June « 2011 « Stepcoupling

Purchase Stepcoupling

Contributor to Stepmom Magazine

Become a Fan of Stepcoupling on Facebook!


Blog Categories:


Parenting Blog Directory

Stepfamily Vacations – Deal Breaker or Connection Maker?

June 21st, 2011

She’s been dating this guy. She might even love him…but he has two kids and she has one. She always said she’d NEVER hook up with a man who has kids! Growing up, she had a stepmother she hated. Her dad was always with “her,” and she never got any one-on-one time with her father. She’d never be anyone’s STEPMOTHER and do that to another child—end of story.

As time goes on, however, she loves him more and more. She can’t break it off. Besides, his kids seem OK.

Then comes their first “family” vacation. He wants to take her and all their kids on a camping trip. He loves to camp. He plans the outing and makes all the arrangements.

The first evening goes well. They eat dinner and roast marshmallows. Then it’s bedtime and the first glitch: the tenting arrangement. His kids want Dad in their tent; her daughter wants Mom in her tent. The adults want to sleep with each other. They’d been sleeping together when their kids were staying with their other parents—every chance they could get. But not this night. They comply with their kids’ wishes and sleep separately.

The rest of the weekend, there are good and bad times. But clearly the tension of being together is building. There’s a nasty fight on the last day over something silly like the scrambled eggs being undercooked! In the end, his kids complain that camping is more fun without “them”. Her kid says that camping isn’t fun at all—too many bugs, too cold at night—and she doesn’t ever want to do it again!

This scenario isn’t surprising. Several issues common in stepcoupling and stepfamilies were working against them during this three-day “family” vacation.

First, it was a new and different experience for all of them. No one likes change, especially not children, parents, and stepparents—all of whom have already experienced too much change. They want their old familiar ways of doing things.

Second, it’s about competition. Kids don’t want to share their parents with anyone. The best part about camping is sharing a tent with the person you love the most, your parent.  And the newcomers/outsiders threatened this. From the adults’ perspective, they were competing with the “stepkids” for tent time as a couple.

Third, these two families were strangers to each other. The adults’ affair was being carried on when the kids weren’t around. Suddenly they were all thrown together on a camping “adventure.” It sounded like a good idea…but it wasn’t!

The hype and anxiety involved in planning and carrying out family trips is another problem factor. It takes a lot of emotional and physical energy, plus a fair amount of money to make a joint vacation happen. If it’s disappointing, it feels like a real bust.

It’s also hard for kids and adults, who aren’t used to being together, to be in cramped quarters with no boundaries. It makes everyone a little crazy at times.

And there are always surprises. But it’s the surprises that make the memories. For instance, everyone in our stepfamily remembers when one of our kids threw up all over the San Francisco airport! All seven of us were on a trip to celebrate Christmas with family. This was NOT a good start!

From years of experience, I’ve learned:

  • There’s no easy formula. It’s different every time and they’re always surprises.  Stepfamily vacations take HUGE amounts of patience and flexibility.
  • Involve the kids in the planning as much as possible. Listen to their ideas. Think about it and talk with your partner. Kids need to feel that they’re an important part of the group process. Of course, the adults have to consider time, purpose, and practicality. Expectations and sleeping arrangements should be discussed before hand—everyone must be willing to compromise.
  • It’s impossible to make it perfect for everyone. The kids may be different ages and genders and have different interests to consider. The binding force should be that it’s an opportunity for this stepfamily to do something together that transcends age, sex and interests. Kids can be flexible.I remember one special camping trip early on. Our five kids spent hours pretending that their tent was an emergency hospital—like the popular TV program, Mash. They took care of their sick and injured siblings and saved lives for the better part of a day.
  • Check your attitude along the way. Be the adult that you are. You won’t always get your way…nor will anyone else. There will be issues to iron out, glitches, and disappointments. The best-laid plans can fail miserably. And the cheapest, most casual trips are often the best.
  • Enjoy the good times as they happen. Appreciate them and applaud them. Remember to affirm the kids for special efforts, generosity, and patience. Commendations go a long way in family vacations. Incentives and bribes work, too.
  • Lighten up and use your sense of humor. Laughter is sometimes the best medicine when people get tired and crabby.

Best to everyone this summer vacation.  Stay cool.

Susan Wisdom MA

(Originally published June 2010 on Susan’s blog site and StepMom Magazine July 2010.)

SUMMER SANITY IN STEPFAMILIES – IS THERE SUCH A THING?

June 7th, 2011

School’s almost out and summer vacation begins. Vacation for kids is hardly a vacation for the parents and stepparents raising them.

The complaints: “THERE’S NOTHING TO DO.”

The requests: “Can so and so come over?”

The demands: “Take me here, there and everywhere…NOW!” “I need money to go to the mall!” “Everyone else gets to go to or do  ______ except me!”

The moodiness, the sulkiness and tears—Give me a break!!

Kids, and especially preteens and adolescents, are the center of the universe. That’s what they’re supposed to be. Yes, your self-absorbed kids are normal…aren’t you relieved?

I remember those long summers when our kids were young. The days were long and exhausting.  I thought they’d never end. I worked myself to the bone to accommodate and satisfy the kids.  I worried way too much about how they were doing…where they were and with whom.

As a stepmom, you may wonder if you’re fitting the bill at all! Still you strive for perfection. Doesn’t every parent want to be the best?

Words of Wisdom:  Stop yourself! Step back. Take a break. You have to say NO sometimes. You have to take care of YOURSELF. You do count.  You do have a life! Go ahead and have some fun. Go to yoga or exercise class; call a friend. Get off the computer, get out of the car, and leave the dirty dishes in the sink. It won’t kill you. Take a lie down, read a chapter in the book you’re reading, or journalize if that helps you.

Free yourself up to breathe, and relax.

My best to all stepcouples and stepfamilies this summer.  Take care and take it easy…and enjoy the special moments.  A thank you, a shared joke or experience, anything that makes you feel good.  That’s what it’s all about.

Susan Wisdom, MA
June 2011
(First published June 2010 on my blog site)

Nike Air Max Classic BW Sko Online Nike Air Total Max Sko Online Nike Kobe 10 Sko Online Nike Air Max LTD 2 Sko Online Nike Heels Sko Online