Category Archives: parenting

StepDad Asks: How do I make my Stepkids like me?

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Short answer – you can’t. That is, you cannot make them feel comfortable with your being in their mom’s life. That is up to them (and somewhat to how their mom leads them). The best thing you can do is be polite with them while being appropriately close to their mom. (“Appropriately” means close and passionate when alone; courtly and pleasant when the kids are around.)

You are not – and this is often the hard part for guys, it was for me – taking on any part of raising her children. That is her and their dad’s job. Not yours. Not at all.

You should treat them as you would the children of one of your church (or club) friends: friendly, casually, but politley. Do anything the mom asks you to for them – pick them up, drop them off, offer input If She Asks.

Consider their behavior as that of a neighbor’s kids’. Would you try to correct or instruct the kids who live three doors down from you? Probably not. If you see them acting up, you’d tell their parent – and then, probably only if it involved your stuff. It they were being unruly and you felt you HAD to say somthing, tell their parent (your girlfriend), but don’t try to correct them yourself.

NOTE: your relationship with them as a part of their lives will not begin in any tangible way until you and Mom are married. This makes a huge difference to children who have watched Mom and Dad divorce. Boyfriends are just “Mom’s passing fancy.” Stepdads (= the guy married to mom and therefore a permanent part of the family) are different in childrens’ minds. They are at once the opposition, the outsider, the invader, the unknown equation, the interesting oddity, and someone in between Mom and them. Winning them means EARNING their trust. THEY hold the keys to that lock. Eventually, a stepdad (or stepmom) will become less irksome, more acceptible, and even entertaining.

Nationally, it takes from 4 to 7 years for a stepfamily to gel and start functioning as a family – sometimes longer, rarely less time. Prepare to be the third wheel with the kids for that long and your expectations won’t make you crazy. Focus your time, energy, and mind on creating a strong relationship with your wife. When the kids have grown, moved away, and have families of their own, it will just be you two. Build your marriage relationship solidly.

(NOTE 2: If you are a Christian, pray and trust completely. If you are not a Christian … well, your best hope is to get in the Family ASAP. Stepfamilies have between a 66% and 75% divorce rate. That’s three out of four chance you’ll divorce again. With God’s guidance and help, those odds improve greatly.)

Blessings,

Stepcoach Bob Collins

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What’s Ahead for Your Family in 2018

You made it through another year! Yeah!

Well, you’ve made it through another year. Congratulations. No, really. Lots of other stepfamilies didn’t make it. (Remember, ±70% divorce rate for us?) So celebrate your success. And when you get through hoopin’ it up, here are some ideas for the next year that may make your next pre-New Year times even more celebratory.

Maybe 2017 was the first in your new family or maybe it was one of a series, but I’ll just bet there were some memorable moments in the last 12 months. High times, low times, disasters (of various sizes) and perhaps even some victories.

1) Don’t overlook the victories

Celebrate your victories

Sometimes they will tend to get lost in dealing with the disasters, but those victories are the building blocks for the rest of you lives together. You need the victories for when the disasters are smothering you. You need to be able to look back at some happy times, some surprising laughs, some peaceful Family times together.

So make a scrap book. A real one or one online. Actually “print” some of those photos from your phone and make a collage. (Gasp! What a thought!) memorialize your Happy Times. I promise, you’ll be glad you did.

2) Give out awards

Which of your new tribe laughed the most? Who improved more over last year? Who overcame some major challenge? Who won an award at school (or work)? Which of you created some family-centered artwork?

These can be huge victories, or quiet accomplishments. Just be sure not to be sarcastic with your awards (unless that’s your whole new family’s thing!). And try to include either everyone or just one or two really notable victories. And make real awards. You can print out certificates of accomplishment, or make heavy duty cardboard medals and paint them gold. The point is, let your family members know you notice their efforts. Encourage them to try.

3) Make big plans together

Your family, too, can experience wild times at the beach

…you know, like a family. Take some time now to gather ideas about where everyone would like to go for a family vacation. It can be just a weekend outing nearby, or you can visit all the greatest cathedrals of Europe … maybe not. But you can discuss what you want to do, edited by what you can realistically do. Make a list, let proponents sell the idea, and discuss feasibility (i.e. teach the kids how to budget money and time). Then make another list of your top three favorites and choose.

4) Make little plans together

Let everyone (within reason, and with the bio-parent’s approval) put in their two-cents worth on Summer vacation weeks, birthday parties, maybe even special times for visitation. Be sure to include school events and sporting events.

The point of all this is to create and develop a sense of FAMILY so your kids and stepkids, and parents and stepparents can all take part in the growth of this new home. Give everyone a say in how this adventure goes.

All too often,

One big happy family

Children feel left out of the planning stages. They were blindsided by the divorce, and now a new adult has moved in, with their own traditions, ways, family members, and issues; and the kids can feel like they are just furniture or the family pets. They get told what will happen, when and where it will happen, and what they are expected to feel about all the changes.

By including them in the plans for next year – the big ones and little ones both – they can feel like they have some value in the new enterprise.

And you can have an even better victory celebration next year.

Holiday Survival Strategies

Holiday survival guide for divorced parents

[SOURCE: http://www.cnn.com/2011/12/21/living/holiday-survival-divorced-darents/index.html – from 2011]

<NOTE: The following is an article I ran across while researching my divorcing parents’ guidebook. The advice is sound, and the need is ripe. If your children have been through a divorce, especially if it’s been this year, you need to be prepared for the shock and pain they will experience in their first big holiday with a broken family. Please don’t underestimate the impact this will have on your kids. Thanksgiving and Christmas are hyped so strongly that the divorced child is left behind on the frantic rush to The Perfect Christmas Morning. And for “our” kids, that Perfect picture doesn’t exist. Start now to prepare to guide them through the parties, the gift giving, the visitation, and the separation of the next few weeks. STEPcoach Bob Collins]


The holidays can be rough on divorced parents and their children David Murphy hasn’t started shopping for his two boys yet, and he knows he had better get started. The div orced father of two boys, ages 11 and 14, has custody for a full week around Christmas Day this year and needs to get a tree and start buying presents.

Every other year, Murphy (who didn’t want his real name used to protect his children’s privacy) doesn’t have Christmas custody. So, he tries to do something completely different. Divorced for four years, he has traveled with his mother to visit England, where she was born. He has joined his father and stepmother on a trip to Carmel, California.

He hasn’t crashed his ex-wife’s Christmas Day plans, even though she lives only three miles away from his home in suburban Virginia.

“We try not to mess with the schedule when we don’t have to because it’s easier on both parties,” said Murphy. “As each party has moved on, it happened to work that way. We try not to interfere with each other.”

With the U.S. Census Bureau counting nearly 4 million divorced parents in this country, many parents are facing the challenges of negotiating holiday custody schedules, battles over presents, new significant others and simply the pain of being apart.

Whether you have the children for Christmas or not this year, going through a separation or divorce means giving up the dream of a perfect Hanukkah, Christmas or Kwanzaa. With the fantasy of the perfect nuclear family obviously over, it can be lonely even with the kids — but much worse without them. Facing the first holiday since the split, how do people ever survive this holiday season? And eventually even thrive?

Many like Murphy — who credits his ex-wife with keeping the focus on their sons’ well-being during the divorce — have found a new way of parenting beyond divorce. Here are some things that work:

Keep it focused on the kids

You may not expect to have a happy holiday but wouldn’t you like your kids to have a reasonably nice time? Even if you’re right, do you want them remembering you put them in the middle of your battles? And no child wants to feel pressure to choose you over the other parent, whom she loves as much as she loves you.

<No matter how you feel about your ex, or whether your feelings are justified or not, one fact remains: your children still love both of you. Kids love their parents. It is in their blood – literally! The sooner you accept this fact the better for you. Parents who try to alienate their children from the other bio-parent aways lose. Always.>

Parents learn about the payoff later, when their grown children make their own choices about where they spend their holidays. In her book “We’re Still Family,” about adult children of divorce, psychologist Constance Ahrons learned that some adult children refused to visit either parent if the bickering continued. “The children were happiest where parents at least communicated,” said Ahrons, also the author of “The Good Divorce.” “They didn’t want to get caught in the middle, and they wanted to be with both parents.”

Sort out details in advance

Nail down the specifics about who gets which days around the winter holidays, including pickup times and locations. Sometimes the details are in your custody agreement, sometimes not. Put it all on e-mail or in writing and stick to the deal — at least until it becomes routine. If you’re a more casual, less detail-oriented parent, know that you’ll score points with your more time-obsessed ex if you’re on time at drop-off and pick-up. If you’re the detail-oriented parent, plan for your always-late ex to be late as usual and you’ll be less stressed. Do not fight about time or anything else with the children present.

<The worst thing a divorced parent can do is to argue with (seen as Bullying to the kids) your child’s other parent. They don’t care at all who is right or wrong about whatever you’re fighting over. They love you both and need both their halves to function smoothly together.>

“Put aside the warfare that so often accompanies divorce,” said Steven Grissom, president of DivorceCare, a Christian-based divorce ministry with chapters around the world. “If that carries into a special time in the eyes of child, it makes the holiday experience excruciating.”

Don’t out-Santa each other

If you can speak civilly with your ex, talk about a general budget for presents, the number of presents and what Santa is getting your children. Santa knows which address to deliver the bike or the castle or the Wii, so don’t screw up his planning by having one at each house (unless you both want one at each house). Don’t outdo each other. Remember the spirit of the holidays and avoid trying to buy the children off with fabulous presents. And don’t buy that violent video game for the specific purpose of angering your ex. The same goes for grandparents and new significant others. If they’re interfering in your co-parenting plan, remind them they are not helping your child. At the same time, accept that parents may have different standards about what are acceptable gifts. If you are opposed to electronic games, you may need to accept they will exist at your ex’s house.

Keep some traditions, within reason

Children love routine and ritual, so keep a few family traditions if you can. If you baked dozens of different types of cookies for everyone in your life, reduce the number and type of cookies during your annual baking party but keep your daughter’s favorite snickerdoodles. If your family liked to take a trip into the woods in your ex’s truck to cut down a tree, you may have to explain that your smaller car can’t haul such a tree. “To the extent you can, talk with your children ahead of time and find out what is really important to them,” Grissom said. “If that won’t be possible, maybe you can create a new tradition.”

<Instead of crushing your children’s cherished traditions and memories, recruit them to come up with new traditions. Maybe including some of the old, but (as you’ll tell them) this is their big chance to build exactly the kind of new family and home they want to live in. Encourage them to make plans, then follow through with them.>

Don’t push too much togetherness

While some ex-spouses can sing carols around the Christmas tree or light the Hanukkah candles together with the kids and both sets of grandparents, that’s not the reality for everyone. Some do not want to spend time with people who left them or whom they chose to leave. Some people fight every time they see each other. Do not force more togetherness than either of you can handle, and don’t feel guilty about it. (That said, if you haven’t broken up yet, wait until January. Don’t be the Divorcing Grinch Who Stole Christmas.)

Don’t lobby for your sweetheart

Bringing a new significant other to the family festivities can really throw the holidays off-balance for the family, Ahrons said. “One parent will say, ‘Are you really going to bring her to this table?’ or ‘You can come without her.’ Avoid if it’s going to cause trouble, even if the new girlfriend is serious.” Remember, it’s about your kids, not you.

<And all this was not their idea. They are struggling to survive with the new set-up their parents created. Make it as good for them ask possible. At least for a few days per year.>

The exception to the rule

If your ex is currently a danger to himself or herself — and/or others — the safety of your children is more important than cooperating during the holidays. In fact, you’re probably trying to break the pattern of your ex ruining holiday celebrations. Elizabeth Jones, who didn’t want her real name used to protect her child, isn’t letting her ex spend the holidays with their daughter for the first time in years. He only recently contacted Jones a couple of weeks ago after disappearing for months. Whenever he sobers up, she first lets him have supervised phone calls for a few weeks, eventually visits with her and their daughter at a neutral location such as a park, followed by visits at her California home. “If my kid weren’t so thrilled every time she got to see him, I would be handling this differently,” said Jones, who has sole custody. “It’s a lot of emotional work for me to put aside my own feelings.”

He’s a jerk

If you’re a saint and your ex is a sinner and won’t take any of your thoughtful recommendations to heart, consider this notion: Safety aside, it’s better for your child for you to let your ex “win” sometimes, even if you’re right. Christmas can sometimes fall on December 27 or even January 6 (the Feast of the Three Kings). Hanukkah is eight nights of fun, so you don’t need to control all eight nights. That doesn’t mean you’re a doormat. It means you’re a good parent.

Your adult child will know you tried to make her life better by trying to compromise with your difficult ex (and yes, children know who was difficult).

<But, don’t point it out to your kids. That will make you look like you are bad-mouthing their other parent, whom they love just as much as you. Let them figure it out themselves. Your kids are very observant. They KNOW who is playing nice and who is not.>

“How you react to your ex-spouse is how you are teaching your child to handle conflict, stress and anger,” said Alan Kazdin, a Yale University psychology professor and director of Yale’s Parenting Center. “Giving up a Christmas here or there means you’ll have your child long-term. You want your child to have an ally in you later in life. It’s not only more rewarding; it’s more worthwhile long term.”

TMI or Just the Facts, Ma’am

By Bob Collins

How much information do your children need in order to do what you require from them? Over load or insufficient data?

I have several devices, tablet, phone, laptop, etc, etc, as I’m sure you probably do, too. And I have several power supplies which I have collected over time with the devices. The power supplies are different amperages, stated in different ways, which drives my poor writer’s brain nuts.

This morning I was trying to choose between one power supply that said “output: 8.5 Amps” and another that said, “output: 500 mAmps.” >sigh< unable to find my old college math books, I consulted my next favorite source, Google.

Three hours later, after learning about basic quantum electronic theory and the origin of lightning-based home-schooled electromechanics, I stumbled upon a simple converter that told me, with the click of a simulated button, which one was more gooderer. 

We now have WAY too much information available for the efficient delivery of answers to befuddled, overworked humanoids. 

WHAT INFO DO KIDS NEED FROM PARENTS?

In our oversaturated, overstimulated, overinformationalized society, I am seeing so many cases of mis-communication between parents and their kids. We moan about a lack of respect from our children, when – I suspect – the problem is really a lack of connection. 

Parents have lately become victims of “Explain-itis” when it comes to giving directions to their children. The directive to stop hitting a playmate slowly melts into a long, dry lecture on the reasons for mutual respect, societal order, individuals’ personal rights versus self-esteem, and all the other catch words spewed out by everyone from the media to Facebook to educational flyers.

By the time a well-meaning parent has explained the psycho-social theory behind playground fairness and mutual concern for the planet, the poor child has forgotten what the lecture started over. And he has lost a little more respect for Mom’s or Dad’s intellectual usefulness.

A simple, “Tommy! Stop hitting that boy! Now, apologize to him; shake his hand; and get in the car, we’re going home,” is an excellent delivery of the necessary information and steps to be taken for Tommy to end the inappropriate action, reconcile with the other child, and begin his next action.

Our children’s minds are not developed, until their mid-twenties, to incorporate and process complex multiple streams of information. The most effective way to instruct them is with simple directives, delivered in a straightforward order, so that they can process one step at a time.

Long detailed explanations about why some actions must be taken, are best left for later, perhaps at bedtime when the excitement of the moment has passed. 

If you spend too much time carefully enlightening your child about the engineering facts of the internal combustion engine and the momentum-to-surface texture friction ratio required to halt a moving automobile – you may end up finishing the explanation in an ambulance on the way to a hospital.

Just like I was distracted and confused by all the in-depth discussions about amperages, your kids don’t necessarily need to understand the “Why” and the background, as much as they need to know What you want them to do first, second, and third.

Remember that kids don’t like “TMI”! 

[by Bob Collins, Copyright 2017]

The Bible, Divorce, & Re-marriage

Right or wrong, between 45 and 75 percent of all marriages end in divorce, and most of those divorcees will re-marry!

There’s no use dancing around the obvious point that most stepfamilies are formed from a controversial act: divorce. And there’s no way to avoid the fact that many religions—and therefore many religious people—have a problem dealing with stepfamilies.

Divorce and remarriage are tough fits in our world: the Bible says God hates them (Malachi 2:14-16), but our society encourages them and makes them convenient, so it’s just a fact of life we must deal with. It’s a fact, too, that there are many ministers and well–meaning folk out there who try to ignore — or worse yet, condemn — those of us who are in a stepfamily.

But the fact of the matter is that, while Jesus discouraged the practice (except in particular cases; Matthew 5:36), He never refused His care and healing power to any who sincerely asked for it. So, as Christ-followers (you know…“WWJD”), neither can we. (And by we, I mean both we in STEP- Carefully! Inc., and we as in you, if you’re a Christian!)

Jesus even demonstrated how to deal with this sticky subject. In John 4:6–30, Jesus reminds the Samaritan woman at the well that she’s been remarried several times…then He drops the subject and goes on to minister to her needs. And as a result, you’ll recall, an entire town came out to meet Him.

That’s the model we follow. While acknowledging that divorce should never happen, we accept the fact that it does, help as much as we can, and move on. We don’t have a choice, really, since everyone involved with our programs have been divorced, remarried, or have family members who have lived through it. That’s why it’s important to look for a church, a minister, a counselor, or a therapist who has had personal experience with the challenges of divorce, or who has an open heart and mind about it.

If you ever need to talk, please feel free to contact us. Been there; done that; got the scars to understand!

STEPcoach Bob Collins

Christmas (Talk) In August!

In our local support group this week we happened on a ripe topic. (And when I say we “happened” on it, I mean that literally. Sometimes I have no idea where God will lead us until we get there!) We fell into talking about Christmases past and to come. In particular, what we had all spent on our kids and families last Christmas. Many were not proud!
One couple said they fought so badly she asked to be let out of the car on the way to a family gathering. She just sat at a gas station until he and the kids were through and came back to get her! They both seemed unhappy about that event.
Another guy told of how his family tradition was to just buy for the kids and maybe a gift or two for another family member; however, his new wife’s family tradition involved expensive gifts for each member of a large family. They also held Christmas gatherings and dinners at several houses … where more gifts were exchanged! He still sounded stunned by it all.
How many gifts did they give out? “Way too many,” seemed to be the consensus. One couple looked at each other, counting to themselves and came up with “50 or 55” gifts per child! Good grief!
Why do we do this? Most said they just got carried away with sales and last minute ideas. But one dad admitted that part of his over-gifting was to make up to his kids for their not having such a great life since their parents’ divorce and Dad’s remarriage. Most of the others either nodded agreement or just stared at their hands.
So I asked them, What do you think is a proper number of gifts for a child to receive for Christmas. Not your child, but an average child from an average family in our socio-economic neighborhood. … No one volunteered for what sounded like a trap, so I went around the table and ask each person. The general average seemed to be four or five gifts per child was fair.
Why numbers of gifts per child instead of amount spent, one mom asked. Because most pre-teen kids seem to be more interested in how many packages they have to open and the gifts they walk away with, than how many dollars each item cost.
One dad said they’d settled the issue last year by reading the Christmas story, then pointing out that since Baby Jesus (whose birthday this is supposed to be about) only received three gifts, wasn’t it fair to limit the kids to only three gifts? Nice idea!
We wound up all agreeing that it might be a good idea to set goals or budgets for this year’s holidays. Our homework for the next week will be for each couple to come back with their set plan. It can include only the kids, or be for the kids and all the adults. It can be about numbers of gifts, or about budgeted dollars, or both.
I’d like to propose this same project for your family. Sit down together, you and your sweetie, and decide now – while it’s still hot and very non-Christmas-y – what your goal (or your limit if you’re more comfortable with that measure) will be for your family this year. Write it down and keep it where you can find it again around the middle of November. And then see what you think of it come January.
Please write me and let me share with our other families your ideas. I know they will appreciate hearing from you – we all need to share ideas, don’t we? 
Oh, and … Merry Christmas!
STEP coach Bob

A Voice from Theater 9

Marie, who wrote this blog post, was one of the unsuspecting innocents sitting in theater 9, in Aurora, Colorado when the gunman opened fire. Here is her take on what happened and why it happened. BTW, just for the record, I agree with her wholeheartedly.

STEPcoach Bob
——–

SO YOU STILL THINK GOD IS A MERCIFUL GOD?!

(Maybe, just maybe God spared my life because He loves YOU and wants you to hear this..He wants you to believe that He loved you so much He gave His only begotten Son that if you would believe in Him you would have eternal life.)

“So, you still believe in a merciful God?”  Some of the comments online are genuinely inquisitive, others are contemptuous in nature. Regardless of the motive behind the question, I will respond the same way.

Yes.
Yes, I do indeed.
Absolutely, positively, unequivocally.

Let’s get something straight: the theater shooting was an evil, horrendous act done by a man controlled by evil.  God did not take a gun and pull the trigger in a crowded theater. He didn’t even suggest it. A man did.In His sovereignty, God made man in His image with the ability to choose good and evil.
Unfortunately, sometimes man chooses evil.

I was there in theater 9 at midnight, straining to make out the words and trying to figure out the story line as The Dark Night Rises began. I’m not a big movie-goer. The HH and I prefer to watch movies in the comfort of our own home…where I can use subtitles and get a foot rub. I don’t like action movies. And I don’t like midnight showings.  But, as I wrote in my last post, parents sometimes make sacrifices for their kiddos and I decided I would take my fourteen year old and sixteen year old daughters who were chomping at the bit to see this eagerly anticipated third movie in the Batman Trilogy. Twice I had the opportunity to back out and twice I was quite tempted. But something in me said just go with your girls. I did.

So I was there with them, fidgeting in my seat, some forty or  fifty feet away from the man with the gun. It’s still a bit surreal, but I do know that when the seemingly endless shooting started, as my girls were struggling from whatever gas or chemical had been released, and we figured out what was happening, we hit the floor. I threw myself on top of my fourteen year old who was on the end of the row, straight up the aisle from the shooter.  In that moment, as the rapid-fire shots continued, I truly thought I was going to die. And I realized that I was ready. I have put my faith and trust in Jesus Christ as the redeemer of my soul, and there wasn’t the slightest doubt that I would be received into heaven, not because of any good thing that I have done but because of His merciful nature and the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Still, as I lay over my daughter, I began praying out loud. I don’t even remember what I prayed, but I don’t imagine it really matters. I’m sure it was for protection and peace. It drew me closer into the presence of God. When there was a pause in the shooting, people began to clamor for the exits. The girls and I jumped up and joined the masses. We had to step over a lifeless body, not knowing where the shooter was. We raced to our car and I dumped my purse, frantically searching for keys, looking all around, prepared to hit the ground. I yelled at Michelle to call Matthew and find out if he had made it out of the theater next door. She did. He did. We booked on out of there.

Why would you think such a tragedy would make me question the goodness of God? If anything, both of my girls said it made Him a much more real presence to them; the youngest shared this verse: Do not be afraid of sudden fear nor of the onslaught of the wicked when it comes; for the LORD will be your confidence and will keep your feet from being caught.

He is not the cause of evil, but He is the one who can bring comfort and peace in the midst of evil.  It’s been amazing to see the outpouring of love from so many people after this unthinkable act.  Yes, there was one evil act, but it is being covered by thousands, possibly millions of acts of kindness.

We have not yet slept, so the girls and I are overtired and a bit emotional.  But overall, we are praising God and resting in His Goodness.

I love this word of wisdom and encouragement from a former pastor of mine:
Up to this point I haven’t had words to say that would matter. Of course we are all glad that you and the family are safe. Of course we would all state the obvious that this is horrific and senseless. But those words still don’t carry weight that remain in the midst of the questions. Then it hit me… Do you know what the difference was between Job and his wife in their response to the tragedy of losing everything… Job 1:20 Job was the only one that worshiped in the midst of it. Marie, I know your heart and I’ve seen your worship lived out before your family. Before the weight of this becomes unbearable… worship. Your profile pic was not coincidence, not by accident that you changed it on July 15th, but a beautiful foreshadowing of your need to hear the cry of your heart and give Him praise.

Though we don’t have all the answers, we do indeed listen to the cry of our hearts: When I am afraid, I will put my trust in You. In God, whose word I praise, In God I have put my trust; I shall not be afraid. What  can mere man  do to me? Psalm 56:3-4

God is always good.
Man is not.
Don’t get the two confused.

We will continue to praise and worship our mighty God, anticipating that He will bring beauty from ashes, as only He can do.

If you want to know how to pray for us: first and foremost, we need sleep. Somehow our bodies seem too wired. We also want the life that God has graciously allowed us to continue to live to not be a gift given in vain, we want our lives to draw others closer to Him. We do not want fear to dominate, for God has not given us a spirit of fear. We want His joy to be seen and experienced in all that we do.

Pray for the families who lost loved ones, and for young people who witnessed such horror. Pray for this to be an opportunity for God to manifest Himself in mighty ways.

As for you…we will pray that YOU might know His goodness.
Still grateful for this wonderful life,
Marie
Original blog post: http://aminiatureclaypot.wordpress.com/2012/07/20/so-you-still-think-god-is-a-merciful-god

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Guest Post: Playtime!

This is a very nice borrowed-with-permission article that I couldn’t resist sharing with you. It originally appeared in Simple Marriage blog at http://www.simplemarriage.net/playtime.html Stepfamilies are all parents – otherwise, you’d just be a couple. And I have been hearing so much lately about issues and clashes between husbands and wives about the kids, that I am pretty kid-minded. So when this post came my way I grabbed it to share with you. Enjoy. And let me know if and how this applies or helps your family.

——————————–

Playtime

 

Post written by Dr. Corey Allan.
Play has become a lost art in the adult world.
Perhaps even in the kid world … play is not be what it used to be.
Gone are the days of tag, chase, tackle the man with the ball, dodgeball, and the like.
Also gone are the “dangerous toys” like the metal Tonka trucks that are indestructible, the monkey bars that tower into the air, the tree house built way up in the tree with a homemade zip line going into the garage, and the metal slide that’s 4 stories tall with no side-rails and several bumps on the way down. Okay so the last one may be a bit of an exaggeration but it’s not far off.
Play serves a great purpose.
Remember when you used to call up your friends or head over to their house and greet them with “wanna play?” It didn’t matter what you played, you’d make it up.
Today it seems that play is all but dead. Especially in the adult world. Even parenting has been impacted.
Parenting often becomes more about the child’s achievement and directing towards goals – be it the child’s – or far more likely the parent’s goals.
Schools are doing away with recess in the belief that giving up play time will allow more time for study. Even preschoolers are not immune to this shift.
Through the 80’s and 90’s a 4 billion dollar industry sprang up … tutoring. With 26% of it being devoted for 2 to 6 year olds. Babies … who should be spending more time in imaginative play than structured learning.
Play develops a child’s cognitive skills.
By play, I mean true child directed play: free, unstructured play where the kids invent the activities that reflect their own curiosities and interests.
Too many children are parentified, or expected to become adults too fast. And too many adults have added too many stipulations and parameters to play – in short, they’ve lost the art of play.
Play is critical in a child’s life. According to David Elkind, play is vital in teaching a child how to control himself and interact with others.
But play is also important in the adult world.
It opens to door to new solutions and creative sparks. It adds passion and energy to life and marriage.
Researcher Jaak Panksepp believes play turns on hundreds of genes in the brain. Specifically, play stimulates neurogenesis to hasten the development of the frontal cortex in the brain.
Play is vital to the development of our children and the health of our families, but it is also vital to us as adults.
So what can you do today?
  1. Encourage your kids to play with other kids. This may seem like a no-brainer, but it doesn’t seem to happen that often. Many parentified children would rather play with adults than other kids. While this may seem mature and grown-up, anytime a kid plays with an adult, imagination and leadership skills are stifled. Adults often take charge or limit the imagination because we can’t compete with a child’s imagination level. When you do play with a child, let go of your imagination restrictions and let them take the lead. When they want you to be a princess or a prince who helps tame the nice dragon so you can fight the mean one, do it!
  2. Play with your kids everyday for at least 30 minutes. Spend time as a family playing. One of my favorite times each day is the wrestling time I get with my daughter and son. My son, before he could even talk, would walk over to the floor and point meaning “it’s time to wrestle dad!” Before long, my daughter and my wife would be in the mix. Now that he’s 5 he just runs and jumps on me anytime I’m within range. It’s a great bonding time as well as a testing of my children’s strength and abilities.
  3. Take your kids out of school for a day. You don’t have to do this too often, but take your kids someplace instead of school. You could even incorporate some learning opportunities into this. Visit the zoo, the aquarium, local museums, or galleries. You could even go to the park. Give them an unexpected break from their normal structure and spend the time together.
  4. Play with your spouse. Pull out the games after the kids are in bed, or go outside ride bikes together. Build a blanket fort in the living room. Point is, you don’t have to be structured in every aspect of your life … just play.
Now … off you go. Have fun storming the castle!

Jumping Off the Cliff

What lead you to get married again? After being burned so badly by your previous divorce(s), why did you – many of us very quickly – run back into another marriage?

Most of you will answer that you fell in love and hoped this time would be different and better. That this adventure into matrimony would not only work, but repair the harm from the last one. But, how could you bring yourself to walk back over that cliff?

I know that in my own case, I didn’t walk, I sprinted toward my second marriage. I remember thinking a good three months before our wedding was scheduled to take place, “Why should we wait? Why not just get married TODAY?! We’re in love, we are ready to start over, let’s go!” I was held back only by the plans that were in place and the deposits that had been paid for the scheduled date. I was so much in love, I couldn’t wait to start being happily married. Again.

As some of you probably know from our working together, the first two years of my new marriage was less blissful than expected. In fact, it was horrible. We jumped into it far too quickly and far too soon after our previous divorces. In retrospect, we should have spent a good two years (bare minimum!) learning about each other and figuring out how to blend our lives together – especially regarding her teenaged daughter’s impact on our marriage!

If I’d paid closer attention in my university classes on psychology, I’d have seen that others had already studied this phenomenon of blindly walking off cliff walls. Back in 1960, two researchers named Gibson and Walk constructed a table to test depth perception in animals and babies. The table, as illustrated below:

was made of clear plexiglass under which was one half a table surface, and one half a drop off to the floor. In the experiment, very young babies – first animal then human – were placed on the “safe” side and encouraged to cross the glass table to the “unsafe” side. Animals almost never crossed, and many babies would not cross. But some babies were so focused on their parent’s facial expressions that they happily crawled all the way to her. They were more interested in Mom’s or Dad’s smiling, encouraging faces that communicated it was OK to cross the divide than what their eyes told them.

Now “the Visual Cliff”, as this experiment has become known, has real application in helping us understand why so many people … people who are generally pretty clear headed … will stumble out of the smoking wreckage of a horrible divorce, right into another relationship as quickly as they can find one.

We, like those trusting babies on the glass table, are so focused on the smiling, happy, beguiling faces of our new love interests (or other body parts besides their faces!), that, although we can see the drop off, we don’t heed our body’s natural warning responses.

“Dude! Stop! Can’t you see you’re leading us off a huge cliff, just like what we just fell from a few months ago? STOP!” To which we reply dreamily, “I can’t stop. Sorry. Her (“eyes”) are just so big and pretty and she keeps smiling at me and making me feel all warm inside,” or “Don’t be silly, Self! Can’t you see how strong he is and how much he loves me? I just know it will be safe” … to blindly crawl out into blank space where common sense tells me I’ll crash to the bloodied rocks below, just like last time!

And off to the races we go!

Relationships, then, are clearly more important to us than safety, sight, experience, or common sense. Statistics tell us that our hearts will lead us where our eyes should force us to not go. Second marriages experience two divorces out of every three attempts, while more than three out of four third marriages fail. Got that? Two out of every three second marriages end in divorce!

The cliff is real! But we just keep on crawling. Why?

Because we NEED love. We need to have someone we can share the joy of life, as well as the fears of facing the world alone. And we are happy to ignore our brains to listen to the hopes of our hearts.

The bad news is that the odds are against you if you’re in a stepfamily.
The good news is there is hope.

Yes, we need love; we need a partner to walk beside us. And that love is possible. Your marriage doesn’t have to turn into a warning sign to others. It is possible to turn back from what may be looking like a disaster in the making. You just need help.

In sixteen years of working with stepfamilies, we’ve had OVER 90 PERCENT success helping you guys beat the odds. I’m still amazed at that number. We’re not magic. What I teach isn’t some arcane secret. I just help couples see the land mines clearly, then understand the best ways through the toughest times.

“The heart wants what it wants,” as Dickinson said. Almost 100 percent of people who divorce get married again. We love that cliff.

If you’re over the cliff, fearing that you’ve made a big mistake, and especially if you have children involved – don’t give up. Don’t freeze up and just wait for the drop to another crash. Get help. From me, from someone else, within yourself, wherever, just don’t give up. Especially if there are children involved. Don’t drag them into that abyss again.

Hold on and get across this time.

STEPcoach Bob Collins

Words That Damage

[NOTE: This is a short excerpt from my guidebook for divorced parents, “Guiding Your Children Through Divorce;” full information is HERE
[Page 20]
Expressing anger felt toward the other spouse,
that is, criticizing, cutting down, attacking, or disrespecting the children’s other parent, either directly to the children or where they can overhear you talking to someone else or to the other parent. Problems caused by one parent attacking the other parent can go deep; and usually leads to the following effects:
1) It Causes Confusion — This is harmful first because it confuses children about which parent to believe (“Daddy says Mom is a liar and mean, but when I’m with her she seems so sweet and kind, so who’s lying, Daddy or Mom?”). Once a child’s innate trust of a parent is gone, it is hard to rebuild.
2) It Causes Loyalty Conflicts — which parent to support. Children have a tendency to see things as black or white, good or bad, his side or her side. Due to this viewpoint, when a child sees his parents separating in a divorce, he immediately perceives a two-sided issue. Which means the child is either on Mom’s side or Dad’s side. 

This mentality can cause a excessive stress for a child who wants the love and approval of both his parents. All to often, these children begin to show signs of feeling pulled apart and torn between two “sides” in a conflict. The child feels they must choose between Mom or Dad, which leads to internal conflicts of being “against” the other parent.
3) It Causes Authority Damage — causes children to disrespect the attacker. As we’ve seen before, a child resents anyone who attacks her parent, even her other parent. Criticizing or badmouthing your ex damages your own standing in your children’s eyes, causing them to lose respect in your authority.
So, what’s the solution: determine to never fight again in front of children — The obvious solution would be to never, ever be guilty of attacking your children’s other parent. Unfortunately, due to emotions and a lack of self-control, many divorced parents find they don’t have the will power to behave in an intelligent, mature manner toward the person their children loves. In some cases, these parents honestly try to control their words and behavior, but are simply too weak to do so.

In most cases, however, parents who belittle and criticize the people their children love are simply unconcerned for their children’s feelings. They plead they are “just too mad” at their child’s other parent to choose to control themselves. They act out their selfish needs to retaliate and ruin their relationships with their own children, and often damage their children in the process. Some feel that ignoring the needs of their children is child abuse. 
[NOTE: This discussion is continued in “Guiding Your Children Through Divorce;” full information is HERE]