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Join me tomorrow on Susan Swanson’s radio show – New Day Talk Radio.

March 29th, 2010

Tune your mind and your radio to for a frank discussion of how to stay connected with your spouse in the middle of chaos.

Susan Wisdom, LPC and author of Stepcoupling.

Stepkids are mean… wouldn’t you be too?

March 17th, 2010

IN THE BEGINNING… I wondered why my stepkids were so mean to me. They avoided me at all costs. They wouldn’t do what I asked without a fight. They always ran to their father for protection and excuses for noncompliance. And he usually came through.

I was powerless. I didn’t know what my role was, but I knew that what I was doing wasn’t working. Why did they hate me so much? I always felt like the bad guy.

LATER ON… Surprisingly, I had an opportunity to chat with my stepson and listen to what he had to say. I guess we were driving in the car… or something like that. It was just the two of us. We started talking about our family. He admitted that when his dad and I got together, the kids wanted nothing to do with me. They liked being with their Dad alone, the way it used to be. Their dad was free to play, take them places, go fishing and camping – just hang out. It was easy then and fun.

It’s an old familiar story! I came along and stole their dad. Everything changed. Dad was divided and spread very thinly between his kids and me. Stepson told me “We didn’t want you here. We did everything we could to make it bad enough for you to leave. We tried to break you up.”… But he laughed and said, “It didn’t work.”

Poor kid! (He was 12 when we married.) I heard him and began to understand what it was like for kids to have an outsider move in on them. I began to understand how important it was for kids to spend quality time with their Moms and Dads, although I admit, sometimes I didn’t want to share. I also began to appreciate my stepson’s willingness to talk with me. We began to build a relationship after that… with long conversations.

Can you find time and the space in your heart to talk to and listen to your stepchildren, even if what you hear may not be pleasant?

Susan Wisdom
Licensed Professional Counselor
March 2010

Stepcoupling – What were you thinking?!

March 10th, 2010

Looking back, what was it that attracted you in the beginning? Why did you commit to a life of stepparenting and stepcoupling. What were you thinking!?

Other than blind love, good sex, security, and money, I suspect that some of you married out of pity for those poor children whose parents got divorced. The idea that you could help out by giving the kids what they were missing was appealing. Certainly, you thought, you could be a better mom than their “real mom” who’s absent or part time. Also, you were impressed by his parenting… the love and special attention he gave to his kids. How touching.

But further down the road…what attracted you in the beginning… now turns you off and makes you angry. It’s not working for you, and it’s not working in your marriage. All that attention toward the kids…probably from guilt… is becoming the deal breaker in your stepcouple relationship. You feel left out. Your ideas of stepping in to play mommy didn’t work out at all. The stepkids don’t want you wearing parenting shoes, reserved only for Mom and Dad. You’re powerless. Most of the time they don’t want to listen to your rules. Furthermore, your partner accuses you of being mean and too strict with his kids. And so it goes…

So again: WHY did you commit yourself? The answer is pure and simple: You loved this man! You wanted to be his partner, friend, lover, supporter, co-parent, and love of his life. You couldn’t imagine life without him. If that meant that his kids (and yours too) were part of the deal, so be it! You signed on. With the strength of the couple bond, you committed to raise the kids as a stepcouple. And if you’re like most of us, you had no idea what you were getting into or how to play the game. It’s a journey and its called stepcoupling!

Stay tuned. We’ll continue to talk about how to be a stepcouple without getting emotionally invested in things you can do so little about. We’ll talk about using the power and sweetness of the adult relationship to stay together and give the kids a positive legacy to grow up with.

Susan Wisdom
Licensed Professional Counselor
March 2010

Shuttling Kids Between Homes – Who Benefits?

March 1st, 2010

In the old days, my lawyer friends tell me, child custody/visitation agreements used to be vague and loose. It was common for the non-custodial parent, almost always the father, to have the kids on alternate weekends with seasonal and reasonable longer visits in the summer. Divorced couples usually alternated the holidays. Sounds fair, one would think, back then.

But times have changed. More visitation is exercised now…. and they don’t call it “visitation” in the court system. They now call it “parenting time” so as to put everybody on equal footing. Divorced couples today demand more. They claim, “It’s only fair that I get the kids at least half time!” Take Bill for example. He and his ex wife live miles apart, completely across town from each other. They share custody of their two school aged children with a 50-50 time split. During his weeks with the kids, Bill is on the road early to take the kids to school and returns again in the afternoon to pick them up. He shows up at almost all of their games and after school activities. He and his new wife live in a big new house with her two children. He desperately wants his kids to feel welcome and at home in his new stepfamily.

That’s what’s happening these days. It takes a lot of sacrificing and work to get enough time with the kids. As parents they naturally want to provide the best the best. It seems equally important, however, for some ex-spouses to compete with each other over the kids. My question is what drives this need and is it in the best interest of the kids? And how does it affect new stepcouples and stepfamilies?

I’m amazed to see how far parents will stretch themselves to be what they think are good parents after divorce and remarriage. I suspect some want to make up for what they weren’t before? Somewhat guilt driven, they try harder. But is it good parenting to exhaust yourself and the kids by driving back and forth between homes, schools and after school activities like this? Precious time is lost when kids are always on the run. It’s anything but quality time. The important question is “Can children stay connected, feel loved and cared for by divorced bio parents… but not have to be driven grueling long distances to accomplish this?

These are hard questions with no easy answers.

I would urge all parents of back and forth children to do some serious soul searching about what is truly in the best interest of the kids. Begin by having a conversation with yourself and your partners. Understand the difference between ‘quality time vs. quantity time’? Put yourself in the kids’ shoes. Kids don’t want inconveniences. They want to be with their friends. And yes, they need to be with their biological parents. They want to fit in and belong in both families. But mostly they want normal and happy lives…don’t we all?

To be honest, solving these almost impossible problems and making everyone happy is just about as easy as solving our health care needs in this country. But don’t give up trying!

Susan Wisdom
Licensed Professional Counselor

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