The Blended Tribe

Our Happy Divorce

OUR HAPPY DIVORCE-I didn’t realize there could be such a thing as a happy divorce until I had the joy of reading this book written by once married Nikki DeBartolo and Benjamin Heldfond.

What I enjoy about this book is that it is not written from one person’s point of view. The book has chapters from both Nikki and Ben (divorced) along with their current spouses Chad and Nadia. It was refreshing being able to read from all points of view.

I have to say my favorite chapter of the book was at the end, and it was written by Asher (the son of Nikki and Ben). The life that these four adults have made for this one child is incredibly selfless, and I have a tremendous amount of respect for all four parents. The payoff is in the fruit of their son and how happy and well balanced he is. I love that Asher doesn’t look at himself as having two separate homes, he states in the book that “home is whichever one I’m currently at.” I love that he can feel this way and pray that my stepkids think this way as well.

I highly recommend reading this book. Nikki and Ben’s situation isn’t for everyone, but I sure wish it was. Unfortunately, all parties have to be on the same track. The track needs to be that the kids come first…ALWAYS, and that you put your petty crap behind you and move forward. This thinking is exactly what Nikki, Ben, Chad, and Nadia did and are continually doing, and they are living happier lives for it.

 

 

Click on the link to get your hands on a copy of Our Happy Divorce

You won’t regret reading this book!  Another amazing book about divorce and co-parenting is


 

 

 

 

 

CO-RAISING KIDS WHEN YOU DON’T AGREE

 

 

Trying to raise kids when you have different parenting styles, discipline styles, completely different backgrounds and more differences than similarities is ridiculously hard. I feel like a big part of the time when you have kids with a person you are a little on the same track as far as parenting goes. What happens when you’re not though? Or what happens when your parenting style has changed since having to raise kids on your own and now raising kids in a larger, blended family?? What happens when one parent wants their kids to be in certain activities or sports, and the other parent doesn’t? This problem isn’t as hard when you have your kids the majority of the time, but when you share 50/50, this can be a battle. Here are a few things that I’m learning as I go:

 

⇒ If you’re religious at all, make sure that you take the time to pray about the situation. Make sure that you’re checking your heart and doing things with the right motive or intent. Also, make sure that you are taking the time to pray beforehand about receiving news well from your ex, and pray that you handle it with grace.

⇒ Don’t take things personally as a parent. It’s not our business to know what all is going on with schedules, behaviors, family issues, health issues in the other parent’s home. Sometimes(hopefully always) a “no” isn’t meant to be mean to the other parent. Just because one thing works out for one house, doesn’t necessarily mean that same thing is going to work out for the other house. The bottom line is, not everything is about you so don’t make it about you.

⇒ If it’s going to have an impact on the other parent’s schedule, then you always need to consult the other parent first. I’ve made this mistake in the past, and now looking back on it, it wasn’t cool, and I’ve since apologized to my ex about it (which is NEVER fun). I think we get so caught up into wanting the best and more for our kids that we don’t think about the bigger picture. Especially if they aren’t missing out on a lot of things, the bottom line is that the kids aren’t going to be able to do every little thing they want to do, and I think that even if that’s not fair, it’s part of being raised in a split family.

 

These are the few things I’ve learned so far. The kids always have to come first, but you also have to do what’s best for your family as a whole. Don’t feel bad about saying no if it doesn’t work for you, but make sure you’re doing what’s best for that child.

 

To read more about co-parenting from a different point of view, read this guest post by Lauren McKinley for more co-parenting insight.

 

♥ The Blended Tribe

 


 

Blended Family: From a Husband’s Point of View

**DISCLAIMER** The statements in this post are solely my opinions and are not of or directed at the character of any individual(s).  They are simply my perceptions of my own experiences as a parent/stepparent in a blended family and are in no way, shape or form associated with any past or present grievances with any person(s) involved in our family dynamic- either directly or indirectly. If you happen to be reading this and take offense to it, understand that it is about me, not you, and is intended to help other men in the same situation feel like they are not alone.

 

We all know that divorce is a bummer.  It tears at the fabric of family, destroys our perceptions of love and commitment, wounds our children and depletes our resources.

 

Fortunately, there is life after divorce.  In my case, I remarried and took on two more children than I had before. Life is not without its challenges, but at the end of the day, I feel whole.  I love being a family man, so my situation suits me.

 

When we first “blended”, I had it in my head that we were going to immediately gel- no delays, and no hiccups.  What a sucker I was.   While our life is mostly great, and our kids truly love each other, we are a far cry from the Brady Bunch. Let me break down a couple of the speed bumps I’ve experienced:

  1. My kids and I are intruders. In a nuclear family, children are raised from birth with a set of routines and customs that are formed by the combined efforts of the birth parents.  In our case, my wife has her kids 90%+, which means they are with us more than my kids at 50%.  Additionally, WE moved into the house THEY already occupied.  THEY now share rooms that were once their own.  WE have introduced routines and customs that are foreign, and seldom welcome. It often seems like half the kids feel like their home has been infiltrated, and the other half feels like they are visitors as opposed to residents.
  2. I am not Dad. I may provide a significant portion of the household income.  I may cook meals, coach teams, help with homework, teach life lessons…… you get it.  I may even raise my wife’s kids 300 days out of the year. Heck, I love them enough that I would sacrifice my life for theirs without blinking.  At the end of the day, nothing I can ever do will actually make me their Dad.  What do I mean? Well, first of all, when they went through the divorce, Mom became the one and only safe haven and authority figure the kids had.  Also, every new routine or custom I introduce only serves as a reminder that I am in no way, shape, or form one of the parents they were born with.
  3. Parents are protective. I’d wager my wife and I aren’t the only parents who get a little protective and defensive when it comes to step-parent criticism or discipline.  Some families are on the same page and take on very conventional roles, while others- like us- struggle with the way our spouses treat our kids and raise their own.
  4. Out of home parents can sometimes suck. Let’s face it, we were all hoping for the perfect situation where we get remarried, blend families and create a brand-new (and upgraded) life for ourselves, our kids and our step-kids.  Then comes the ah-s**t! moment, when we realize that there are people out there who aren’t happy for you and don’t want to see your vision come to fruition.  This topic could take up a post of its own (you know what I mean) so I’ll just move on.  

 

Over the last two years, I’ve learned some valuable lessons from all of this.  The first is that God is looking out for my wife and kids, too.  He’s not going to let me screw this up too bad for them so long I lean on Him to get through it.  Secondly, the sooner I come to terms with reality, the faster I will adjust to it, and my kids will follow suit.

 

The next thing is that I need to humble myself every day and stay flexible.  I have a new wife, two new kids, and two kids that have a life equally spent outside of our home. I have to respect that we are all navigating these waters together and while my wife and I are co-captains, the kids also need roles that make them feel significant and a part of the process.

 

As our church pastor puts it, spouses need to try and hear one another with loving ears and speak to one another with loving words.  What my wife thinks is best for my kids and what I think is best for hers can be really hurtful if shared and heard the wrong way. I used to think couples counseling was the launching pad for divorce.  But this time around, it is a Godsend.  Having a professional translate for us while we are still learning to speak each other’s languages has been pretty significant.

 

Allowing myself to get worked up over the behavior, attitude, involvement (or lack thereof) etc. of the out of home parents only drives a wedge between me and my wife, and puts our kids in the middle of situations they already don’t understand.  Don’t waste time trying to change things out of your control.  Focus on your own home, be above reproach with your custody agreement, and remember that your kids love those people too.

 

Last but not least, the most valuable lesson I’ve learned is to count my blessings.  I have a smokin’-hot, intelligent and talented wife who loves and supports me, four healthy children who love and laugh at me, a fulfilling career that helps to support us all, and family experiences that are piling up every day. All of that makes every humbling, frustrating and challenging moment worth the effort.

 

 

 

 

 


Love you, babe!  Thanks for sharing ♥

BE GRATEFUL FOR THE CHALLENGE

Challenge

I listened to a great message yesterday. It hit me hard especially after having a very revealing week. We went to our counseling session on Tuesday, and it was a doozy for me. The counselor finally asked me a little about my past marriage, and after explaining it to her, it ended in her telling me some fascinating things about my previous relationship and what I’m suffering with now as a result of it. I’ll share more about this in another post. It hit me pretty hard though, and I’ve kept quiet for a little bit after finding out the information that I did.  Just need some time to reflect and wrap my head around it all.

Fast forward to church yesterday…….we had a guest speaker. He started talking about how the things that are crippling in our lives are in fact the things that we need to be most thankful about. He was basically saying that the people in our lives that have wronged us are the people that we are learning the most from. The most challenging people that we deal with are the people that are helping us grow and learn. My husband and I had to laugh out loud in church because right away we both know who challenges me the most right now and to start looking at this person as a blessing from God, isn’t the most natural thing to do right at the moment, I’m going to try though.

So, thinking about your past, you can probably quickly think about the people in your life that have wronged you, hurt you, challenged you. Instead of wishing you never would’ve come into contact with that person, be grateful that you did. For through that person you were taught something or are being taught something. It’s a complete shift in thinking. I challenge you to try it and see what happens in your life!

♥ The Blended Tribe


 

DON’T GET PLAYED BY YOUR KIDS!

When your step kid talks crap about the weekend with his other parent, we tell him to stop talking badly about his other parent, and he says “it’s ok because he does the same thing about us when he’s not with us.”
What’s the problem here?!?! We’ve known all along about the crap talking, but hearing him admit it is nice I guess.
DON’T GET PLAYED BY YOUR KIDS!! If they are talking crap to you about the other parent, chances are they are talking crap about you too. Kids are going to try to use any angle they can get. The best way to deal with this situation is to stop them! They have no business being disrespectful to the other parent. You need to let them know you’re not going to tolerate it. We try to turn whatever they are saying into a positive thing. That way we are letting them vent still, but trying to make the child see the positive in what the other parent was trying to do. Or you just stop them and tell them they have no business being disrespectful to another adult, especially their parent. You choose!! Whatever you do, don’t play into it and don’t get played by your kids!

The Reasons Why We See a Marriage Counselor

Do we see a Marriage Counselor? Hell YES, we do!
Why? Well, Why not?!?

Marriage counselor

We started seeing one because we felt it would be beneficial for us to have a non-bias person mediating some of our concerns especially when it comes to the kiddos. We got a referral from somebody we trust and low and behold; she’s a step-mama too!! There are so many positive reasons to go to counseling with your spouse. It will improve relationship satisfaction, and you gain a better understanding of how your spouse feels, it promotes positive ways to resolve conflict, and much more.
With this being both of our second marriage, we have a lot going against us statistically. Neither of us wants to be another statistic when it comes to our marriage and our family. We’re doing everything possible to avoid it from happening again. Hopefully, our determination and love will prevent that from happening a second time, but God only knows that people can drastically change and you have no control over another person thoughts or feelings.
We’re going as a preventative, and so far I think we both are amazed at how much we’ve benefited from it. It’s important to find the right counselor for you and your spouse, so keep looking until you find the right fit. Be selective about who you take advice from; you’re not going to receive marriage advice from somebody who’s been divorced a couple of times and not married, right?!?  Be selective.
If you need a recommendation for counselors in the Five Cities, then hit me up @ brilee4@gmail.com.              ♥ The Blended Tribe

 


 

Why We Should Teach Our Kids Manners

Manners
Money can’t buy you these things

From the day my kids started talking I made sure always to have them say please, thank you, eat with their mouth closed, use table manners, these are all the basics that get you through life….right?!? Yeah, not everybody teaches their kids these things.  Basic manners are not something that’s just going to come to your kids, you have to instill it in them and the younger, the better. Honestly, I started teaching them this in the beginning just because that’s the way my parents raised me, and now more and more I hear from people how polite my children are, and I’m so proud when I hear this. I don’t care about having a straight-A kid. A’s do nothing for me, don’t get me wrong, I do expect my kids to get decent grades, but I don’t need honor roll students. I’m proud of my kids when they’ve done something kind for somebody else, or get a good report about something reflecting their character.
It’s never too late to start teaching your kids manners!! If this is something that’s fallen at the waist side for whatever reason, that’s ok, but start TODAY!!

Teach your kid’s table manners: Eating with their mouth closed, not talking when foods in their mouth, not passing gas at the table. I mean this is not crazy stuff right?!?

Teach your kids to say hello when they are out and see somebody they know along with looking people in the eyes when they are talking to them.

Teach your kids ALWAYS to say please, thank you and excuse me.

Teach your little girls to be ladies and your little guy how to be a gentleman.  Chivalry is dead these days.  Teach your sons to be courteous to others.

please and thank you

These are fundamental tools that I believe we should be instilling in our kids from the beginning. It’s not too early, and it’s never too late to start! So start today! It’s sad, but at this time in age teaching your kids these skills will make them stand out from the rest. And if you’re already showing your kids these things, then THANK YOU!! We all appreciate it!

Three Simple Ways To Put Your Spouse First

 

remarried
Jon & I

Who comes first in a blended family? Your spouse always comes first right?! Spouse before kids can get a little tricky after getting remarried. Parents have a lot of guilt when it comes to their kids and having gone through a divorce. For some period after your divorce, it’s just you and your kids; your kids move to your top priority.  You then bring another person into the mix, and sometimes they bring kids with them…..things can get complicated, and the kids that were once number one are supposed to be number two.  Doesn’t seem like an uncomplicated task right? HA!  Children are a temporary assignment, but your spouse is supposed to be with you a lifetime.

spouse first
Spouse is number one

Spouse is number one!
Marriage first has taken some getting used to for us. The first year was a learning period where we were trying to help the kids adjust the best way possible along with us getting used to this new family we created. Going into year two we slowly figured out that to make this entire thing work, Jon and I need to be number one in each other’s lives. Forget the guilt, forget the kids thinking it’s unfair, forget the negative comments from the kids. This thought was a little foreign to both of us, so we started off slowly, and it seems to get better and better each day.

Here’s what we started doing to put our marriage first:

1. Check in with each other before making big decisions when it comes to the kids. Whether it’s my kids or his, we connect first to make sure we’re on the same page or to discuss why we aren’t on the same page.
2. We try to take a walk each evening just the two of us and connect on our day and what’s going on without the nosey kids listening in or interrupting. The kids will ask to go, and we tell them NO!! If we have to do a separate walk with them we will, but they are coming to terms with this is our daily time to connect, and we need that time. Our walk time has been one of the most beneficial things we started doing. Getting the fresh air and getting away for a brief moment, does a world of good for us.
3. Pray together!! If you’re religious, take the time to pray with your spouse. It takes you to a deeper level with your partner and with God, it’s called spiritual intimacy. I can’t stress this enough. We pray every night together and just started praying in the morning as well. It’s awkward at first, but fight through it, it’s so worth it!

Doing little things in your marriage like these will be a good start in putting your spouse first. These tips apply to all married couples, not just remarried couples in a blended family. The best example you can give your kids is showing them a loving, caring, union between you and your spouse. It gives them security, and it shows them the way that they are supposed to treat their partner when they are older and what they should expect in return.
Also, you don’t have to be perfect in front of your kids. You can argue and disagree in front of them, but make sure you are showing them the proper way to handle the situation and that it’s ok to disagree and still love one another, it’s a good thing for them to witness this as well.

♥ The Blended Tribe


**photo credit: www.weddedfilms.com

Meet Mr. & Mrs. P

•How did you two meet and how long have you been married?
We were matched on eharmony but didn’t want to pay so found him on Facebook and became friends. We lived 2 hours apart but had long daily phone conversations and met up about once a week. We started dating in February and married in October. We’ve been married a little over three months.

•How long did you date before getting married?
About eight months but it was more purposeful than dating- it was like premarital counseling that whole time, ha!

•How old are each of the children that you brought into the marriage?
One boy is 3, and one is 8

the boys
The Boys

•Did you become an instant family?
Not really, more like roommates who (mostly) enjoy each other. The boys both started out (when we were dating) really wanting a sibling and after moving in together weren’t as excited. We have to know when and how to give each individual space.

•What does discipline look like in your home?
We try to allow the older to be disciplined mainly by dad in order for him to grow a relationship with stepmom. The younger, not having had a dad around, is disciplined by both to set clear authority guidelines for him as a toddler.

•Biggest blessing in having a blended family?
I think both boys are now able to learn what it’s like to share life with others, versus the kid world revolving around them alone before. We all benefit from learning to appreciate and cooperate with different personalities.

•The biggest challenge in having a blended family?
I think while you need to be building strength and unity as a couple, the needs of the kids often emerge and take center stage. So it’s a balancing act. Making sure the kid’s needs are addressed while also prioritizing the marriage and keeping that bond strong.

•What does Co-parenting look like for you?
In my case, I got sole custody, so I don’t co-parent. In my husband’s case, they share 50/50, and I support that process by providing rides, etc. I’m cooperative and cordial with his ex but leave most of the logistics to him/her.

•Any tips you can give other blended families?
I’d say to take advantage of resources like Weekend to Remember and Family Life Blended and their materials and conferences. We make going to church, family prayer and bible time a unifying experience. And we look for ways to put our marriage first to model for the kids what a healthy one should be. They feel loved and secure when our marriage is important.

Blended Wedding
Blended wedding

•Anything else you want us to know about your family?
We both had to understand and sort through the effects of having past marriages with narcissistic abuse. It impacted everything as far as guilt over divorce, lingering triggers related to anxiety and PTSD, and being able to date someone new in a healthy way. If anyone is trying to understand what happens in a toxic marriage and heal, I recommend The Emotionally Destructive Marriage by Leslie Vernick and Why Does He Do That? By Lundy Bancroft. If divorcing and dealing with custody with a high conflict individual, I highly recommend the book Splitting on divorcing narcissistic or borderline people, and pretty much any resource by Tina Swithin and One Mom’s Battle. I know for me, I had to come to a full understanding of what my past marriage had broken and warped in me before I could love again. Now I’m passionate about helping others understand abuse, raise healthy children despite it, and avoiding toxic relationships or dealing with disordered individuals the best ways possible. It impacts way more marriages and families than people even know.
I’m so grateful now to know what it is to have an actual partner in life and have this fresh chance to model that cooperation and sacrificial love for our kids.


→ Thank you, Mrs. P. for taking the time to share with us.  Your family is adorable and you are an inspiration, my friend!                                    ♥ The Blended Tribe

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