Family Dynamics

Lose the Mommy Guilt: How Children Benefit when Mom Works

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, in the United States today, more than half of all mothers with young children work. Working mothers have become the rule, rather than the exception yet ask around any office and you’ll find that guilt is the number one emotion many working moms struggle with. Guilt that they missed their baby take his first step, that they can’t be room mother at school or that they’re not there when the kids get off the school bus.

Part of the problem is societal; for decades working mothers have been blamed for the neglect of their children, the breakdown of the family. But study after study has proven that kids of working moms are happy, healthy and thriving. I say it’s time for working moms to lose the guilt once and for all.

Mommy Guilt is Normal, but Useless

In today’s bleak economy, even more mothers are working full-time, with longer hours, or taking second jobs just to make ends meet. For many women, working isn’t a choice, it’s an economic reality and guilt becomes just one more pressure on already overburdened women.


Teaching Money Matters with Your Teenagers

Teens are all taught the standard reading, writing, and arithmetic. Most also have the opportunity to take elective courses as well as gym class and science. The assumption is that by the time they graduate from high school, they will be ready to face the real world and be out on their own. Unfortunately, the one place where teens are not being adequately prepared for reality is in handling money. What happened to the subject of teens and money? Why hasn’t it been included as required curriculum?


There does not seem to be any formal education or class for the important subject of teens and money in high school or even earlier. We live in a society drowning in debt and most of the world continues to recover from economic upheaval, yet there is no standard high school teens and money course that established the importance of responsibly handling finances. Personal Finance classes that are available in high school that teach kids how to balance a check book, but as most adults come to realize quickly enough, there is much more to financial success than keeping a checkbook in order.


Parenting Tips for Building Healthy Relationships with Step Kids

More and more families are becoming blended families which means that parents are remarrying and children and gaining new step parents. This can also mean some rocky roads ahead. Blended families rarely mesh together easily and seamlessly, there is usually a great deal of adjustment and often a lot of conflict. Step children may be resentful to the new parent, feeling that the step parent wants to take the biological parent's place. Children can become surly, depressed and combative. They may act out at home or at school causing their parents a great deal of stress and worry. This is normal, but that knowledge does not make the transition any easier. These tips, however, might.

Don't expect to bond overnight.

I can take a blended family years to bond. Don't rush it and don't push the child to accept you. If you are having trouble with your step child not accepting you, take a step back and allow them to guide the relationship. Once they see that you will be there no matter what, they will be much more likely to accept you and warm up to you. The key, though, is that you don't try to rush the relationship. Allow it to grow, nurture it and take it easy.

Understand the difference between the blended family and the first family.

The first family has either ended due to a divorce or death which is traumatic to a child. If your step child is having trouble accepting you, they may have some issues with how they are handling the dissolution of the first family. Understand that there are many differences and be sensitive to what the child may be feeling.


How to Build a Healthy Relationship with Your Stepchild

man_and_childParenting holds a great many challenges.  Little is more challenging than the role of Christian stepparent.  In short, the stepparent joins the biological parent in raising his or her child, but does so initially without a clear bond with the child.  Parental authority is based on the depth of relationship between adult and child.  The stepparent-stepchild relationship is weak due to little emotional connection and only a brief shared history (developed while the adults were courting), making the stepparent's role very difficult and frustrating.  

Consider the email I received from a biological father looking for help: "Jean is the stepmother to my seven year old son.  In the past ten weeks, a very intense relationship has developed between them.  Once inseparable, Jean now wants nothing to do with him and has told him as much.  This has strained our marriage, and she has talked about leaving.  Our marriage is as perfect as one can get when my son is visiting his mother, but when he returns it is very uncomfortable for everyone.  My wife does not understand why God is doing this to her, and she is questioning her faith."


Becoming Brothers

This was it! It was our second chance for happiness. We were going to make sure we did everything right this time. We read every book, newsletter, magazine and article that we could get our hands on about step-families. We learned to take things slow and keep our expectations low. We even planned a small, family wedding ceremony that included the boys. After all, they were getting married too.

After being married for two months, I remember people asking how things were going with our new step-family. We gladly responded, “Great!” “We haven’t had any problems. The boys get along very well.” We even told each other that we must have done things right, because this step-family thing isn’t so hard after all. Well, after a short honeymoon period, we began to experience normal step-family struggles. Although they are normal, they are stressful and emotionally draining to all involved.

I brought two boys into the marriage, Corbin, age 7, and Chandler, age 6, and Mark brought one son, Zach, age 5, into the marriage. Corbin is the most easy-going, even tempered, go-with-the-flow (this trait is especially important in a step-family) child you will ever meet. Although he can be awfully oblivious at times, he is also very smart. He is an honor student and plays baseball and football. Corbin saw the advantages to being part of two families early on (two Birthdays, two Christmases, etc.) which helped his adjustment period. Chandler is incredibly witty, kind-hearted, athletic, and full of life. He does not like change and is very protective of his mom. Chandler is also an honor student and plays football and baseball. Zach is very energetic, caring, generous, and talkative. Zach also does not like change and can at times be sensitive. Zach too is an honor student and swims and plays football. Having three boys one year apart each in age presents enough challenges without adding being part of a step-family to the mix. And having two boys that were very resistant to change didn’t help either since step-family life is full of change.

After about three months, Chandler and Zach realized that this remarriage was real and that their parents were not going to reconcile after all. With the realization that this new life was not going to end, Chandler and Zach seemed to blame each other for their disappointment. We routinely heard “I hate him,” and “He hates me!” They both thought that they were too different to get along. They thought they didn’t like any of the same things or didn’t have anything in common. At this point, Mark and I both thought, “I guess this is what step-family life is all about?” We were confused, but realized that just like every other family, we were not perfect. This is what all the books, newsletters, and articles were talking about. We both felt caught in the middle. You feel your child’s pain like it is your own, but are you capable of making everyone happy all the time? As parents, we feel it’s our job to “fix” everything. But how do you fix broken hearts, disappointments, grief, and feelings of insecurity? You can’t force two people to love and care for one another.


The Parental Unity Rules

What?  You didn’t know there were any rules for maintaining parental unity.  Well there are!  And they are important!  You were never meant to parent alone.  That’s why God gave families two parents, instead of one.  But a divided parenting team will falter frequently.

These rules will help you work together and keep you on the same side as a parental team.  Remember, united you stand, divided you fall.

·         Rule #1:  Be proactive. Before situations arise, try to talk about and anticipate boundary setting, expectations for behavior, limits you will enforce, your preferred modes of punishment, and the values you want to teach your children.  Couples who get blind-sided by situations inadvertently find themselves on opposites more often than those who get out in front of parenting matters.  You can’t anticipate everything, but being proactive will reduce the size of your blind-spots.

·         Rule #2:  When in doubt, call a parental “pow-wow.” At my house (Ron), our children will occasionally hear the words, “I don’t know.  I’ll get back to you on that.”  My wife and I then have what we call a “pow-wow” or meeting to discuss our decision or how we will handle a situation.  This is not a statement of incapability.  You may have functioned quite well for many years as a single dad and are quite capable of making decisions and moving on with life.  This isn’t about that.  It’s about finding unity.  Even if it’s inconvenient, go the extra mile to ensure shared agreement in parenting matters.  You won’t regret it.

If your children object saying, “You never had to ask anyone before” don’t back away from the process.  “That’s true.  Before I married your stepmother I didn’t have to consider anyone else.  But she’s my wife and I need to include her in this.  Now don’t ask again.  I’ll get back to you once we’ve talked.”