My Spouse or My Kids?

My Kids or My Spouse?

You married for love. You married forever. But you never expected your marriage would involve having to choose between your new spouse an...

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Kids Need Security

Every child needs to have a sense of security in order to have a healthy concept of the world. But children of divorce need that security even more than kids whose world is still together. Children whose parents have broken their home have a special need to know their lives are safe and their future is at least somewhat secure.

Security does not come from four walls or from three meals or from trust funds or bank accounts. Security does not come from a particular number of toys or gadgets, or the type car they are taken to school in, or from their parents' job titles. Security is not a function of money or things, of standing or dignity.

To a child whose parents have divorced, security is a safe family mold into which that child can settle. It is peace and quiet instead of fights and shouting. It is safe hugs instead of seclusion in their room, away from the chaos. Security comes from knowing their adults are sane, not obsessed or driven by hatred or revenge.

A child whose family has been torn apart needs to be able to see, hear, feel, and sense that order has been restored. Little nerves are easily shattered by loss, but not so easily repaired afterward. They need to see parents speaking to each other with calm demeanors. They need to hear their adults speaking to each other with some semblance of cooperation, if not respect. And they need to sense that the storms are finally breaking up; that there is a possibility for normalcy again.

Their hopes for the future depend on Mom and Dad demonstrating that they will make the effort to move past the past difficulties and disagreements. Maybe not to reconciliation (although every child with divorced parents prays and dreams they will reconcile someday), but at least past the anger to a willingness to work together for that child's needs, daily, weekly, and lifelong.

The child whose world has been shattered by angry adults needs those same adults to teach the child that peace is the next step. The child is waiting, almost with held breath, for Mom and Dad to say something decent, or, maybe, something kind, about the other parent. When that happens, the child feels a huge fear relent. He can begin to hope for some sort of a real life again. She can finally stop fearing another devastating explosion that tears at her heart as the two people most important to her hurt each other, and her.

Yes, that first civil word releases irrational hope for rebuilding. Of course, the child immediately begins hoping the insanity has ended and he can wake up from it like a horrible nightmare. And she will be disappointed when she realizes that Mom and Dad actually are going to stay apart, despite her dearest wishes and needs. But the disappointment is measured against her just-passed torture of their open hostility toward each other, so it is a bit more bearable. Though it still makes him sick in the pit of his stomach to know his family will never be right again.

Children of divorce need security. Only their blood parents can give it. Their parents took away their security and hope and peace. So you owe it to your child or children to bury your selfish anger and give them the blessings of peace.

Love, Joy, & ... Peace,
STEPcoach Bob Collins

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Super Stepfamily Reports & Ebooks Available

Please hurry over HERE to pick up our exclusive series of guides for stepfamilies before they go up in price next week. Our price increase isn't going to be too harsh, but why not get these super helpers at their lower price now!

Reports include:
* 12 Steps to Improving Your Stepfamily's Communication - our groundbreaking basic guidelines for all stepfamilies to prevent conflicts and promote peace
* The Rule Book - a great, easy to use workbook to help you plan your family's success
* You're Not My Dad! - to help stepdads understand raising another man's kids
* You're Not My Mom! - written with the help of several stepmoms to love the hard-to-love
* Responsibility of A Lifetime - understanding what you need to give your new family
* Beat the Holiday Blues - plans and preparation for the holidays, when stepfamily challenges abound!

You can wait if you want, but eventually you'll need the information in these reports. They're still bargain priced so you can get one of each. The ebook format makes quick delivery possible and they're readable on your computer or your electronic book reader or PDF.

Whether you're a stepmom, a stepdad, married to one, or a stepgrandparent, you'll find great guidelines in these terrific resources. Go HERE to order your stepfamily success guides today at curent low prices.

Love, Joy, & Peace
STEPcoach Bob Collins

I'm in the Sun Sentinal! Cool!

Florida Sun Sentinal newspaper columnist, Rafael Olmeda, is a friend of mine from Twitter. Rafael writes a neat column about family and parenting here. He allowed me to brag about my wonderful stepfamily in his column this Memorial Day.

Read his column with my thoughts by following this link:

I hope you can think of even more reasons to be thankful for your own stepfamily. If not, well, you might as well fake it as to complain! If you need help thinking of positive aspects of being in a blending family, let me know and I'll help you find reason to rejoice!

STEPcoach Bob Collins

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Stepparenting Made Easy - in 3 Simple Steps

I've been teaching my stepfamily clients for over a decade now that, "stepparenting isn't nearly as hard as most steppers make it!" What I mean is, all you have to do to be a successful stepparent is to love your spouse and their kids unconditionally, consistently, and more than yourself. That's our simple marching orders from out Leader: "love your 'neighbor' as yourself," love never fails, and "consider others more important than yourself." (Those are in the Bible: Matthew 22:39, 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, and Philippians 2:3-8)

Now what does that mean in a real life, stepfamily, situation? We (remember, I'm a stepparent, too) are to completely open our hearts to this new family, "warts and all." And we are to place their needs before our own. BUT we are not to take over and try to re-create them in our own idea of a perfect family. If your new husband had no legs when you married him, you made a contract to love him as he is. You don't begin insisting he walk! And if he's a (particular sort) of father to his kids, you might lovingly make helpful suggestions once or twice (any more than that is nagging!), but how he raises his kids is his business.

You and I signed on as a spouse, not as a co-parent. God in His infinite and sometimes-really-hard-to-understand wisdom chose the biological parents of your stepkids. We may never know why in this life but He selected the ones He felt were right for the job. ... and it was NOT you or me. We get the *privilege* of being a blessing to them, but we ain't their mama or daddy! We are allowed to contribute input and assistance from time to time when the bio-parent requests it, but only then.

1) your stepkids have bio-parents (BPs) already
2) we are not them
3) but we can be invited to help by BPs

This is how our job becomes much, much (much) easier than most of us make it. We are not responsible for how these children turn out. …
We are not responsible for how these children turn out.
(say it with me ...)
We are not responsible for how these children turn out.
We are not responsible for how these children turn out.
That job has already been Assigned to others.

Our job is to love our spouse and their children no matter what they say, or do, or vomit out of their precious little mouths at us. Love them. Period.

"Think of them more highly than ourselves" means, don't despair of their abilities to raise their own children. For some reason they were Picked to raise these kids. We are the special dessert they get just for choosing us! We are not the main dish in the meal. If you see your spouse doing something stupid in raising their child, gently, respectfully suggest another way to them. If they take your advice, you have bragging rights forever (no, not really, be humble!); if they ignore you, it's their right. Just like it's your right to ignore outsiders who tell you how to raise your kids.

"Outsiders!!!" Yes, we're outsiders to this family. We have been invited in by one part of the family (spouse) and are a part of him/her, but we DID NOT marry the whole family. They have already established their habits, their quirks, and their oddities long before we came along. It is high minded and rude of us to assume that we need to change them, no matter how "wrong" their ways look to us (the invited outsiders).


Life as a stepparent can be so very much easier to bear if we will keep in mind that our job is just to love them no matter what. Our job is NOT to fix them or change them or re-create them.

Step back. Sit down. Take a deeeeep breath. Let it out. Take another deeeep breath. Let it out. Relax into just loving them. If they act like a zoo full of monkeys, well, then get a bag of popcorn and enjoy your front row seat! Sometimes monkeys is monkeys. You can put hats on them and teach them to play the banjo, but they still are just cute, lovable, fun-to-be-around monkeys.

You'll give yourself a sprain if you keep trying to make them conform to your ideas of what they should be like.

Stepparenting is really quite easy, IF YOU DO IT RIGHT.

Love, joy, and peace
STEPcoach Bob Collins

Monday, May 11, 2009

Planning to Succeed in Your New Family

A few years ago I created a new marriage preparation program. Not that there weren't plenty of good programs already. It was just that none of those met the needs of my clients. You see, all those clients were getting married for the second or third (or even fourth!) times. They already knew the basics about setting up a home with someone - checking accounts, personal space, moving away from Mom, all that sort of thing. What they needed was something different.

They needed a program to prepare them for the surprising and sometimes harsh realities of life in a stepfamily. I've worked with stepfamilies since 1996 and I've been in a stepfamily since 1994, so I know the special challenges involved in this exciting form of family. "We" have adventures first marriages never dream of. I called the new program STEPprep.

Basic marriage preparation programs, even the really good ones, don't take into account such matters as how you'll discipline each others' kids, how you'll deal with stepbrothers' and stepsisters' feelings of rivalry or jealousy or betrayal; or how you'd like your new husband to deal with your previous husband (if at all); or how much involvement you want your new wife to have with the folks who were best friends with you and your previous wife; or what you plan to do with your ex-in-laws when they begin giving input on your new spouse's method of raising their grandchildren. (!!)

These questions - among many others - are just the sort of things that can derail a second marriage before it gets well established. In my experience, it's not just the challenge, but the unexpected shock of those challenges that rocks most stepcouples relationships. By addressing all the possible and probable surprises in STEPprep, we can develop specific plans to deal with them before they come up. That means you will be prepared to prevent the kind of shocks that can pull you apart.

Another difference in my STEPprep course, from a standard marriage prep program, is the individualized design of each couple's program. While I deal with a set group of topics in STEPprep, most of the program is designed based on the couple's make up. For example, a couple consisting of:
* a twice-divorced mother of three teenagers, all of whom live with her full time, and a never-married man with no children,
will have vastly different needs and concerns from:
* a once-divorced man with two young daughters who visit him on weekends, and a once-divorced woman with a full-time son (and a very involved ex-husband).

As I've worked with stepfamilies across the US and around the world over the last dozen years, I have seen that there are almost an infinite number of couple combinations possible. Yet almost all stepfamilies also seem to experience some similar challenges. The best solution is to teach about the commonalities while also addressing the individual issues. Which is virtually impossible in a class setting, so I meet with each couple privately.

Before I begin working with an engaged couple, they must complete a data profile from which I design their program. The answers they provide tell me where their needs lie and what will most likely be their greatest challenges in their new marriage. Some couples need a great deal of preparation for dealing with their new stepchildren (and their own biological children's reactions to the marriage), others need more help with ex-spouses, while others need more direction about blending two different backgrounds. And all usually need at least a little coaching with these and other stepfamily issues.

I have heard back from some couples who have completed the STEPprep program and gone on to get married. They have all said that the lessons, scenarios, and practice discussions have actually come up in real life. Many have said that they used exact wording we practiced when they dealt with challenges from their children, their ex-es, and well meaning members of their extended family who had offered "help." I am gratified to hear that the program works, but happier to know these couples have a much better chance of a happy future together.

If you'd like information about the STEPprep program for yourself or someone you know, please call me directly at 479-522-7490, email me at, or visit the website at

Bob Collins, STEPcoach

Friday, May 8, 2009

In Case No One Else Tells You ... Happy Mothers' Day!

"Mothers' Day - bah humbug."
"Whoever came up with this idea most certainly wasn't a STEPmother!"
"I wish the stupid day would just pass me by."

Stepmoms have some strong feelings about Mothers' Day, and most aren't strong happy feelings. Over 13 years of working with steppers, I've seen some seriously hurt feelings, but not many are worse than the ones arising from this "holiday." Yes, Christmas season and birthdays can be hurtful, but something about an entire day set aside to point out that "You're Not My Mom!" is especially painful to many stepmothers.

Now, you may actually have stepkids who are anxious to bless you for your contributions to their family on this special day. Although my email suggests that if that's so, you're in the minority.

Most stepmoms bend over backward to make their stepchildren feel accepted, loved, and part of their home. Only to wake up on Mothers' Day to find out that that other woman gets all the glory, regardless of how much or how little she may have contributed to her own children's well being.

It's just unfair. Always has been and always will be.

What can you do?
First of all, prepare your mate - the biological father - for what you're facing. He is very possibly unaware of your feelings and hopes. In his eyes, you're his alone, and separate from his kids. Help him see that you have an investment in his children and that you are naturally hoping for some dividends this Mothers' Day. Doesn't have to be much: a card, a "Happy Mothers' Day," maybe a hug. Anything will be appreciated.

Second, focus on your own kids, if you have any. Concentrate on the blessings you get from them and allow that his kids are not yours. ("Darn right they're not mine! They'd act differently if they were mine!") If your stepkids offer anything, be sure to acknowledge it and thank them. Don't overlook their attempts to reach out.

And, if the entire day passes without anything said to you, do your best to be the adult in the family. Don't punish your stepkids for their childishness. Try not to punish your husband too much for his blindness. Next year will be better. (You might want to insure that by spelling out your feelings to your mate!)

Then, take yourself to a spa and enjoy yourself for yourself.

We love you, anyway. If you need to rebuild after some hurt feelings, write me and let me know. I can help.

Happy Mothers' Day, Stepmom!

Show your STEPfamily Pride!