Practical Advice

I recently received this letter from a stepmom asking me for advice on a topic that has been giving her grief lately: the relationship between her husband and her fourteen year old stepdaughter. 

She also asked if I would share it will all of you so here goes:

Dear Heather, stepmom, teenage stepdaughter

I recently read your article Jealousy: The Green Eyed Elephant in the Room in the September issue of StepMom Magazine and it hit a nerve. I’m really starting to develop negative feelings towards both my fourteen year old stepdaughter AND my husband because of the physical closeness they share. I  don’t think what I am feeling is jealous. I think what I’m feeling is the creeps and I wanted to get your opinion and that of your stepmom community.  I’ve been in my stepdaughter’s life for five years. She and her dad have always been close and that’s something I love about him but as she has gotten older the physical closeness has gotten more intense and that just creeps me out.  For instance, my stepdaughter is always going up to him and hugging him and giving him a small peck on the lips. In my family growing up, kisses on the lips were okay when you were under five but after that mouth kisses were between mom and dad.

Secondly, I’ve always “stepped back” as they call it since I came into her life so when we watch a movie, I let her sit with her dad and if we go to amusement parks, etc…. I never make her jockey for position. But lately I’ve noticed when they watch movies, she lays on his lap and takes his arms and wraps them around her and then intertwines her fingers into his so he basically holds her through the whole movie on the couch holding hands. The problem I have is that he holds me the same exact way when we watch movies. And now when he wants to hold me or sit next to me, I find myself making excuses up because I physically am having a hard time being next to him and having him hold and touch me like he does his own daughter. I don’t think its jealousy. I think it’s creepy (did I say that?). I know its nothing sexual but for us it does turn sexual and that’s what makes it hard for me. I also think it’s inappropriate for a girl that age to even want to lay across her dad’s lap and have her head near his crotch.

I often think about how I have seen her mature into a young woman with boobs and hips and a like for boys and he may still see her as his little girl and nothing wrong with how they sit with each other. In a few years, she’ll want to sit and watch a movie with her boyfriend, will it creep her out to know that she and her dad watched it the same way? I believe fathers model how their daughter should be treated. Does he want her laying on her boyfriend and being that close in a few years?

The thing is my husband is wonderful. He loves and respects me and he makes me feel that our marriage is his first priority. I know he isn’t doing this to purposely disrespect me and that’s why it’s an awkward topic to bring up with him but I know I have to do it because it’s impacting our marriage. I find that I don’t want him holding me in our bed anymore because its too similar to the way he holds his daughter on the couch.  I do need to point out that he doesn’t seek her out and hold her that way but rather she seeks him out and puts his arms where she wants them and he leaves them there. I don’t think he thinks twice about it.

Please help! Am I jealous our justified in my feelings and how can I find peace with this? Any tips on how to bring this up with my husband without offending him?

Thank you,

(name withheld)


Dear Friend,

Thanks for sharing your story. And I’m honored you loved the article and reached out to me. I’m betting that you are not alone in what you are going through. It is clear from your letter that it bothers you that he spends some physical time with his daughter the same way he spends with you and that is understandably hard. I’m sure others can truly relate.

To answer your question are you jealous or justified, please know that everyone is entitled to their feelings. We all have feelings and react to different situations in our own unique way. There is no right or wrong way to feel. It’s what we do with our feelings that make a difference. These feelings are impacting your marriage and therefore they have to be addressed.

As stepmoms, we all understand that there can be many dynamics at play here for your husband and his daughter. Does he come from a very touchy feely type of family? Have he and his daughter always been close? Often times the type of affection we grew up with is what becomes the norm for us as parents and it can be hard to understand a different way if our partner is from a different type of family.

In my family, after you learned the safety rules and could cross the street yourself, hand holding was just for mom and dad. Personally, I am very close to my father but once I understood the “birds and the bees” I found myself not wanting to be as huggie with my dad or sit on his lap. That’s just me. As a custodial stepmom, I notice that both of my stepdaughters (age 13 and 10) are very clingy to their dad. The more affection we show each other as a couple typically results in the more affection they seek from their dad. They don’t receive any physical affection from their mom and it appears at times they seek a double dose of hugs/kisses/close time from dad.

The dynamics of divorce and co-parenting changes the dynamics of our children’s lives and our lives as well and this can have an impact. Kids don’t typically spend the same amount of time with their parents as they would if their parents were still together. If your stepdaughter doesn’t see her dad  much she may just be craving that extra attention. Perhaps you could suggest a day out when she has time at your home and/or plan game nights at home if movies are a tough time for you.

Often stepdaughters are jealous of the closeness their father has with their stepmom. They view their dad showing lots of outward affection to his wife and that can be hard for some stepdaughters. Your stepdaughter may be trying to get the closeness with her dad that she views that you share with him.

Simply put there are a lot of dynamics at play and if this physical closeness is impacting your emotional and/or physical closeness with YOUR husband you need to talk to him about it. There is no right or wrong way to feel about a situation. You feel what you feel when you see your husband and stepdaughter that close and you have to address those feelings. Never let something come between you and your marriage. If you don’t address it, you risk the bitterness and resentment that is slowly setting in your heart now to really take a stronghold and harden your heart towards your husband and his daughter and that isn’t a risk worth taking.

As awkward as this conversation may be, stepmoms in this situation have to learn how to not let the closeness between their husband and stepdaughter impact their relationship and find a way to discuss the topic in a loving and calm manner. I would suggest using this post as a springboard for conversation with your husband. Perhaps seeing it through your eyes and on paper will give him a different perspective. And it sounds like he is a very reasonable, loving and committed husband who wants what is best for your marriage.

It’s also important to note that any time we have to have a tough discussion with our husband it makes sense to first ask him “is this a good time to talk?” Then start by saying some positive things about your husband as both a partner and as a father. And focus the conversation on how you feel rather than on what he and/or his daughter is doing. When we focus on us and how we are interpreting events it often lessens the defensive mechanism that can pop up in a parent’s heart when the stepparent starts talking about their child. Simply put, just share your heart about how things are making you feel and ask him to understand and help come up with a collaborative way to help you and your feelings.

Wishing you all the best and please let us know how things are going. Stay strong. Press on. Friend!


Now it’s your time to share? Dads, I want to hear from you on this topic? StepMoms, I want to hear if you deal with this? Please share any and all constructive advice please. Thanks!

It is easier to believe in yourself when you have a friend beside you saying, “I believe in you, too.” – Bonnie Jensen

September 12th is National Day of Encouragement! While we all seek to encourage and support daily, seems like a perfect time to talk about the power of encouragement and make a pledge to encourage another stepmom on September 12th! stepmom, encouragement, stepfamily, teen stepdaughter

National Day of Encouragement was created by a group of high school students who were attending a Leadership Conference in Arkansas and were challenged with the task of addressing the biggest problem they saw in their school. While the kids knew that drugs and alcohol were pressing issues, they felt at the root of all the problems was discouragement.

Wow! Those kids are insightful. It is the discouragement that many feel in their life that lead them to do and try things that are not helpful or healthy.

When we work tirelessly to encourage and support one another we make a powerful positive impact in the lives of those we seek to encourage.

No one can doubt that the job of stepmom is tough. It is not a job for wimps that is for sure. We can easily get caught in the dark feelings of being an outsider, feeling unappreciated, and the hurt that comes with being the target of our stepchild’s or their mother’s frustration, just to name of few.  And because we all experience the same emotions as stepmoms, we hold such power in being able to understand one another and offer encouragement and support.

 “A real friend is one who walks in when the rest of the world walks out.” Walter Winchell

I see this every day on Twitter. A stepmom tweets out a tough situation and within minutes, she’s got virtual hugs of support. Those tweets take seconds for us to send out yet they are powerful pillars of support for that stepmom in need and positively impact her day. As stepmoms, an encouraging word from another smom can truly transform our mood. 

“Little deeds of kindness, little words of love, help to make earth happily like the heaven above.” Julia A. Fletcher Carney

While I believe firmly that’s its important to encourage one another every day of the week and I know we are all great at doing that, I want to put out a special challenge to all stepmoms to reach out this Monday and encourage a fellow stepmom:

Email words of encouragement

Tweet an inspiring note

Send a personal card in the mail

Call someone on the phone and/or have coffee over Skype

Surprise a local stepmom you know with a dinner you made or offer to take the kids for a few hours so she can practice self-care and/or couple-care

Let a stepmom know you are praying for her and her family.

In addition to encouraging one another, reach out to other smoms if you are in need of encouragement. If you don’t share what is on your heart, no one knows how to support you.  We’ve all been in a tough spot, we are all here to help one another. It is wisdom, not weakness to seek support.

It is so true that when you encourage another, you will be encouraged and uplifted yourself. Not only will your act of kindness bless another but it will bless you in the process.

 “Those who bring sunshine to the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves.” J.M. Barrie

Will you take the stepmom pledge of encouragement today?

Leave a comment below taking the pledge! If you’ve got tips on how to encourage other smoms and/or how you feel most encouraged, please share below. Feel free to list your twitter or Facebook account if you would like to connect with others. On behalf of all stepmothers, thank you!


 “There can be no happiness equal to the joy of finding a heart that understands.” Victor Robinsall



Back to School time means form time. You know those pieces of paper where parents and/or guardians are to be listed. Or not.

Nothing seems to bring more angst at the onset of school like those dreaded forms. Actually, it’s not the forms themselves but being left off of them that can fuel an emotional fire deep within a stepmom’s heart. stepmom, back to school

The first day of school each of my six kids brought home an inch of forms to be filled out; basic information sheet, emergency contact form, medical form, lunch and transportation forms, photo release form, code of conduct form, just to name a few.

I poured myself a cup of Joe and started to fill them out aiming to have them done when my husband got home to save him the agony.

Our school system is progressive and acknowledges the role parents and stepparents play in the lives of children. Having said that, I was surprised to find only three boxes to list the parents/ guardians on the general info sheet.

That works fine for our family as my ex-husband is not remarried. But what if he were?  Would I write her name on the back and draw an arrow to the front? Would her feelings be hurt if she were left off due to space? The questions could go on and on.

I tweeted early last week about the angst that these forms seem to have on co-parents and within minutes I had over five stepmoms tweet back about how their husbands were left off the form. One stepmom even said that not only was her husband left off the form but his children’s stepdad was listed as the bio dad.


When that happens you have to think about motive. And that’s why it’s best to go straight to the source if you are left off of a form – go to the school. Don’t engage the other parent. If you have legal rights to your child then the school legally has to make information available to you and include you in all communcations.

If the husband is left off the form, you can guarentee that the stepmom will not be listed. Sometimes as stepmoms we can feel like a used  text book. We are good enough to take care of our stepkids but not good enough to be included on the school forms or attend open house. It can really hurt.

These types of events are tangible reminders of our position in the family. Reminders of how little control we can have over situations regarding our stepkids. A reminder that we are expected to take care of our stepkids but that we shouldn’t expect any recognition for it. WE are good enough to buy the supplies, help our stepkids with school projects and study for tests but for some of us, we don’t count when pen meets paper. Ouch. That stings. But don’t despair. Regardless of what a piece of paper says… YOU are a very IMPORTANT person in the lives of your stepchildren.

Five Tips When You or Your Husband are Left Off the Form:

First, Don’t Take it Personally. You may not be on a piece of paper but that does not negate the role you play in the child’s life. Sometimes when a parent or stepparent is intentionally left off a form or out of a school function it has more to do with the insecurity of the other parent than it does with the parent not included.

Second, Go to the Source. Unless a court says you have no rights to a child, the school must under the law, give you access to the child’s information and list you on the forms. The tech age has made it easy for co-parents to stay in the loop. Most schools have the school calendar online and the teachers are easily accessible via the school website.

Third, Don’t Put the Kids in the Middle – When kids are put in the middle of any co-parenting issue there is a great chance for anxiety to set in for the child. When a child is anxious, he takes that into the classroom and it impacts his ability to learn and socialize. It also can impact the teacher, her ability to teach and the other classmates.

The children don’t make co-parenting choices and they shouldn’t have to pay the price when one parent makes a bad one. 

Fourth, Examine the Motivation. It seems like our culture loves to pit ex-wife against stepmom. Sometimes these two roles don’t get along but often times they do peacefully co-exist. If you and/or your husband has been left out, examine the motive. Could it be a mistake or oversight? Could it have something to do with the form itself? If you truly believe you and/or your husband was left off intetionally then my all means DO NOT ENGAGE THE OTHER HOUSEHOLD ON THIS MATTER.

If the true intent was to get you upset and you do get angry and call/email/text a nasty message then you have just given the other household what they want and you have validated their behavior. It’s natural to get upset but be cautious in letting them know how upset they have made you.

Every behavior has a motivation behind it. If your husband’s ex truly left your stepkid’s father off a form to spite him or you and you get all bent out of shape then you just satisfied her desire to hurt you. If you go directly to the school and don’t mutter a word to her, she may not feel that same motivation next year when the back to school forms start back up. She’s found out she can’t get to you that way. She also knows that she has no legal right to do what she did and that you and the school will right her wrong.

Fifth, Focus on What Really Matters. It is important that you know the teacher, the important phone numbers for the school (attendance, school nurse, principal,etc…), drop off and pick up procedures, alternative transporation rules, school hours, homework policy, etc…..

You can get all that information directly from the school office. Go there for the info if the other home isn’t working with you. Try your hardest not to get the kids involved.


I want to hear from you. Please leave a comment if you and/or your husband has been left off a school form or not included in some type of school open house or activity. What’s your take on this situation? How has it impacted your husband? You? Your kids and stepkids? Thanks as always for sharing.

Skadoosh. Why did that Panda have to go and make me cry?

Yes. I admit it. Kung Fu Panda 2 really spoke to my heart. And yes I did cry at this movie.

I don’t typically share my movie selections here but I believe it was divine intervention that I was given the opportunity to see an advanced screening of the movie this past weekend.  My husband and I were planning on taking the whole family to go to the drive-in this upcoming Memorial Day weekend to see Kung Fu Panda 2. Now that I’ve seen the movie, we won’t be taking the whole family.

The trailer for this movie promotes the fight of Po and the furious five to save Kung Fu but this movie weaves multiple story lines. And because of its message and the themes within it, I wanted to share my thoughts and info on the movie as I know many of you have children and/or stepchildren who don’t have both parents active in their lives.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I loved Kung Fu Panda 2. In fact, I think it is much better than the first. I also think that that the overall message is powerful and important.

When You Follow The Noble Path, Anything Is Possible!” – Master Shifu

One theme in the movie is the importance of finding inner peace despite your circumstances. Personally, I feel that creating your own inner peace as a stepmom is the key. Given that we can’t control others around us, we need to focus on us and how we allow the words and actions of others to impact us and our emotional stability. And for children who may not be in a “family situation” they love, the message of creating your own peace is powerful.

While I think everyone can benefit from hearing messages about the importance of inner peace and the probability of achieving it, I do have to talk about the topic of the movie that will hit a cord with my stepdaughters…. dealing with your past and your parents leaving.

Yes, that giant panda comes to realize that the goose he has been calling dad his whole life is really not his birth father. Surprise! Po has flashbacks while fighting his new arch enemy where he sees images of his mother and her walking away and leaving him as a baby. As adults, it is evident why his mother had to hide him and walk away but I don’t know if a child who may have been left by a parent will pick up on it.

Some find it odd that my stepdaughters are sensitive to movie scenes like this since it has been six years since their mom left. I don’t find it strange at all. It is their mother. You never get over that type of loss. My stepdaughters are doing well but they have triggers and seeing certain scenes in movies can trigger their pain and take them right back to the last day they saw her.

Yes, this movie got pretty deep for me and was emotional to watch at times being a stepmom who lives with two beautiful girls who struggle with why their mom left their lives.

I know my stepdaughters well and I know that they are very sensitive to the fact that their mom moved away years ago of her own choice. I’ve sat with my SD10 when she watched High School Musical 2 and cried profusely when Gabriella walked away from Troy. I’ve been there when my SD13 came home from school so distraught over the movie “Sarah, Plain and Tall” because it reminded her of her mom leaving.

Scenes where parents (especially moms) leave their children is really hard for my stepkids and I’m sure for many children who don’t have one of their parents actively involved in their lives.

In the end, it all comes together and Po does find inner peace about who he is, where he comes from and where he is going. I won’t be a spoiler and tell you exactly how it happens.

Having said all that, I think my stepdaughters should see the movie with their dad only. My husband and I talked and I think it may be a wonderful opportunity for him to take each girl separately and then go out for pizza afterwards and talk about the movie. Master Shifu tells Po in the movie that “yes, you were abandoned by your parents but that doesn’t define who you are. You can choose your future.” That’s a great message and a great talking point.

The bottom line is that Kung Fu Panda 2 is better than the first (in my humble opinion) but I wanted you all to know what it is about and be prepared before you see it in case any of your kids are sensitive to a parent leaving. If I hadn’t seen the movie, I would have no idea about the parental portion of the movie and it could have been a tough viewing with my stepdaughters. I wanted to pay the information forward.

So are your kids sensitive to certain topics in movies? Did you see Kung Fu Panda 2? Would love your thoughts?  How do you handle scenes in movies that are difficult for your kids and/or stepkids? Appreciate all your feedback.

Disclaimer:I was given a free ticket because I’m a Klout influencer. I was under no obligation to see the movie or talk about it. I get no additional benefits for talking about this movie.

Hold the sappy Valentine cards, flowers and the chocolates (okay, fork over the truffles) and give me some Validation. Please.

StepMoms, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Yes, the flowers, the chocolates, the cards are all nice but its the validation of my feelings and experiences as a stepmom that really make me feel loved.

Chocolate tastes good in the moment but knowing your partner sees and values your efforts in the home speaks volumes to your heart and enables you to press on during difficult times.

We know our mate loves us. We know it in our heads yet we yearn to feel it in our bones each and every day and having them validate our feelings goes a long way in communicating love.

They don’t have to agree with how we feel but they also don’t have to (and usually can’t) solve it for us. Listening to us, being interested in what we have to say and expressing that they understand our struggles and our joys goes so far in uplifting our hearts.

Imagine, you are feeling unappreciated by your stepson. You bend over backwards for school projects, sporting events, homework, etc…. without ever a smile or thank you. Consider the two different responses that your spouse could give you when you express hurt over not feeling appreciated:

A.) Oh sweetie, you are overreacting. He’s a kid. He appreciates you. Don’t get so worked up about it. You are the adult. Try not to take things so personally. Just forget about it. Love you. Now, what did you say is for dinner tonight?


B.) Oh sweetie, I see how hard you work for “Johnny” and I feel bad that he never shows appreciation. That must be really hard on you. Please know that I see what you do and I appreciate what you do for this family. I love you. (Big Hug).

Chances are that your mate could be feeling the same way about what you are going through and love you unconditionally when they utter either of those two responses but the later comment communicates to you that he loves and appreciates what you do and what you are going through. He acknowledges that you are in pain and he offers his understanding and validation.

Words of validation gives a stepmom the sense and security that her partner is on her side.

Validation is the fuel that keeps us staying strong and pressing on as a stepmom.

Does a gift of Validation sound good to you? Would you trade a pink and red card for words of affirmation? How do you feel when your partner validates your feelings and experiences as a stepmom? Please share.

Groundhog Day! Okay, I know it’s not a real holiday but I have always loved it. Mostly because it is my grandfather’s birthday. And also because even as a young child I loved the suspense of wondering if there would be six more weeks of winter.

And yes, I was one of those strange children who secretly loved six more weeks of winter. Making snow angels, drinking hot cocoa, the possibility of snow days were all things I embraced. But I also knew that even if winter was brutal, I could take anything when I knew there was a finite end to it. Winter will end. Spring, then summer will come. This is an absolute truth.

With stepfamily life, an end to some of the frustration and challenges we face isn’t so evident. Some days it feels that things will never get better. We can feel this way because the reality of being a stepmom is that so many things are simply out of our control. Just like the character Phil, played by Bill Murray, in this clip from the movie Groundhog Day, we can become jaded with the circumstances around us. If we are not careful, we can come to believe the lie that things will never get better.

But just like Phil learns some things about himself and about life through the course of the movie, we can too. Once he accepts that he is “stuck” in Groundhog Day, he starts to work on himself. He realizes that smashing the alarm clock every morning and being rude and grumpy isn’t going to change that fact that it is continually February 2nd every morning he wakes us.

So he starts to work on himself. He loosens up and gains a great sense of humor. He looses his fear of sharing how he feels with this woman he is falling for. He works on himself and how he deals with the situation of the day that never changes.

That is a wonderful lesson for stepmoms. The reality is we often can’t change our stepchildren and turn them into the people we want them to be. Nor can we control what the ex says about us.

But we can work on how it affects us. I know I may sound like a broken record but I want you to know that You define You. If you are struggling in a particular area of your stepfamily life, take a step back. Look at what you are currently doing and decide whether or not it is working for you. Then make necessary changes if need be.

Even if Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow and we have six more weeks of winter, we will survive. We will perservere and press on. And even if you feel as if you see your shadow every day, and the promise of a bleak winter looms over you, please do not give up hope. Time is on your side and remember the sun will shine again. It always does.

Are you and your mate on the same team when it comes to your parenting styles?

Often, we can be madly in love with our spouse yet be madly at odds with their outlook on parenting.

Differing views on how to parent your blended family can cause real issues in a marriage between two people who truly love one another. And as stepmoms, we not only partner with our spouse to parent the kids, we also have to partner with our husband’s ex-wife. There are many dynamics to manage.

Just as people, especially children, are always evolving our parenting style also has to evolve. And it is imperative for our relationship that both ourselves and our mate are on the same page.

Ron L. Deal, of Successful Stepfamilies, recognizes the disconnect some couples have in parenting their blended family. He, like myself, is committed to helping stepfamilies thrive. To address the questions stepcouples have in parenting, Ron is hosting Becoming A Team: Stepfamily Parenting Webinar, this Tuesday evening (January 25th) at 8pm EST.

You and your spouse can participate in the Webinar and gain the benefit of Ron’s wealth of information from the comfort of your own home. The cost is $9.95 and it’s a very, very small investment to make in the health of your marriage and in your stepfamily.

Ron is giving you a chance to win a free ticket to this Webinar by sharing your questions.

Just post a question you have about stepparenting, and you could win one free ticket to attend (one ticket gets access for you and your mate). The winner will be announced on Monday, January 24th at 4PM EST.

Honestly, many issues are very delicate to discuss with your mate. This is especially true if it involves something regarding their kids only. Having a question or concern addressed by a third party, like Ron, is a great way to start a discussion in a neutral way. My husband and I have had many productive conversations regarding tough issues in parenting our six kids after reading chapters in Ron’s The Smart Stepfamily and listening to him on various radio talk shows.

There is truly power in discussing a topic with your spouse when you both hear about it from a third party.  Yes, “how do you feel that applies to our family?” is a great line to open up dialogue with your spouse.

My husband and I will be attending the Webinar and I invite you to as well. Can’t wait to read your questions and share them all with Ron.

Register Here for Becoming a Team: Stepfamily Parenting Webinar

Post your questions here for a chance to win!!!!! (Please note, that posting a question does not guarantee it will be addressed at the webinar. Howerver, Ron will address as many questions that stepfamilies face as possible in his live webinar. I urge you to leave your question or multiple questions below. Each question enters you for a chance to win a free ticket!)

….that is the question. But what is the answer?  Teens are a different breed. And for StepMoms who have young children of their own or for those who married and got an instant family, managing your relationship with your teen stepkid is unchartered territory. Even when you have a teen and your spouse has a teen, the dynamics are not easy. The teen years are tough on the child and tough on the parents, StepMom included.

As you probably know, I love bringing my Smom Community great resources. I’ve heard from many of you over the past few months that are struggling with defining the relationship between you and your teen stepchild. So when I found I had to stop and stay awhile. I am so impressed with their site and forum.

And then when I got to actually speak with Dr. Barbara Greenberg, one of the two co-authors of the site, I was blown away by her experience and sheer passion for helping parents speak the Language of Teenage. I’m convinced it is another language.

I was so impressed, I am reading their new book

Teenage as a Second Language by Dr’s Barbara R. Greenberg, & Jennifer A. Powell-Lunder

When I’m finished reading, I will post a review but until then I am sharing a piece that Barbara Greenberg was kind enough to share with me. Enjoy!


$$ The Price Parents Pay For Being Their Teen’s Friend! by Dr. Barbara Greenberg

Parents consistently ask us whether or not they should be their teenager’s friend. They are torn, primarily, because they feel that if they are their teens’ friend then they will get to know them better. In fact, they may or may not get to know them better but even if they do, it may come at a significant price.

Here are our main concerns about befriending your teens:

1. In the role of a friend, parents lose their status as authority figures and are in less of a position to be taken seriously when setting rules and boundaries.

2.The role of a friend is to be agreeable and keep things harmonious. While parents also strive to provide a harmony: at times they may have to deliver information that is not consistent with being an agreeable friend. Parents need to be comfortable with their teens’ anger and need to understand that this is part of the parenting/authority role. This is inconsistent with the “friend” role.

3. As your teen’s friend you may start to confide in your children. Boundaries are at risk to get blurred. Teens don’t want to be their parents’ confidantes. They neither have the maturity or responsibility for such a role. If they begin to see their parents as needy, they may begin to worry about them. A teen who is worried about a parent often stops confiding and turns to others for emotional support and guidance.

Our takeaway message is that your teens already have friends. They need parents to act as parents and friends to act as friends.


Interested in your thoughts????


A note to my New York readers: Their next book signing for Teenage as a Second Language is on Sunday Jan.16 from 1-3 in New York City at Borders on 32nd and 2nd /  576 2nd Avenue. If you are in the area, stop by and say hi to Barbara and Jennifer and pick up their great new book.

Closed For Business…. this is one of the mantras I want you to stick in your head and say to yourself the next time your partner’s ex or your stepkids (or anyone else for that matter) starts the crazy talk with and/or about you.

Something we all know but forget in the heat of the moment….You Can’t Fight Crazy!

Don’t even try. You’ll end up feeling emotionally, spiritually and physically exhausted because your words of reason are bound to fall on deaf ears when someone is hell bent on making you miserable.

In fact, I want you to get out two sticky notes right now and write down:

Closed For Business


You Can’t Fight Crazy

and put them where you will see them as a reminder to ignore any crazy talk that is sent your way.

You need your emotional energy. Those calls/texts/in-person rants at pick up time suck your energy levels dry. Don’t give anyone your permission to zap your emotional, physical, spiritual energy with negativity.

You can stand strong in the midst of a “hate” storm and the best way to do it is put up the umbrella of no entrance and let the toxic cocktail slide down your back without ever feeling or tasting a drop.

If your stepchildren’s mother is sending you infuriating text messages….block her.

If she is calling and leaving rude messages…..block her from your cell/don’t listen to the messages on your home phone.

When you cannot get along with the mother of your stepchildren limit or end any interaction. Allow your husband (who loves YOU) to deal with any issues relating to the kids.

But don’t just stop there.  Don’t ask him what was said after he speaks with his ex. If the schedule impacts you, then you should know about the schedule changes and only the schedule changes. If it doesn’t, then you are emotionally better off not knowing details of the conversation.

Let’s face it. If you and/or your husband have a tumultuous relationship with your stepchildren’s mother then the less you know, the better. You’ll never be pleased. You’ll get angry at the “fakeness” if she’s “all nice” to your husband on the phone or you’ll get frustrated and angry if she is trying to manipulate your man and/or the situation.

This same philosophy holds true for your stepchildren and actually for any relationship in your life.

If someone is bent on being a certain way or thinking things you know aren’t true then don’t listen. Remember, you can’t fight crazy! but you can go crazy trying!

One of my fav quotes is “he who angers you, controls you!”  Do you really want to give someone that type of control over your thoughts, your day?  Because that is what we do when we respond to ridiculous comments aimed to hurt us.

I can’t say this often enough…You define You! Don’t let any toxic words tell you who you are.

And don’t spend precious mental energy trying to figure out the Why’s behind it all. You don’t think like they do and you aren’t in their shoes so you’ll never be able to reason the Why’s.

It’s hard not to respond BUT it is possible. One of the best ways to do it is to not listen or engage! You need to close down for business so to speak. You will reopen when an amicable relationship is possible. Not until then.

I know this post is a little in your face. But I’ve felt the pain in many Smom’s calls for help lately. Holidays can be hard for many and often it’s as if the stepmom has a bullseye on her back and she is the target for a lot of pain that others are feeling.

Stay strong my friends. Press on. Close for business when needed.

Happy day one of 2011. It’s that time of year when we are bombarded with messages of making New Year Resolutions everywhere we look. Personally, I don’t like blanket resolutions. Yes, it’s a great time to think of things that we want to change but without a specific plan, our resolutions will go no where.

Resolutions without strategies are just wishful thinking.

How many times do people resolve to lose weight, get organized, be on time, etc only to run out of steam and give up within the first month. Why? Because resolutions are useless without a plan of action, measurable goals and setting goals that are within our control.

For instance, it’s great to say I’m going to exercise more this year but without applying those three conditions it is doomed to fail. You’ve got to have a specific plan of action (I will start out walking 20 minutes two days a week and list the days); measurable goals (check off those days on the calendar and feel good doing it); set goals within your control (if you are someone who hasn’t worked out in years, starting with one or two days a week is realistic. If you live in cold weather, committing to walking outdoors isn’t a smart choice).

I use the weight lose/exercise as an example as I’m sure it is one that most everyone can relate too.

Now think of this in the context of being a stepmom. Have you ever resolved to ‘I’m not going to let the ex get to me?’ Or have you said ‘I’m not going to let my stepchild’s drama filled life suck me in?’  Those are wonderful resolutions to make and are achievable but unless you outline strategies of how you will accomplish these goals, they are likely to burn out quickly.

We are all good at putting up with things for a short time but if we truly don’t develop strategies to deal with toxic words and actions that are aimed right at us, we are likely to  bottle it up inside until our emotional vessel can no longer contain the anger we’ve ignored and then we can blow. And that is not pretty. For anyone.

I’ll be sharing strategies in the coming weeks for dealing with different stepmom issues. If you’ve got a resolution but need a strategy, please leave me a note below.  In the mean time, take a look at the questions I’ve listed below. Use them as you develop your list of New Year’s Resolutions. Working through and answering these questions will help you create a concrete action plan to attack and achieve the goals you wish to set for yourself in 2011.


1. Specific goal:

2. Steps to achieve the goal:

3. Tools to measure success:

4. Is this goal within my control/reach or does it depend on others?

5. Roadblocks to achieving this goal and how I will deal with these potential roadblocks:

6. How will I reward myself on a frequent basis for achieving my goal?

It’s also very important to think in advance about how you will forgive yourself when you fall off your plan. When you fail at achieving one of your measurable goals, don’t disband your plan of action but rather use it as an opportunity to re-evaluate your plan to see what is and what is not working for you. Then make changes as necessary.

Consider a failed day a learning lesson and get back on track. We ALL make mistakes. We are human. Don’t let one road bump throw you off course. We are evolving as people everyday and therefore our plan of action must also be flexible and evolve with us.

If you set your mind to something you can do it! Wishing you all a year full of personal peace, joy and low drama.

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