Saturday, January 4, 2020
Two couples are weighing heavily on my mind this morning, as I pull myself into a new day, week, month, year, and decade; both couples' families are facing a rough new dawn.
TOM AND MEL
One couple, Tom and Mel, (names changed, as well as some of the more identifiable facts below) first came to our weekly stepparenting support group classes around nine years ago. They weren't married yet but she was helping him raise his two pre-teen children from a previous marriage. The battles with his ex and the conflicts between Mel and Tom's children were putting a serious strain on their relationship.
They continued attending classes weekly while looking for ways to deal with their problems. Eventually, I began seeing them privately for couples' mediation sessions and we were able to settle the dust. His children grew older; things evened off a bit between Mel and Tom's kids; the couple settled down and had a baby of their own, which helped solidify the new family as Tom's daughter fell in love with her new stepsister.
As with most couples, Tom and Mel had ups and downs. His kids grew up and became quite a bit better; Mel and he had a second baby of their own; they moved to another state and we lost touch. I recently got an email from Mel saying that things had worsened to the point that Tom finally moved out saying he didn't love her any more.
Mel stays in touch via Facebook, and I watched her struggle through a Christmas and into this new year alone with her two young kids. Both Tom and Mel are broken hearted and alone and wondering what went wrong - but they both agree they don't feel like trying any more.
DREW AND ANNA
About the same time, another couple -- Drew and Anna -- began attending the group classes. He was a local man who was engaged to a younger Russian woman after exchanging letters and emails for a few months. They were attending our support group, like Tom and Mel, to prepare for the daunting prospect of joining two touchy situations into one more touchy situation. He, too, had two children from a previous failed marriage.
Like the first couple, Drew and Anna struggled with not only the same, common stepfamily conflicts - kids, an ex, and new relationship upsets - but with the extra frustration of different culture expectations. I met with them privately some over the years and together we managed to find the patience, understanding, and love to push through together.
They had a baby boy whom they were both crazy about, and life spiraled on through the ups and downs. At one point, Anna contacted me and asked for help with some tougher-than-usual conflicts during which Drew had moved out. But, in this case love won out, and they got back together and moved on in love.
Then Drew had a slight health complication which, suddenly, lead to his totally unexpected death. Anna and their grade school age son were crushed. We all felt the shock as the joy of reunion was followed so quickly by tragedy.
Today, through her postings on Facebook I see Anna recovering from her loss and blooming again with their son. Of course she longs for her sweetheart, but Anna has the comfort of beautiful memories of his love and their happy time together before he was gone from her.
TWO VERY DIFFERENT NEW YEARS
And now, in this turning over of a year and lives, I watch these two families -- one broken and alone, the other alone but still full of love. Neither knew what the future held for them. Neither could have anticipated the unexpected turns their lives would take in 2020.
NOW my friends, which future will you choose for your own family to experience in a year or a decade? Will you give up and submit your children to broken hearts and a future of watching Mom and Dad bicker and play tug-of-war with them, teaching their children lessons of warfare and how to hurt someone you once loved?
Or will you look beyond the petty arguments that attack every stepfamily, choosing to teach your children, like Anna is doing, that love goes on beyond disappointments, and even beyond death?
Yes, both mothers are now raising their children without their partners, but -- oh! -- what a difference stubborn, determined love can make! One household filled with warmth and sweet memories versus another filled with ache and bitterness.
You have the choice. During every fight, every upset, every disappointment, you get to choose your future. And please remember, not only are you choosing your own possible future, but you are consciously deciding what you want to demonstrate to your children.
Step carefully, my friends.
Stepcoach Bob Collins
P. S. If you appreciated this insight onto other couples' rollercoaster of stepfamily lives, 1) let me know and 2) if you have a story of survival or of loss tell me so I can share it.
And, if you let me know you liked this article in the comments, I'll give you another picture of possibilities and eventualities in families like yours.
God bless your whole family!
Wednesday, October 4, 2017
How much information do your children need in order to do what you require from them? Over load or insufficient data?
I have several devices, tablet, phone, laptop, etc, etc, as I’m sure you probably do, too. And I have several power supplies which I have collected over time with the devices. The power supplies are different amperages, stated in different ways, which drives my poor writer’s brain nuts.
This morning I was trying to choose between one power supply that said “output: 8.5 Amps” and another that said, “output: 500 mAmps.” >sigh< unable to find my old college math books, I consulted my next favorite source, Google.
Three hours later, after learning about basic quantum electronic theory and the origin of lightning-based home-schooled electromechanics, I stumbled upon a simple converter that told me, with the click of a simulated button, which one was more goo-er-er.
These days, we have WAY too much information available for the efficient delivery of answers to befuddled, overworked humanoids.
WHAT INFO DO KIDS NEED FROM PARENTS?
In our oversaturated, overstimulated, overinformationalized society, I am seeing so many cases of mis-communication between parents and their kids. We moan about a lack of respect from our children, when – I suspect – the problem is really a lack of connection.
Parents have lately become victims of “Explain-itis” when it comes to giving directions to their children. The directive to stop hitting a playmate slowly melts into a long, dry lecture on the reasons for mutual respect, societal order, individuals’ personal rights versus self-esteem, and all the other catch words spewed out by everyone from the media to Facebook to educational flyers.
By the time a well-meaning parent has explained the psycho-social theory behind playground fairness and mutual concern for the planet, the poor child has forgotten what the lecture started over. And he has lost a little more respect for Mom’s or Dad’s intellectual usefulness.
A simple, “Tommy! Stop hitting that boy! Now, apologize to him; shake his hand; and get in the car, we’re going home,” is an excellent delivery of the necessary information and steps to be taken for Tommy to end the inappropriate action, reconcile with the other child, and begin his next action.
Our children’s minds are not developed, until their mid-twenties, to incorporate and process complex multiple streams of information. The most effective way to instruct them is with simple directives, delivered in a straightforward order, so that they can process one step at a time.
Long detailed explanations about why some actions must be taken, are best left for later, perhaps at bedtime when the excitement of the moment has passed.
If you spend too much time carefully enlightening your child about the engineering facts of the internal combustion engine and the momentum-to-surface texture friction ratio required to halt a moving automobile – you may end up finishing the explanation in an ambulance on the way to a hospital.
Just like I was distracted and confused by all the in-depth discussions about amperages, your kids don’t necessarily need to understand the “Why” and the background, as much as they need to know What you want them to do first, second, and third.
Remember that kids don’t like “TMI”!
[by Bob Collins, Copyright 2017]
Monday, October 2, 2017
Whether you are establishing a secure link to your bank’s website, or attempting to keep your teenagers out of your computer, passwords are a fact of life in today’s online world. And passwords can be both a blessing – as they keep information safe – and a curse – since they are often so bloody hard to remember.
When I begin to play “The Password Game,” my wife just leaves the room. She says she doesn’t want to hear my explosions of rage as I try every password I have ever used, as well as, of course, as the one I set up for the stupid site! I have no idea what she’s talking about.
The following article, from The Dictionary Blog, offers some good advice to keep your surfing secure and, hopefully, non-violent.
STEPcoach Bob Collins
Monday, September 4, 2017
There’s no use dancing around the obvious point that most stepfamilies are formed from a controversial act: divorce. And there’s no way to avoid the fact that many religions—and therefore many religious people—have a problem dealing with stepfamilies.
Divorce and remarriage are tough fits in our world: the Bible says God hates them (Malachi 2:14-16), but our society encourages them and makes them convenient, so it’s just a fact of life we must deal with. It’s a fact, too, that there are many ministers and well–meaning folk out there who try to ignore — or worse yet, condemn — those of us who are in a stepfamily.
But the fact of the matter is that, while Jesus discouraged the practice (except in particular cases; Matthew 5:36), He never refused His care and healing power to any who sincerely asked for it. So, as Christ-followers (you know…“WWJD”), neither can we. (And by we, I mean both we in STEP- Carefully! Inc., and you, if you’re a Christian!)
Jesus even demonstrated how to deal with this sticky subject. In John 4:6–30, Jesus reminds the Samaritan woman at the well that she’s been remarried several times…then He drops the subject and goes on to minister to her needs. And as a result, you’ll recall, an entire town came out to meet Him.
That’s the model we follow. While acknowledging that divorce should never happen, we accept the fact that it does, help as much as we can, and move on. We don’t have a choice, really, since everyone involved with our programs have been divorced, remarried, or have family members who have lived through it. That’s why it’s important to look for a church, a minister, a counselor, or a therapist who has had personal experience with the challenges of divorce, or who has an open heart and mind about it.
If you ever need to talk, please feel free to contact us. Been there; done that; got the scars to understand!
STEPcoach Bob Collins
Monday, August 7, 2017
[THIS is part of a letter I am sending to all divorce attorneys and family court judges in Sebastian and Crawford County. PLEASE NOTE the 2nd through 4th paragraphs. This is Very Important Stuff!]
…. “One point of confusion seems to come up occasionally: who exactly is Required by law to attend the parenting classes. Arkansas Code states:
A.C.A. § 9-12-322 (2017) Divorcing parents to attend parenting class.
(a) When the parties to a divorce action have minor children residing with one (1) or both parents, the court, prior to or after entering a decree of divorce, may require the parties to:
(1) Complete at least two (2) hours of classes concerning parenting issues faced by divorced parents; or
(2) Submit to mediation in regard to addressing parenting, custody, and visitation issues.
“So, each parent, regardless of *custody orders, *who filed for divorce, or *who intends to be primary caregiver of the children, is required to attend either the class or private mediation. Parents who attend these classes understand it is beneficial for both of the parents and all the children for both parents and any other adult family members to attend the classes.
“Our class plan still emphasizes parents not arguing in front of the children; cooperating regarding child support payments, shared responsibilities, and household rules that affect the children; teaching children to respect both parents; and helping children cope with the divorce.
“As of this Summer, we will have been teaching our Parenting Together class for divorcing parents for 13 years! That’s a lot of classes (over 230) and nearly 2,300 parents who have been shown how to guide their children through divorce.
Thank you for your part in directing these hurting, confused parents to our class where they can receive direction and a plan for their futures with their children. Your recommendations have helped greatly.
“I have included some brochures you may photocopy and hand out to your clients or interested parties. As always, you are welcome and encouraged to visit my classes at any time at no charge. Please let me know in advance, so I can have handouts and information packets for you.”
Certified Domestic Mediator