Friday, September 22, 2006

When Stepfathers Claim Their Stepchildren 1

Being a stepfather is not an easy task. There are often impossible expectations resting on their shoulders just because they are "the man of the house."

Discipline is often viewed as the stepfathers role. This can be very hard because the stepchild may view obedience to the stepfather as disloyalty to the bio father. Stepfathers may feel like they need to overdo discipline and parenting with a strict posture in order to gain compliance and therefore be a successful stepfather. Typically, this strict posture backfires either by non-compliance or by the stepchild building resentment over time.

Another challenge for stepfathers is knowing how to balance the emotional/relational distance with their stepchildren. How close can I get? How close should I get? How "mine" are my stepchildren?

This leads into the question of what extent stepfathers should "claim" their stepchildren.

I am curious of there are any stepfathers out there dealing with this stuff. Or are there mothers out there seeing their husbands struggling with this challenge of being a stepfather. What's your story?

Friday, September 15, 2006

Divorced Dads

Divorce is not easy on anyone. Everyone suffers. Too often what happens in divorce when children are present is that the relationship between the children and the father is diminished. This happens for many reasons and that is nto what I want to get into here. What I want to do is to encourage the post-divorce relationship between fathers and their children.

Here is a link to an organization called the Divorced Fathers Network . Thier goal is to promote the father-child relationship after divorce. At first glance it looks like they are going to be a good resource for divorced dads.

Below is a book for fathers that might prove helpful.

Fathers are Forever.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Spiritual Life after Divorce

Let's face it, there are people who hold to the belief that divroced people are not spiritual - or are not even capable of being spiritual. Sadly, some of these people are leaders and decisin makers in churches - maybe even your church.

I known of situations in which people have been banned from certain leadership activities because of their divorced status. In fact, I know of a church or two who will not let a person walk in their building if that person is divorced.

Probably the saddest story I have ever heard related to this was when a minister found out one of the members of his church was divorced and remarried he demanded that the man divorce his second wife and make an attempt to reconcile with his first wife. He divorced his second wife and was unable to reconcile. Can you believe that the anti-divorce minister prescribed divorce as a means of getting right with God? OK, my blood is boiling.

There are better ways to pursue a spiritual life in the wake of a divorce.

Here is an article that gives some encouragement for people who have divorced, even if it was for all the wrong reasons, that they can life an active, full, and relevant spiritual life.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Biggest Challenge

Some people say that parenting is the biggest challenge stepfamilies are up against. Other would argue that unresovled grief is the biggest challenge. Still others would say hands down it is "the ex."

I am sure that the biggest challenge would be specific to each family.

What I hope you can contribute to this post is a story of success within your greatest challenge. You know what your greatest challenge is in stepfamily life. Tell us about a time when you faced up to your greatest challenge and came through with shining colors.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Cooking Class

It is assumed that stepfamilies blend when they are formed. In fact, stepfamilies are often referred to as "blended families." But do they blend? If so, how fast? If not, what actually happens when the stepfamily comes together?

My buddy Ron Deal has a little fun with a cooking anaology and stepfamilies. What really makes this funny is that Ron is not what you would call a master chef. He grills meat, but beyond that...well?

Anyway, go check out this article if you want to find out how to "cook" a stepfamily.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

The Stepmom

In the movie, Stepmom, we see Julia Roberts experience so much of the trauma stepmothers go through as they try to enter into the new family, intergate into the new family, as the try to BLEND. She didn't know the routines, was sabotaged on every front by her stepchildren, and felt completely incompetent as the female adult in the home.

Then mom stops by to pick up the kids only to notice the wreck and suddenly the children are cherubs, the mess is all the stepmom's fault, and mom says smugly, "I'll take it from here."

For stepmothers, it seems that all the good they do is diminished while any minor mistake she makes is magnified as if she were an evil harpy. Let's face it, stepmoms are often in a tough position. What's a stepmother to do?

First, stepmothers must be farmers at early spring, not late fall. Think of your family as a constant tilling and planting operation. Harvest will not come for a good long while. Yes, this calls for patience, but patience has never been a bad idea.

Second, stepmothers must affirm their own victories because no one else is going to. Although that might be overstated for some, for others it isn't. A stepmother must be confident that the good she did was actually good, even if she gets no immediate credit for her actions.

Finally, stepmothers must be consistent. When a stepmother is consistently good, she slowly wears away the objections that stepchildren hold against her. She must remove these objections through her actions. Eventually, she will usually succeed. Worst case, she has been good.

Stepmoms, you've got a noble work ahead of you. Hats off to you.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

What Jared Really Learned at College

I found the story below at the Stepping Stones Counseling Center web site.

What Jared Really Learned at College by Sheli Dansky-Danziger

April 26, 2003 was a beautiful, crisp, spring day in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Grandparents, siblings, two parents and one step-parent gathered to celebrate Jared's graduation from the University of Michigan. Over 5000 graduates formed a seemingly endless procession into Michigan Stadium where my former husband and I sat together to witness this exhilarating event.

We had a wonderful family weekend filled with spirited meals, picture taking and reminiscing about Jared's four years of college. As we prepared our caravan for the return to Detroit Metro Airport, Jared called his father and me aside. I didn't know what to expect but logically I thought he might be thanking us for this remarkable educational experience. Instead, Jared thanked us for the way we have dealt with our divorce. Jared's father and I were totally caught off guard. Apparently Jared had friends who were forced to have separate celebrations (meals, hotels, seats at graduation, etc.) whereas we were together throughout the weekend. My former husband and I tearfully hugged Jared and told him how proud we were of his accomplishments; we then headed home.

As a divorced and remarried parent I have often felt concerned and saddened for my children. I hoped that they understood and grew from the changes they have endured in their lives. It's reassuring to know that maybe we have all ultimately done well and that Jared truly learned an important life lesson at college.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Pet Custody Issues?

Divorced couple in China squabble over dog. Judge orders couple to treat dog as if it was their child. Read article here.

This article got me to thinking about how divorces happen and continue on as it relates to children. Does it show more love to contend for the object of your care and love in court? Or does it show less love? If it were not a pet, but a microwave oven, would be more or less silly? If it were a child and not a pet, would it be more or less silly?

Weighing these kinds of decisions about how far to go, how much to press, how much to invite the court into co-parenting decisions are not merely black and white matters. There are so many shades of gray. How in the world is allowing partial or full custody to the former spouse in the "best interest of the child?" How is not "figting for my child" the best thing?

Sometimes it is tempting to equate "fighting for the children" with love. How else do you show that you truly love? Sometimes it is really the best thing to fight like crazy because you'll be terminated as a parent if you don't. If only it were black and white.

When determining co-parenting issues, measure carefully the impact on the child. In the case of the dog custody issue, the dog will be fine. With children, we can't be so sure.

I'd love to hear how some of you have made good decisions with your former spouse when it concerns the children.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Communicate well and share costs

When co-parents try to figure out how to pay for their children's needs, it is important to have good communication. Although most things are spelled out pretty well in the court papers, not everything can be thought of ahead of time.

It is also important to be generous. Thinking about what is "fair" is not always the best way to deal with cost sharing. What the children need is a better approach to take.

The better co-parents communicate and share costs, the better it is on the children - in general.

Click here to read a New jersey court brief of a couple who did it poorly.