The Well Blended Family

http://thewellblendedfamily.com/blog/

Biography: daughter & step-daughter, sister, ex-wife, spouse, step-mom & mom, business owner, friend - American woman! Born from this is The Well Blended Family, dedicated to helping today's American families - divorced and blended - flourish!

Lisa is a winner of Top 25 Moms with Blended Families - 2012

What aspect of being in a blended family has surprised you?

So many things!!

I came in as a step mom, so probably the most significant surprise was how much contact and involvement I would have with my husband's ex. I truly thought I would get to be like a "really cool aunt" who is there for advice and fun times, but doesn't really need to parent much. I thought my husband would be the one who deals with her and I would just be there for moral support. That didn't work for us. In fact, it was leading us down the road of a divorce!

We shifted gears and started making it a group effort. This sounds simpler that it really was, but over time, things got so much better and 13 years later, my marriage is strong, I am an empowered and equal parent, my kids are awesome and I even have a good relationship with my "wife-in-law" (My husband's ex:-)!

What's a good tip for preventing sibling rivalry?

"Sibling Rivalry" means competing for the attention and/or favoritism of a parent. How we manage parenting different children, has a direct effect on how well siblings get along - or not. This is true for "in-tact" families, so it is also true for blended families. In a blended family, it can be easy to refer to kids as "Your kids" and "My kids" and "Our child". The key is to remember that you are a "family".

What I am about to suggest can be hard to implement, because we naturally want to defend and protect our biological child(ren) - so this tactic can feel counter-intuitive at times. However, act "as if" they are ALL yours and your spouse's! Establish a solid set of "house rules" that apply to everyone, no matter who they are biologically linked to!

When I became a step-mom, I figured my husband's daughters didn't really want me in their life, even though they liked me, because it reinforced that their parents weren't getting back together. But I began to notice behavior that suggested that as long as I was in their life, they wanted to be important to me. Luckily I noticed that BEFORE I had my daughter and I made every move based on "What if they were just ours?" When my youngest daughter came along, there were a few hints referencing "Now that you have a daughter of your own...", so I made sure that I kept up my quality time with the "big girls", reinforced my love for them and that there is plenty to go around, and that the house rules still applied, whether I had two daughters or three!

What's one piece of advice you'd give to moms who are about to become part of a blended family?

Most definitely - make your marriage top priority!! The kids do NOT come first or you risk another divorce! I poll families all the time. The difference between first marriage failure and second marriage failure is the reason for divorce: #1 reason for divorce in first marriages - financial; #1 reason for failure of second marriages - arguments over/about the kids! It's not because of differing parenting styles, it is because the children have been placed as top priority.

Too few people go seek professional help after a divorce and then they expect everything to be better the second time around - a fresh start. But the reality is, it is just a different set of issues. This is why second marriages have a 67% failure rate. The BEST gift you can give your children - and yourself - is to create and model a loving, intimate and respectful core relationship - your marriage. Seek the help and advice of experts - I did. Do this, and you will be like me - in the 33% that make it!

How do you get a fidgety or unfocused child to sit and do homework?

Lisa Perry

I have two grown girls and a 9 year old. Having been through it once and now a second time, I find that it is important to make sure you have an environment conducive to studying. I took tips from my daughter's preschool. It was hard to get my youngest to nap when at home, but when I picked her up from preschool right after nap-time, the environment was so great there, that even I wanted to lay down for a nap! Each child is and was different so they needed different environments to feel successful - I tried to pay attention to that for each one and do what I could to create that for them. For homework time, I make sure I'm not trying to make it too late in the evening but allowed them some fun time after school first so they could "refresh". I make sure they had food in their bellies and that they know that every day, this is what we do at this time (usually an hour before dinner or after extra-curricular activities). If the homework seems tough, I try to make a game of it - pull out M&M's for math, google pictures of geographic places, etc., so that learning is fun and engaging - even if the math is algebra:-)!
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What are some creative ways for a couple to incorporate their own children from previous marriages into their wedding day?

Lisa Perry

I married a man with two daughters and when he asked me to marry him, he asked me to marry "them". We decided to have a ceremony in which we all married. His daughters and he waited together as I met them at the alter. While the majority of the ceremony was primarily about my husband and I coming together, we all said our "I do"'s. His youngest was 9 at the time and into "Titanic" and "My Heart Will Go On", so she decided she wanted to sing it for us. There wasn't a dry eye in the place!
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