About Lisa Hartman & her Blog
Lisa is a winner of Top 25 Moms with Blended Families - 2012
What aspect of being in a blended family has surprised you?
The aspect that surprised me the most about being in a blended family was how difficult it was for me to find my way as a Step Mom. My daughter had a Step Mom of her own for four years before I married my Hubby.
I thought I knew exactly how to be the "PERFECT" Step Mom. Turns out I wasn't what either of the two Mom's of my Step Kids had in mind.
Overnight I went from the Mother of one to the Mother of six. For the kids the lived in our home there wasn't a difference in how I raised my own child and the ones I inherited - yet there was a huge difference in the scrutiny and boundaries I faced as a Step Mom.
Over time, I've figured out the Mom role that best suits me, my relationship with Hubby, my kids and ultimately my family.
What's a good tip for preventing sibling rivalry?
The tip that worked best for our family to prevent sibling rivalry was removing the word “Step" from our family vocabulary. It doesn't change much to the outside world, but it makes a tremendous difference to the members of a Blended Family.
When you add the delination of “step” to a daughter, son, brother or sister you send a message to not only the child, but the rest of the world - this child is at the very least different from the others or worse case scenario they don't mean as much to you because they came into your life differently from the others.
It creates a divide that will ensure you remain two families instead of blending into one. Your kids will constantly compete for your attention to prove that they are the best child, especially the ones who feel less than the others in your eyes.
The three kids we raised the the past thirteen years without the "step" label are the happiest kids I know. They get along better than most of my friends with biological siblings!
We have hundreds of pictures of the three kids laughing over the years - everyone who see's them always comments "that's exactly how I picture the three of them - happy!"
What's one piece of advice you'd give to moms who are about to become part of a blended family?
The one piece of advice I would give to Mom's about blending a family is involve a child therapist in your kids life early on - preferably one that both families can agree on.
Having a neutral person in your child's life who they can safely confide their deepest secrets provides them a safe place to vent about Mom, Dad, Step Mom or Step Dad without worry that it will hurt someones feeling or worse start a war between their parents or families. It gives your child confidence and power over their life in a situation where they can often feel like they have none.
All three of our younger kids had Dr. J. in their life for the past 13 years. Dr. J's involvement evolved with the kids as their needs evolved through the years. Sometimes that meant seeing her on a regular basis for a number of months to checking in every 12 months.
All three of our older kids experienced hard times during their teenage years resulting in crisis situations. When you have a child in crisis you will move heaven and earth to find the money to give them the support they need and it doesn't always result in you getting the kid back you once knew.
The total cost of our three youngest seeing Dr. J. added together cost a mere 10% of the cost we spent on just ONE of our three older kids in crisis. It's always a hellava lot cheaper emotionally and financially to prevent a problem rather than fix one!
Another upside to involving a therapist in your child's life is you have someone on call that your child already trusts when an unexpected life challenge presents itself. I know how valuable this is to your child based upon my own experience with my daughter.
When things went horribly wrong at her other house - Dr. J. was there to help my daughter process all of her emotions in a positive way. Instead of my daughter turning to destructive ways - she found her way to the other side of the conflict more confident, strong, happy and secure in her life.
Finally, a child therapist can often times help the two parents or families manage conflict in way that doesn't lead to a costly court battle. And if relations can't be resolved with the other parent and you land in court - your child has an objective voice to speak for him or her - who can offer a long history of who your child is to the Guardian Ad Litem appointed by the court.
In my mind having a therapist involved in our children's life for the past thirteen years was the best gift we gave our children and our blended family!
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