoulders now that the order is in place. I really appreciate all that you have done and as you stated it does pay to be prepared. Ex-husband tried to say that he made 6k less a year then what he makes but because I had the last pay stub that was mailed to the house I was able to dispute that, and he also stated he had the kids 3 overnights a week but because I kept a calendar of when he did and didn’t keep the kids I was able to dispute that as well.

God is good and I know this is only the beginning of the end. I look forward to getting my life back on track and I hope to have everything in place by the end of the year.

Thanks again!

My Response: I’m so glad that things went well for you!!! I’ve been keeping you and your family in my prayers. Additionally, I am SO glad that you were PREPARED!!! I can’t stress this enough to my clients who are going through a divorce. Often times, we don’t want to and can’t even believe that our former spouses would even be capable of such things, but divorce seems to bring the bad out in almost everybody. All of sudden they are lying about income (it happened to me), lying about visitation (it happened to me) and lying about the amount of money that they pay to take care of the child (it happened to me). As such, I always tell my clients to expect the possible worst (be prepared to defend yourself), but pray for the best.

Divorce is hard. It’s difficult to close a chapter in a book that you thought you’d be writing forever, but it can be just as exciting and rewarding to write a whole new book. Just for comfort, support and encouragement, check out the excerpt of my article on “Divorce Parties” here. Embrace this change so that you can move on, for yourself and your babies.

Good luck to you and your family! I’m so glad I could help.

Kela

Negative self-image and marriage – reader needs advice

measuringwaistMy wife is challenged by her body image. It is driving me nuts.I am a recovering alcoholic with a few years sober.  I have done a lot of work dealing with my issues.  So I know solutions are out there for seemingly hopeless states of  mind.  I am living proof to myself.

My wife is slender.  Yet has body image issues.  Let me say it a different way…. I am at a loss for how to understand and support her in this problem.  I am finding it wearing and frankly, painful.

The constant comparisons and negativity really puts a damper on our relationship.  The constant statements of ridiculous, inaccurate ‘absolutes’…. such as…

  • I cannot get into shape.
  • Nothing I do makes a difference.
  • I am fat.
  • Men have it so easy.
  • I should just get liposuction.

My wife works out regularly and is a tall, attractive size 4-6 depending on cut.  So none of these statements are accurate.  Not even close.

The 12-step program that I live teaches me to surrender.  So this situation remains in a surrendered state.  I also know that I did not cause it, can’t control it, can’t cure it.  I am weakening.  Frankly, I am tired of hearing the statements that to me, contain a strong thread of self-pity.  There are many underlying factors to these statements, but the one I hear the most loudly is self-pity.  Many women will kill for a body like my wife’s and here she is wallowing.  That’s how it sounds.

My wife has been to a special counselor for eating disorders…. but didn’t continue.  She read one book…. said it was good, but does not maintain her recovering thinking and won’t pick up another one.

I have shown her blogs that she can read on a regular basis, but she does not follow through.

In my mind, she would prefer to live in the pain of her misconceptions.  Or fear or something else is keeping her there.  She does not seem to even want anything different.  She reminds me of an alcoholic who would rather live with the pain of his drinking and thinking than even consider that there may be something different.

I do not want to nag her.  Nagging never helped me get sober.  I have put many things in front of her but she does not seem the have the willingness to pick them up.  She seems to prefer to stay stuck then complain about her body to me. Her husband.  Who finds her attractive.

This is really tough.  Any suggestions?

Thanks.

My 19 year old stepdaughter is spending the summer with us…

Hi Readers,

With the permission of the reader,I wanted to post a question that I received from her about how to approach her older stepdaughter. It is a common question in stepfamilies with older stepchildren. What is my role as a stepmother to a stepdaughter who is not that much younger than me?  Please see her question and my response below.

Reader:

Dear Kela,

Ok, this is a two-parter! I just got married and my husband has a daughter who is 19 (he had her very young). I’m not too much older than she is, and while she lives with friends and not with us, she will be staying with us for the summer. We get along, but I’m worried about the dynamic in the household and how everything will work (specifically my role in her life, what my responsibilities to her are, how I should act, etc). It’s especially stressful because, as I’ve said, I’m freshly married and I’m concerned about trying to work out the kinks of my husband and I getting used to living with each other PLUS the kinks of having his daughter in the house. Any advice on how to make this whole experience go smoothly would be much appreciated.

motherandstepdaughter2The second part of this question is how to help his daughter feel comfortable around my family. She has very little extended family and I have a very big, very boisterous, very huggy Italian/German family. They immediately welcomed her with open arms (complete with teasing, hugs and ceaseless questions about school) but I can tell she still feels awkward and uncomfortable during get togethers as she feels they’re not her “real” family. I would love nothing more than for her to experience what it’s like to have loving aunts, uncles, grandparents and cousins, but I know it can’t be forced.  What can I do to help?

Thanks very much in advance for your advice.

Kela:

First off, I want to say that you’ve won half of the battle. Older children are the most judgmental and the hardest on step-parents, so the fact that your step-daughter doesn’t hate you is a good thing!

Part One

It’s quite different being a stepmother to a young adult rather than a young child. As such, you must enter into the stepfamily with a different mindset. Younger children [usually] will eventually accept you as another mother, but older children will eventually accept you as a close friend, especially when you are close in age. In either case, you should never come on too strong or try to force a relationship between the two of you. Relationships simply don’t happen that way; they take time, patience and yes, effort, but never force. My advice would be to approach your step-daugther just as you have been. Do your best to make her feel at home. Stock the fridge with her favorite foods, the pantry with her favorite snacks, the bathroom with her favorite shampoo or lotion…thereby subtly showing her that you want her there, you want her to feel comfortable and that it is just as much her home as it is yours. Children, whether adult or not, DO NOT WANT TO FEEL LIKE GUESTS IN THEIR BIOLOGICAL PARENT’S HOME! The way to ensure that she doesn’t feel that way is to make sure there is a little piece of her there when she comes. Make sure there are pictures up of her, especially if you have ones of all of you together.

Part Two

I think it’s fabulous that your family has welcomed your step-daughter with open arms! What I will tell you is that no matter what you or your family does, there is going to be a certain level of discomfort. Why? Because they aren’t her “real” family just yet and she needs to get to know them and eventually trust them before she will feel like you guys are her “real” family. It doesn’t mean that she doesn’t like you. It just means that she doesn’t know you and it’s perfectly natural for her to feel this way. Not to mention that it sounds like she isn’t used to having a big family. Give her some time to get used to it and she’ll come around. In the mean time, just continue to show her love and support and earn her trust. Take the steps to make her feel like she’s a part of your extended family even though she may not feel that way just yet. Whatever you do, don’t take her reaction to you guys too personally. Remember, that it’s going to take time to gel as a family.

I hope I’ve helped in some way. I have a good feeling that it’s all going to work out for you!

Warmly,

Kela

Reader:

Thank you so, so much for all your advice. I really appreciate it! You guys have been a great help and I’m going to keep reading the site for more awesome insight.

All the best,

Reader’s Question – What do you do when your stepkids won’t clean up after themselves?

Hi Kela…. Chaz here.

 

I am kinda going nuts with a blended family issue.

 

I feel like I am too close to it and feeling too many feelings of frustration to deal with on my own.  I know I have shared a lot of positive with others but I am feeling a little stuck on this one and would welcome some outside input.

 

The issue that is driving me nuts is the fact that my step kids do not help around the house.  In fact, they barely clean up after themselves including dishes from the table, clothes on the floor, and definitely do not do any chores on a regular basis.

 

I do not wish to be grouchy about this.  I love these kids but I find the issue leaving me irritable.  It is more to do with a difference of cultural conditioning between my wife and I.  I was raised with parents that had us doing chores from a very young age.  We come from a long and broad tradition of kids helping out.

takingouttrash

 

My wife in the other hand comes from traditions where men earned the money, women stayed at home and minded the household, and kids were quiet and did their homework and behaved.  And were not required to do chores.

 

Now this is not meant to be a criticism which is why it is such a tricky subject.  I have brought it up as kindly as possible and as frequently as I am comfortable with. To very little lasting avail and now I feel to bring it up again would be nagging.  Kids are not expected to do things like taking their dishes to the sink, or helping unload the car of groceries, or cleaning the kitty litter (they are the ones who like the cat the most), putting their clean laundry away, tidying their rooms, etc.

 

Now I am not even talking about household chores.  I am talking about personal responsibilities.  The kids are 10 and 12.  I won’t go on and on about how it was when I was growing up other than to say by those ages I did lots of dishes, laundry-putting-away, yard work, etc.  This was not child slavery, it was helping out.

doingdishes

 

Anyway…. I find myself in a state of grouchiness when these things persist.  I simply cannot at this stage bring it up again. I am giving it a bit of time and hoping to discover a new approach.  Or, come to a point of acceptance that this is just how we (they) live.

 

It really contrasts when my kids are over and, although they sometimes try avoidance strategies, they do help whenever asked and do a lot of things naturally out of habit of being expected and required to from young ages.

 

Any input from the board on a new approach?

 

Thanks!

 

Emotionally exhausted,

 

Chaz 

 

My Response:

Chaz, I would like to first say that you are definitely not alone in how you feel. As a matter of fact, I chuckled while reading your story because I’ve heard it SO MANY TIMES BEFORE. I was just talking to a woman the other day. Her husband is the stepfather to her two children, ages 12 and 13, and this is his number one complaint. When my husband and I first got together, this was his number one complaint. I was just giving advice to a friend (fellow blended family mom) the other day because this is her husband’s number one complaint.

 

So let me tell you what worked wonders for my husband and I. It helped to keep us on the same page, present a unified front in front of our children and got the kids to clean WITHOUT BEING TOLD!! Drum roll please….it’s called a co-parenting policy! I know it sounds really cheesy and you might think that it won’t work, but trust me, it works.

 

A co-parenting policy will help decrease conflict when it comes to discipline and other issues of the household. The policy should contain the following: bed times, homework time, dinner time, curfews, household chores, allowances, etc. It should also contain mutually agreed upon rules and consequences. This policy should be discussed, in depth, with each child of the household. This will ensure that each child knows what is expected of them and the consequences of broken rules. Therefore, it is essential that both parents stick to the policy at all times. In the blended family, you cannot rely on spontaneous reaction to the child’s behavior problem. This policy will also help you, as parents, present a unified front when it comes to discipline, thereby decreasing conflict between you when these issues arise.

familychore

 

Feel free to include some creativity in the way that you devise the rules and consequences, too. For example, what has worked miracles for my son is treating the policy as if it’s a job contract. Money is his motivator, so my husband and I decided on a list of chores for him to do and a compensation plan. Each chore is worth a different amount of money and at the end of the week he is paid for the chores that he has done. If he skips a day, he doesn’t get paid. In our contract, we include sick days and vacation days, just like a real job. This not only motivates him to do the chores without being told, but it teaches him some real world responsibility; including money and time management. Additionally, it makes you seem less like a warden, but a teacher instead.  Find out what your children are motivated by and use it.

 

Lastly, I would suggest sitting down with your wife and telling her how important this is to you AND that you have a solution. Even if she doesn’t necessarily agree with your solution, this will at least spark the conversation about other potential solutions. That being said, you must be patient and realize that things will not change overnight. Your wife will slip up at times and so will the children because this is something that they simply aren’t used to. Instead of focusing on how much it irritates you, focus on the benefit that your children will gain from learning how to be responsible citizens of this world. Understand how simply changing your mindset will change the way you approach the situation and how they will respond to you.

 

I hope I’ve helped in some way. Advisory Board, what do you think? Let’s help Chaz out.

 

*Kela*

Relationship Coach, Lacee Jacobs lends advice to wives and ex-wives

Di, J and I had the opportunity to sit down and talk to the fabulous Relationship Coach, Lacee Jacobs, during the taping of our first talk show. She offered some insightful advice that I’m certain our readers will find helpful. Here’s a recap:

What can wives and ex-wives do to improve their relationship and minimize conflict?

  • Be committed!
  • Determine if your heart is open or if it is closed. This involves the willingness to evaluate the pureness of your way of being toward the other person. What are your deepest thoughts and attitudes about them? Open your heart and release the negative thoughts! This is probably the most challenging step. 
  • Establish and acknowledge your own value as well as acknowledge the value of the other person. (In Psychology terms, this is what is referred to as creating healthy boundaries.)
  •  Be willing to put yourself in their shoes.  Try viewing the world from their perspective. You do not have to own their perspective, just try it on to attain understanding and compassion. This will require you to be respectful, curious and open.
  • Ask yourself questions like, “What can I do to help this person be successful in relationship with me?” Stay away from questions like the following:  “What is wrong with them?” “Why do I have to be the bigger person?” “Why me?” This step boils down to you choosing to be part of the solution vs. part of the problem.
  • Participate in heart communication. This is something that you may need to learn. Take responsibility by reading a book, seeing a therapist or hiring a relationship coach.
  • Develop a healthy relationship with your spouse, partner, or significant other.
  • Develop a healthy relationship with all of the children that are part of your blended family.

 

Remember that relationships are designed to teach us. Once you embrace this, you may discover that this experience is an opportunity for you to heal and move toward becoming a bigger version of yourself.

Lacee Jacobs is a professional coach who specializes in working with human relationships of all kinds. As a certified Body/Mind coach and Trained Relationship Systems Practitioner, Lacee combines passion, hearth and challenge to get the results with her clients. For more information on Lacee Jacobs please visit www.myinspiredinsights.com.

 

Reader’s Question…How do I fix my relationship with my ex-spouse?

Hello,

I have two challenges that I could use some help with….
I have been divorced since May ‘08. My ex is presently in Mexico getting remarried. They called tonight to leave a message for our 7 year old daughter. After her message, their phone line did not cut off and the machine taped several minutes of them bad mouthing me and making comparative and hurtful statements. (These were all perspectives on me, our relationship and the break-up that I had never heard before.) When we split, my ex had been more compassionate and insightful about our relationship and seemed to view it within a holistic context in which we each shared responsibility in both its success and “failure”. We are already relating poorly and now I really feel like I cannot trust him (them). How can we move out of this when our perspectives are so radically different?

The second challenge is in our child custody arrangement (and relates to the first challenge as well). My ex is an ER doc. He argued that he cannot commit to a regular schedule as his shifts are inconsistent. He also has never felt strongly about maintaining a relationship with our daughter- feeling like he couldn’t do it because of his work- and, that the adoption was my idea and he didn’t really want to do it. He couldn’t quite admit this in court so he did agree to average 10 days a month with her. When he is with her, he seems to enjoy his time and she enjoys being with him. What’s happened is that he gets looser and looser with following through. (Doesn’t let us know his schedule until the last minute, doesn’t follow through with his agreements, schedules trips without coordinating as agreed…) When confronted, he rebels. His words and actions don’t match. Out of frustration, I said I was ready to go back to court to establish a consistent schedule so that we would all know what to expect and could plan our lives. He reacted by stating he would argue for physical custody (which I now have) and would stop paying child support. So, its all or nothing. How can I work with this while maintaining some boundaries for our daughter and myself?

BTW, these entanglements are similar to ones I had hoped to divorce myself from in the marriage. I really thought that the divorce decree would provide more structure and I would have more autonomy. Ironically, I still feel controlled.

My Response:

Thanks for visiting BFSO!

First off, let me assure you that I can identify with how you feel as I have been where you are. I’m sorry that you are experiencing the same pain.

I can understand you being a little, well maybe even a lot, upset by the comments you overheard your ex and his new wife saying. It’s always hurtful to hear someone saying things that aren’t so nice about us. That being said, I’m an avid believer in truly accepting your reality. The reality is that even though you may not have heard these things before doesn’t mean that your ex never felt this way. It only means that he was ‘kind’ enough not to say it to your face. If you’re really honest with yourself, I’m certain that you’ve said some not so nice things about him, too. After all, you said that you two were already relating poorly, so don’t be too quick to blame this one phone call (that you weren’t even supposed to hear) on your inability to trust him at this point. That phone call has nothing to do with the child and if you have any chance at co-parenting effectively, you must learn to separate the two. I tell all of my divorced parents to be conscious of “I” versus “our child” statements. If all of the statements out of your mouth are…”I was hurt when you…,” “I didn’t like it when you…,” “It makes me sad when you…,” then how you’re feeling probably has more to do with you than with your child. Your perspective on how your relationship ended bears no relevance in how you move forward to raise your daughter. One has nothing to do with the other and you must adopt this mentality if you want a chance at co-parenting effectively in the future.

That being said, this next issue is definitely about your daughter. Children definitely benefit from consistent meaningful contact with both parents. I can certainly understand, however, his work schedule, as an ER doctor generally isn’t a 9 to 5 profession. What was your husband’s work schedule like before the divorce? Did he consistently spend quality time with your daughter when you were married? If not, it isn’t realistic to think that he would change when you divorce. I’m certainly not condoning his behavior. I’m simply trying to get you to accept your reality. When we truly accept our reality we know how to move forward. But if you have a false sense of reality, your expectations will likely far exceed what they should.

I was in your position at one point, too. My ex was and honestly, still is (from a physical and emotional standpoint), very inconsistent. He is an overseas basketball player and he too blames his actions on his work schedule. I used to fight, but now I just don’t anymore. The court order, fighting, or trying to civilly communicate hasn’t changed him and never will. I realized that he has to make that decision all on his own and hope that our son is here to receive him when and if that happens.

Sherri, there really is no easy answer to setting boundaries for you and your daughter. Yes, the divorce decree is SUPPOSED to provide more structure but that only happens when both parents mutually agree to put their child’s interest above their own. It simply doesn’t work, if you both aren’t on the same page. And, there is ALWAYS compromise involved when trying to get on the same page. You can’t expect him to meet you where you are and he can’t expect the same of you. You BOTH are going to have to make some concessions in order for you to communicate effectively enough to co-parent! Also, be advised that it hasn’t even been a year and it’s going to take some time to move past the hurt and to a peaceful existence. Often times, when we are stewing over hurt feelings we don’t focus on what’s right because we don’t want to. It’s a natural human reaction to being hurt and pissed off. Allow you both to have some time to move past it instead of assuming that you are automatically going to be the loving happy divorced parents who co-parent their child perfectly. Trust me, it takes time to get to that point, if you even arrive at that point at all. It’s all about accepting your reality.

So, my suggestion would be to try to COMMUNICATE with instead of CONFRONTING your ex-husband. When you confront someone it automatically puts them on the defensive. Remember, you’re not interested in being right or attacking him. Your main goal is to communicate, with an intent to understand, so that you can begin to co-parent your daughter in a manner that is most beneficial to her. You set the tone for how things are to going operate from this point on.

I hope I’ve helped, Sherri. Please feel free to shoot me an email at kela@blendedfamilysoapopera.com, or respond to this message, if you need clarification on any of my points.

Warmly,

*Kela*

Team Family…by Tiya Sumter

Three Strategies Needed to Win

When a blended family is created sometimes wounds, baggage and a fear of not getting it right may come along with that. Being a product of a blended family, I placed certain expectations on my dad (he remarried). If he couldn’t get it right with my mom, he’d better show me (in this other relationship) why he chose to my step-mother instead. What I learned from that experience (it’s been 30+ years now) is that in order to make it work, we have to make sure everyone is taken care of, that everyone feels equally loved. It helps when the family spends quality time together developing bonds and coming to the realization that they are al on the same team. Here are some great ways to build up that team, we’ll call “Team Family.”

  1. Family Mission Statement includes the goals and plans you have for your family. Each member must contribute. It is critical that everyone feels included and confident that their thoughts, feelings and opinions matter. Also included are the roles and importance that each member holds in the family and what you want your family to represent. A peaceful home, one filled with joy and fun, happiness and plenty of love are all wonderful goals to aim for. Whatever your primary goal is as a family, each member’s actions should reflect that mission. It is okay to refer back to the statement from time to time as a reminder of what the family said was important. After you amicably create your mission statement, it’s time to start planning. The plans for your family should encompass the vacations and activities you want to enjoy together. A fair way to plan is to alternate, have children pick the vacation one year and the parents, the next year.
  2. Family Fun Nights Making family night a ritual in your home is a must. Family night can include games, cooking contests, living room sleepovers, dance contests, movie watch and review nights and much more. Just taking the time, turning off the television and computer to just talk is extremely effective for building a strong team. Be open and think outside the box when planning your family fun night. One more great option for a blended family is the get to know you game. Asking general questions, such as who’s afraid of spiders or whose favorite color is green is a great way to see how well the family knows one another. Have each family member anonymously put down a few random facts about themselves, place them in a hat and allow each member to pull one out and guess which person it is. This works well with families that have older children.
  3. Always Consider The Team. Working together is what keeps the team strong. Always communicate with one another on how you can make your family better. Let the children speak up and share what they can contribute to the success of the family with the parents sharing the same. Ask yourself what you can personally do to add (that joy, peace and happiness…refer to your mission statement) to your family. Remember, actions do speak louder than words. Show true team family spirit and teamwork with every action. Each family member’s energy and positive attitude are necessary to “Team Family.” When you are on the same team, working and planning together will definitely help you reach your ultimate goal…”Winning.”

tiyasumter Tiya Sumter is a Certified Life and Relationship coach and owner of Life Editing. Her belief is that all of our lives tell a story and it is up to us which story our lives will tell. Her methods involve teaching her clients how to recognize what’s not working in their lives and/or relationships and removing those negative thoughts and behaviors that frequently block us from living the lives that we want. It’s about creating a life story that reads exactly how it would read, if you wrote it yourself. To learn more about Tiya and her practice please visit www.lifeediting.com.