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Travelling with Kids: Appeasing All Ages

Today’s modern and diverse family is busy, to say the least. Am I right?! That’s why it is so important to carve out some quality time together to reboot and reenergize. Planning a vacation for the whole family is a great way to reconnect and introduce children to the great big world out there. Of course, travelling with kids of different ages adds a whole new dimension to trips, but fear not, there are virtually endless options to keep all ages entertained.

Like any holiday though, things can go awry very quickly without the proper preparation. It can be challenging to create experiences that are appropriate to all ages, but a little planning goes a long way to ensure every member of the family has the time of their lives.

To be honest, no matter how much planning goes into a vacation, I find pool days to be the easiest to appease all the people, all the time. However, you’re on holidays and you’re here to explore your new surroundings, create new traditions, experience the culture and make memories to last long after the trip is over.

Here are some of my tips, tricks and suggestions to maximize success with children of multiple ages:

Know your kid's limits and play within it.

Travelling with kids is exhilarating but exhausting, so it’s best not to over plan your days. It’s so tempting to pack your itinerary with a crazy amount of activities and check off all your must-sees, but trust me, less can be more.

When you see that you’ve maxed out the older kids attention spans on a tour (aka they are back on their devices) or the younger ones are getting whiny and fussy, respect that they have had enough and schedule some downtime.

I would suggest no more than two activities a day and keep them interesting, short and sweet. Maybe try to get out and about in the mornings and relax during the afternoons, or allow the occasional sleep-in, you are on “holidays” after all!

Minimize the stress and maximize the fun.

Choose destinations that already offer choices like theme parks, cruises, or all-inclusive resorts. These types of vacations offer multiple levels of activities for all ages. For example:

Teen clubs - where they can hang out with other teens, make new friends, with sports games and social activities geared towards their age. They usually provide an unlimited snack bar, pool tables, air hockey, internet centre and video games and all things teen life.

Kids clubs - many resorts offer programming for kids as young as 4 months! Most include supervised recreational and educational activities for the little ones including nature walks and more hands-on play.

Consider an all-inclusive family holiday on a cruise ship.

A lot of cruise lines do cater to families and are great value for the money. Cruise lines specialize in multiple activities and provide various onboard facilities that are suitable for all age groups. Just like an all-inclusive resort, cruise ships offer kids clubs, teen clubs and even adult only clubs. You can choose to do as much or as little as you like.

Day time activities will keep everyone busy while at sea, and the themed night time entertainment can be as good as Broadway itself! Once you reach port at your different destinations, you can embark on multiple day trips to satisfy everyone's wishes. Waking up in a different port every morning is exciting and you don’t have to deal with the stress of transportation, accommodation or meals as this is already inclusive.

Some resorts even offer babysitting or kids only themed dinners so the adults can have some well deserved alone/regroup time. Try to book childcare in advance so you’re guaranteed a time. Not all are created equal, so do your research and see which ones fit your family’s needs.

Whatever type of resort you choose, be sure to plan for space. At the end of the day, if families can’t sleep comfortably in the room configuration, it’s not going to work. No matter how good the deal is or how convenient the location. If possible, try to choose larger family rooms, connecting rooms or even self-contained apartments to give the older kids (and everyone for that matter) a bit a breathing sp

ace. At the very least, a balcony to escape to!

If exploring Europe or trekking on a safari is more your speed, work with a travel planner who understands the unique requirements of families and can suggest cities or tours that will enrich your learning while keeping the kids engaged.

Keep routines as close to normal as possible. 

While little ones run smoothly on regularity, older kids learn from unpredictability. Pushing the schedule a little is ok but if your younger children still nap you need to allow time for naps or everyone will suffer. Same goes for bedtime routines. I like to keep evening plans close to or even in our resort. That way one parent can head back while the other hangs out with the older kids (while trying not to embarrass them too much.)

You can always switch up shifts every other night with the other parent or even the older kids.

Even better, bring the Grandparents along. They usually have an early bedtime as well so win-win!

Mix up the excursions. 

Museums and art galleries are fantastic ways to learn about different cultures, but too many will turn into fun killers, no matter what age they are. Try to schedule activities that offer opportunities to learn, sneaky ways to exercise and push everyone out of their comfort zones, just enough to be fun and memorable.

Get the kids involved in planning (especially the older ones) and make a list of their must-do interests and try to schedule one for each person. Incorporating some of their wishes will make the vacation a better experience for everyone. This is where having strong negotiating skills comes in handy!

Some all ages activities could include; cooking classes to learn how to make a family favourite, swim with dolphins, conquer horseback riding at a dude ranch, or dare to take on a zip line - which I did recently after caving to peer pressure from my kids.

While it scared the pants off me, I was happy I did it and lived to tell the tale. I now have the Instagram photos to prove it and I can check that one off the list! Whew.

Side note - the 5-year-old in our group was the bravest of all!

Break up the band.

Don’t feel obligated to do everything as a group 24/7, it’s ok to divide and conquer and do separate things for a few hours, then come back together for dinner.  Divide into natural pairings of age groups and choose appropriate excursions accordingly. Just be sure to discuss expectations and rules with older kids ahead of time.

Be clear on the amount of freedom they may or may not have in a different country, and remind them of family commitments. For example, the older teens might be free to explore on their own some days but all meals will be together.

If you are travelling with kids as a bigger group download the ‘WhatsApp’ to keep everyone informed of what’s happening. WhatsApp has been my go-to app for messaging abroad with larger groups for years. It uses very little data for multiple texts and keeps everyone in the loop conveniently and easily.

Once you reconvene you’ll be surprised how interesting the dinner conversations get when you’re all sharing your epic stories of the day.

Challenges

The fun kind Organize some challenges for the trip ahead of time to inspire them to learn about their new surroundings. For example; a photo contest for your family Instagram (it’s so fun to see how creative they can be), who can learn the most words in the native language, or a scavenger hunt, or maybe even your own amazing race challenge.

Family challenges are a great way to encourage teamwork and bond as a tribe.

Accept what you cannot control. 

Relax and keep your schedule flexible. Figure out what works best for your family. Everything might not go according to plan and not everyone is going to like all the activities you’ve organized. The trick here is to experiment and see what happens. What’s that old saying… you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it rate 5 stars??

No doubt there will be many bumps along the holiday road, but if you stay open-minded you will have fun, learn lessons and make cherished memories. Most importantly, as Gloria Gaynor said, you will survive. If all else fails - POOL.

Now…what are we going to do with the dog?  That’s a whole other blog

Happy Family Travels!

How do you plan for a large, multi-age family trip?  We’d love to hear your suggestions

About Marsha Dark

Marsha is a travel designer and founder of Preferred Pineapple. She quit her advertising career of 25+ years to turn her pursuit of travel into a full time job.  If she’s not designing and planning bespoke itineraries for her clients, she is travelling with her husband and two sons - adding to her little black book of amazing places. Marsha travels with curiosity and passion and inspires people to do the same!  She’s been to 22 countries and counting!
 
For more travel inspiration you can follow her Instagram page @preferredpineapple.
If you need help planning your next dream vacation, email her at Marsha@preferredpineapple.com

The post Travelling with kids: How to appease all ages! appeared first on Social Stepmom.

Travelling with kids: How to appease all ages! was first posted on March 21, 2019 at 10:18 am.
©2017 "Social Stepmom". Use of this feed is for personal non-commercial use only. If you are not reading this article in your feed reader, then the site is guilty of copyright infringement. Please contact me at quyen@riperesolution.com
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Lessons with the Yogi Lama: How to be a team with biomom Hello. Guten Tag from Germany, Social Stepmom Readers!

This might sound too good to be true but I am one of the rare unicorns orbiting in the stepmom galaxy, as biomom and I get along. We are not BFF’s braiding our hair and wearing matching jerseys to game days. However, we are always polite and cordial when we see each other be it during pick-ups//drop-offs or school events. We even host birthday parties together. Biomom bakes the cake and biodad, my husband aka Bavarian Babe (BB) and I organize the games.

Just a few weeks ago all three of us attended a parent/teacher conference together.

Can you believe it? We sat in the same classroom, at the same time with {our} son and listened as his teacher updated us on his achievements, progress and next steps. After the conference, BB and I hugged {our} little boy lama goodbye, smiled, and waved as he drove home with biomom.

My goal in writing this blog is not to make other stepmoms who perhaps may not have such an ideal relationship with biomom feel frustrated or even jealous. Instead, my mission is to inspire you and provide realistic, practical strategies and small steps that hopefully with help all {step} families find a nice balance between kindness and respect.

We have found a way to put the kids interests first - that sounds easier said than done, right? It is not easy. To me, the effortless thing is to feel irked (maybe even resentful?) and give up.

It can be really hard to be a well-blended family.

A stepmom that gets along with a biomom takes patience and dedication to a higher cause. I like thinking about this from a 'team' perspective.

Once upon a time, I co-coached a varsity boys volleyball team. We practised Tuesdays to Thursdays, 4-6pm and participated in home/away games every weekend from the end of August to mid-November. That is a lot of time spent in the gym, on the road, competing on courts across Europe and all for the greater good of our team. It took us seven long years to finally win the glorious championship title and after so much sweat, grit, and tears our perseverance and dedication paid off. We knew we earned those gold medals and we wore them with pride.

That is how I look at raising children within a blended family. We are a T-E-A-M, no matter what it takes or how hard it gets; we are going to stick together. Our shared purpose is to nurture {our} children to grow up to be well-adjusted, balanced, contributing citizens of the world who treat all people and animals who cross their path with dignity and compassion.

When biomom & stepmom get along it sets up the blended family to see each other as team members who are striving and thriving.

In addition to my experience as a volleyball coach and yoga teacher, I also have close to two decades as a special educator working in international schools. The young people I had the pleasure to teach had all sorts of {special needs} ranging from Cerebral Palsy, being on the Autism spectrum to having an extra chromosome also known as Down's syndrome. My time working with students of determination taught me so much about slowing down, understanding things from a different perspective and smiling through it all.

It is fair to say that I have a very unique perspective on co-parenting. My teaching expertise and years of classroom experience often helping parents, teachers and administrators through sensitive situations and students achieve their goals to the best of their abilities can now be used in my very own home and yours too!

Four ways you can work as a team with biomom 1) Set a stepmom mantra

The yogi in me has years of experience as a long time devotee of this ancient practice.

The first thing I tell a new student is that yoga is not a competition. It does not matter that the person on the mat next to you might be doing the splits and you can barely touch your toes. Focus on your own body, listen and send breath where you need it. Yoga is a journey, each day is different and one’s practice is ever evolving.

The same yogic principles can be applied to the biomom in your life: it is not your job to judge or compare her style of parenting to yours. Remind yourself that each day parenting throws something different at you and we are all doing our best to go with the flow.

Perhaps you think she gave you a condescending look or you do not like the way she handled something while the kid(s) were at her place. Instead of a typical response of getting all fussed about it,  breathe in new energy and exhale what you do not need. Holding on to negative emotions will not do anyone any good.

Action Plan:

Take the time to set your own “go-to” Stepmom Mantra and repeat it immediately the next time you feel yourself getting riled up. Something as simple as:

  • “Our love for our children is our shared priority”
  • “Take a step back. Relax. Release. Ease”
  • “My Ego is not my Amigo. Stress is not my friend”
  • “It is not the end of the world. I will keep things in perspective”
  • “I choose Peace and Harmony”

… can really help to diffuse your emotions and make the moment that much easier to breeze through.

Think like a girl scout and be prepared with a calming stepmom mantra of your own.

Inspo Alert:

Check out www.alwayswellwithin.com

Mindfulness teacher Sandra Pawula has written a great article,

“33 Mantras to Bring Back Calm” – who doesn’t need an extra boost of serenity these high-speed days?

Maybe it is helpful if you set an individual mantra for any and all people that might throw off your zen: your hurried husband, interesting in-laws, belittling boss, cranky colleague or salty {step}children. Now you can apply on the daily what all Yoga Teachers know:

Mantras do as much good off the yoga mat as they do on!

2) Create a text group and share pictures 

We have a text group called: “Big Parenting!” Perfect name, in my humble opinion, as that is exactly what we are all doing. We try to share important information about particular items the children might need to be packed as well as photos of what the little lamas (we also share a little girl lama) got up to during our time together.

I specifically asked that BB set up a group text with biomom (and her partner) as at times I felt left out of their private communication. It made me feel like I always had to ask for information instead of just receiving it like any other parent. My BB is very supportive and he spoke to biomom and voilà we now have a shared group – yeah!

It is not always easy to see pictures of the kids having fun in their “other” home with their “other” parent but at the end of the day we have a shared goal to *-- always make the children’s interests and wellness a priority! --*

Our combined efforts only help our cubs feel comfortable, safe and secure no matter which of the ‘Home Sweet Homes’ they are in. They know they can talk about things going on in one house as we are all in communication about it. There are no secrets. They can tell us about how last weekend they went camping or to a play with biomom because we already received the photos.

Action plan:

Set up your own co-parenting text group and look at the pictures often with the kid(s). This reinforces that first tip about yoga/co-parenting not being a competition. When the children see you looking lovingly and with genuine interest at pictures of them doing things they did without you with their “other” set of parent(s) - they hopefully start to feel more relaxed and at ease.

Ask questions about what the children did in the photos but not intrusive ones. Depending on the age, children can practice their recall or storytelling skills by filling in the details.

Extra tip:

The majority of the pictures we send each other are just of the kids. I mean does biomom really want to see a picture of me snuggling up during a spectacular sunset with her ex while the kiddos run around on the beach in the background? As they say in German – Nein!

Do text a simple and to the point, “Thank You” when biomom does send pictures or remembers to pack the items you requested. Showing gratitude is another yogic principle. Displaying appreciation helps set a thoughtful, mindful tone of communication.

Our intention in sharing photos is to keep each other in the loop, create a sense of shared experiences and to make “joint custody” as stress-free and enjoyable for the children as possible.

3) Attend special event(s) together

As I mentioned, we also all go to events such as birthday parties or the first day of school as a large, blended family. We take pictures with the two sets of co-parent couples and the little lamas. Of course, we also take separate photos but it is so nice that we can stand together, side by side - the message to the kids is clear - we ALL love you!

My plan is to flesh out this point with specific “How-to’s” and examples in one of my next blogs for Social Stepmom because I know this is super challenging and requires an article dedicated solely to this point so stay tuned…

4) Try to have consistent rules & expectations

Behavioural issues can arise when there are a different set of rules at each home and that is one of the things we are working on; trying to be more consistent so the children know what is expected from them at all times in every environment.

Action plan:

When necessary, meet with biomom to discuss shared values and positive reinforcements to ensure the kid(s) make good choices and display respectful behaviour no matter which house they are in.

For example, if you know biomom does not like the kid(s) watching anything but PG movies  – resist the urge to be the “cool” parent(s) and let them at your house. Even if they throw every trick in the toddler/tween book: whine; complain; stomp their feet, throw a tantrum, silent treatment, sweet talk, etc., etc., etc., (lol).

The focus should be on having clear guidelines at both houses that are ideally agreed upon between the co-parents. It makes for such good energy when both houses flow to a similar vibe. I am not unrealistic and realize that biomom and biodad divorced for a reason and so obviously there will be personality/parenting differences – minimizing them is key!

Wear your stepmom medal with honour and joy!

*Despite the challenges, the ebbs and flows, ups and downs, I enjoy being a stepmom to our two little, kind, and growing beings. I am grateful my BB opened up this whole new world to me.

I reached out to the “Social Stepmom Society” because it is such a unique role and there are so many misconceptions due to Hollywood movies and fairytale books with a stereotypical stepmom character that is usually portrayed in a negative light. Ugh! How tired.

In reality, it is clear that the role of a stepmom is complex, multifaceted and full of hard-earned rewards. I wear my {Step} Mom Medal with honour and joy!

I have learned, that it is important to talk about and express your feelings and having a receptive and understanding partner has made such an amazing difference.

Connecting with people and families in similar situations all around the world is what I look forward to most. Here’s to sharing our success stories, best tips & tricks and to picking each other up when the load seems overwhelming. We’ve got this! Go “Social Stepmom Society” team!

It is exciting to be part of a community that not only speaks the same language but also is actively changing the narrative of {step}families.

Being a part of a team means showing up to practice and doing the tough work. I am IN! Hope you are too. See you every other Tuesday for more “Lessons with the Yogi Lama”. Please feel free to contact me with any special requests for articles.

Sending love and bright light from our pretty patchwork family to yours.

Namaste *the light in me, honours the light in you*

Lara x

The Yogi Lama

About the Author

Lara Alsen-Armgart is an Inclusion Expert. Canadian-born Educator and Yogi, Lara has a Master’s Degree in Special Education. Lara specializes in promoting mindful, culturally rich lifestyles full of movement and flowing with wellness. Lara has taught at International Schools in Canada, Belgium and the United Arab Emirates and travelled extensively, losing count at 60 countries!

Lara is a Co-Founding Member of the Dubai Inclusion Network [@dubai_inclusion] established as a platform to provide expert knowledge and advice, share best practice and trainings to colleagues and families to support the learning of children with a range of needs. Lara is a member of the Ontario College of Teachers since 2000.

In addition to being a Social Stepmom Exclusive Guest Contributor & International Ambassador, Lara is a Brand Ambassador for ThinkLoveLive, [@think.love.live] an ethical clothing brand that makes sustainable active and yoga wear in plant fabric and swimwear made from plastic.

A Yoga Teacher, registered with Yoga Alliance, Lara teaches a variety of styles: Vinyasa, Aqua, Swing and SlowFlow.

Where can you find her today?

From May-September 2019, Lara is leading “Yoga in the Park” (for the 2nd Season!) with the Bad Gögging Tourism Board [@badgoegging] who is celebrating their 100th Anniversary in Bavaria, Germany. This collaboration provides free Yoga in a beautiful outdoor setting to the local community. Visitors welcome!

After years of crisscrossing the globe, Lara is a recent newlywed and has rooted; now living in Germany with her Bavarian Husband and their two beautiful {step} children. Having earned her B1 Certificate in German, Lara is (conversationally) Bilingual and is teaching The Little Lamas her native language - English.

Follow Lara’s Yoga journey, Advocacy work and be the first to know about upcoming Retreats//Workshops//Special Events on Instagram [@The.Yogi.Lama] or connect on LinkedIn.

Special Hashtags: #LessonsWithTheYogiLama #FlowmitLara #BadGoeggingMeetsYoga

The post How to be a team with biomom- Lessons with The Yogi Lama appeared first on Social Stepmom.

How to be a team with biomom- Lessons with The Yogi Lama was first posted on March 19, 2019 at 11:37 am.
©2017 "Social Stepmom". Use of this feed is for personal non-commercial use only. If you are not reading this article in your feed reader, then the site is guilty of copyright infringement. Please contact me at quyen@riperesolution.com
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Social Stepmom by Socal Stepmom Team - 6d ago

Making crafts with kids is such a great bonding experience. Yeah, there's a bit of mess but kids love mess and the trick is that you get to control what kind of mess you guys make! If you're looking to strengthen the connection between you and your stepkids, some arts and crafts is definitely a good place to start!

Have stepkids that won't stop talking about getting a pet? Give them one with these super cute DIY pet crafts! We found these DIY pet crafts on Parents and think they are a genius and adorable task to pass the time, and something that your stepkids can play with after to entertain themselves with for hours on end!

Be sure to tag us if you give any of these crafts a try, we can't wait to see how your DIY pet turns out!

Cotton Ball Cat DIY Pet
Scott Little What you'll need:

This super-soft, cuddly kitten is made from a paper cup and a few golf tees, plus oodles of cotton balls.

How to make it:

Cover a white cup with cotton balls, then help your child glue on sequin eyes and a cute button nose.

Poke a hole in the bottom of the cup with a white chenille stem to create a tail.

Turn the cup on its side, and add legs by gently poking four golf tees into the side of the cup.

To create the ears, make small incisions in the cup.

Cut out small squares of white felt, fold them diagonally, and pull them halfway through the incisions.

Copyright &copy 2010 Meredith Corporation

By Margaret VanEchaute; Designs by Jodi Mensing Harris
Puppy Puppet DIY Pet
Avery Powell What you'll need:

2 toilet paper tubes, paint, paintbrush, hole punch, bendy plastic straws, yarn, 2 popsicle sticks, office dot stickers, 2 googly eyes, glue, scissors

How to make it:

Paint the toilet paper tubes; let dry. Cut one tube in half; one half will be for the head, the other for the ears.

Cut the ears -- a single elongated 8-shape out of the cardboard tube -- and glue them to the top of one side of the head. Push in the cardboard where the ears are glued, creating an indent on the head to make the ears stick up.

Glue two Popsicle sticks together to form a cross; set aside.

Punch four holes on the bottom of the body for the legs. Thread two 6" pieces of yarn through the leg holes, adding cut bendy straw pieces for the feet. Knot at each end.

On the opposite side of the tube, punch holes at both ends of the body; thread a long piece of yarn (approximately 24") through the body and head. Tie it to the Popsicle stick-cross.

Glue on a cut bendy straw to create a tail and stick on office dot stickers and googly eyes.

Originally published in the October 2013 issue of Parents magazine.

The post 2 Super Easy DIY Pet Crafts! appeared first on Social Stepmom.

2 Super Easy DIY Pet Crafts! was first posted on March 15, 2019 at 10:11 am.
©2017 "Social Stepmom". Use of this feed is for personal non-commercial use only. If you are not reading this article in your feed reader, then the site is guilty of copyright infringement. Please contact me at quyen@riperesolution.com
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Dear Anna...

By: Anna de Acosta

The Family Photo Shoot Dilemma - “Ours” Photos

Dear Anna,

I’m a part-time stepmom, and my stepkids come over every second weekend.

We just had our first “ours” baby, and are scheduled for a professional family photo shoot next week when the stepkids come. I’m excited, and since it’s my first biological child, I want to get photos with only the ‘ours’ baby.

I’m worried my stepkids will feel excluded and don’t want to make anyone feel bad – but I also want the photos that I want. I don’t know if my husband will understand. How do I get what I want without upsetting others?

- Picture Perfect Stepmama

Dear Picture Perfect,

It can be quite the balancing act trying to please everyone – and it’s something we often become good at as stepmoms. But don’t forget that your needs and desires are important too, and you can’t always self-sacrifice or you’ll end up resentful – and that isn’t good for anyone.

If having “ours” photos is important to you, that’s a choice and right you have to make – unapologetically and without having to accept criticism from others. Not everyone will understand your decision, and that’s okay. In addition, if you’re a stepmom who prefers not to have “ours” photos, that’s okay too. You can make the decision that is right for you and your family.

Some tips for the family photo shoot to ease the tension:

  • Call the photographer in advance and explain the family dynamic and what photos you’d like.
  • Start with group photos with everyone! Afterwards, mix it up with some photos with just your partner and his kids (excluding you), you and your baby, you and your husband plus baby, then just all the kids. Finish off with a family shot again. You can mix it up without excluding others, everyone steps out of the photos at some point, then you all come together again.

If you are relaxed about it and don’t make a big deal, chances are everyone else will be too. Have a great photo shoot!

About Anna

Anna de Acosta is an intuitive guide, life coach for stepmoms, and creator of the Mindful Stepmom guided meditation series, available on iTunes.

She’s a full-time stepmom and biomom to 4 kids, living with her soulmate at the foot of an active volcano in Arequipa, Peru.

Have a question you want to be answered by Anna? Write in to hello@socialstepmom.com with the subject “Dear Anna”.

The post Dear Anna…The Family Photo Shoot Dilemma appeared first on Social Stepmom.

Dear Anna…The Family Photo Shoot Dilemma was first posted on March 14, 2019 at 9:00 am.
©2017 "Social Stepmom". Use of this feed is for personal non-commercial use only. If you are not reading this article in your feed reader, then the site is guilty of copyright infringement. Please contact me at quyen@riperesolution.com
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When Adult Stepchildren Stop Coming Over

By Claudette Chenevert

Have you ever felt as if your adult stepchildren have been ignoring you lately? It seems that whenever you call and leave a message, it takes forever to hear back from them. You’ve tried texting and messaging in hopes this will work better but to no avail.  You start wondering if you might have said or done something which might have pushed your adult stepchildren away. They are no longer coming over.

If your relationship with your family was a close-knit one, it might be hard for you to understand why your stepchildren aren’t spending all their available time with you. Maybe, you were hoping that once your stepchildren were married and had children of their own, you’d be recreating some of your fond memories of Sunday get-togethers where all the grandkids would build lasting friendships with one another.

Unfortunately, many of today’s family don’t quite fit that model of Norman Rockwell moments. For one, according to AARP.org, families are more spread out, and when they do spend time together, it’s mostly over holidays or special events. For adult stepchildren, family time is even more challenging as they have more sets of parents. This means for today’s couples, they could have as many as four difference parental homes to choose from.

Let’s look at some of the possible reasons your adult stepchildren aren't coming over. 1. They’re busy.

Yes! That would be the most obvious reason for not coming over for a visit. With most families being a double income household, there’s little time left for socializing. Children are into several after-school activities, leaving very little time to do other things like visiting family and coming over.

Solution: Offer to bring over dinner one night or take care of the kids for a day. This will help the parents catch their breaths and reconnect as a couple.

2. They’re often at their in-laws.

Let’s assume that your adult stepchildren take more time to go to their in-laws rather than your home. That can sting our ego. There could be a variety of reasons such as the grandkids get to spend time with their cousins, it’s closer to their home, they have a pool, etc.

Solution: You are not alone. Try to spend time with your stepchild’s partner and get to know them better. Pick a time of year where there’s not much going on in everyone’s lives. Be creative and invite your stepchildren’s in-laws to join you.

3. They spend more time with their other parent.

Research has shown that daughters will tend to spend more time with their mothers, especially when they become parents. This leaves dad and his wife on the outskirts of the family circle.

Solution: Offer to go to a neutral place where everyone is welcome to participate in the activities. Restaurants are often a good compromise. You may have no interest in being a part of any activities the exe attends, instead focus on the opportunity to see those you enjoy spending time with.

4. They rarely share any information about their lives.

You feel as if they’re shutting you out of their lives, being secretive about their activities. Your stepkids feel you’re meddling in their affairs by asking too many questions. The only way you know about their lives is through social media.

Solution: Don’t offer unsolicited advice. It will only push them away. And when your stepchildren do ask for it, don’t insist they follow through with your suggestions. Give them the space to make their own decisions. Maybe your stepchildren feel they need to show you how they can be better than their parents. Don’t take it personally. Sometimes, adults just need to spread their wings and feel proud of their own accomplishments.

5. They don’t accept our invitations.

This could be a case of estrangement where the adult stepchildren refuse to have any contact with you or their biological parent. Estrangement occurs when there are unresolvable issues such as mismatched expectations around family values or roles. In some cases, the adult child will continue to occasionally see their parent during special events but not outside of this. Estrangement happens over time. There are no clear boundaries as how often you can communicate or spend time together.

Solution: This is where professional intervention is needed. Start small and then increase your time together gradually. Regain the trust between each other.

There are many reasons adult stepchildren may not be spending time with you. Interpreting the situation without taking the time to ask the questions can create rifts in the relationship where none existed before. Be upfront and open about how you’re feeling without being pushy. Let your adult stepchildren know that you’d love to spend more time with them while understanding that they too have very busy lives.

About Claudette Chenevert

Claudette Chenevert, known as The Stepmom Coach works with stepmoms who are struggling to create a cohesive family life. A Master Certified Stepfamily Foundation Coach, Claudette helps stepmoms to build and create strong and healthy stepfamilies by helping stepmoms focus on what they want as a woman, a partner and a parent.

Claudette has over 29 years’ experience as a stepmom and 35 years as a mother. She understands what it’s like to be in your shoes and teaches the best strategies to make life as a stepmom more harmonious.

Claudette offers online support groups, self-study stepmom programs, and one-on-one coaching. She is also a contributing writer for Stepmom Magazine.

Her book The Stepmom's Book of Boundaries: How and Where to Draw the Line --for a Happier, Healthier Stepfamily is available on Amazon

For more information on programs and services, go to https://www.stepmomcoach.com

Internal Resources:

https://www.aarp.org/content/dam/aarp/research/surveys_statistics/general/2012/Family-Today-A-Study-of-US-Families-AARP.pdf

The post 5 Reasons Why Your Adult Stepchildren Stopped Coming Over appeared first on Social Stepmom.

5 Reasons Why Your Adult Stepchildren Stopped Coming Over was first posted on March 12, 2019 at 9:00 am.
©2017 "Social Stepmom". Use of this feed is for personal non-commercial use only. If you are not reading this article in your feed reader, then the site is guilty of copyright infringement. Please contact me at quyen@riperesolution.com
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Blessings in Your Blendings: His Kids, Your Kids

A soon-to-be stepmom contacted me and asked for some tips on how to mix her partners kids and her kids together in a new family unit. Here is a part of her note to me:

"I am a mother of two young children under the age of ten and I am engaged to a man who is a father of two children - tween and teenaged. He keeps stressing how he wants everything to be “fair” for all four kids. That includes the same punishments and rewards, and the same expectations on eating and daily routines.

Also, he doesn't see that it is fair that my kids have their extracurricular activities when he can't afford for his kids to. Keep in mind we do not live together yet but will be within a few months.

It seems that he wants things to be fair when it benefits him or his children, and fair to him is us conforming to his rules. His youngest is on a diet, so that means none of the kids are allowed to snack or have juice, even when they are all not together. Has anyone else experienced these issues and how do they handle them? "

Well, “Soon-to-be Stepmom"...

Let me first say that it is not possible to treat every child the same. As each child responds differently to disciplinary actions, they also respond differently to rewards. They are individuals and part of the joy of parenting is to find out what makes them tick and then utilize those findings to raise up each child to reach their God-given potential. My daughter loves gifts as a reward. My son doesn't really care about stuff - but wants you to sit and visit with him. I spanked my daughter at times to discipline but spanking did not reach my son's brain. I had to figure out that taking away outside playtime did the trick.

When Dan and I married, my kids were in sports and music. Dan's son was a little older but did not have any extracurricular activities. Before we married, Dan knew that my kids would stay in their activities. We had also talked about the financial aspect of my kids being involved in the extras. As our two families became one, we had to slowly put parameters around extra activities - and make sure that our finances could accommodate his kids having some outside interests as well. And that was okay.

Our adjustments

An area that my kids had to adjust quickly to was how we spent birthdays. Before I married Dan, my kids had a birthday dinner at the restaurant of choice on their actual birthday. In addition, we had a birthday party on the closest weekend. Gifts were plentiful and I really overspent.

After I married Dan, he set up a budget to include what amounts we could afford for each child for birthdays and Christmas. It was a drastic cut from what my kids were used to ... but we talked to the kids about how this family needed to be run financially and that we would do things fairly in this area. At the time, my kids were bummed … and it was still okay.

Today, my daughter runs her household on a budget and even has gifts for me budgeted!

Managing a blended family's dietary needs!

As far as dietary differences goes, if one child is on a special diet, then everyone does their best to encourage. I do admit to taking my kids out to eat sushi after I married Dan because he and his kids would never eat that stuff!

My stepdaughter has a husband and one child that both have special dietary needs. She is training the child to know what foods are best. She does a wonderful job of having the right kind of foods for the ones on special diets as well as for her other three children. In addition, she has come up with recipes that will conform to all in the house. I also want to tell you that her three other children know that certain foods in the house are for their dad and their sibling.

You're doing your best!

These are some areas in which you can help guide your family to work and adjust to the individuals within. It also teaches your family about responsibility for themselves as well as their responsibility to each other in their family.

No, it cannot always be equal. Your family can work towards that end but to initially tell children from one family that they will no longer be able to have activities outside of school and they can no longer have their kinds of drinks or foods is asking a lot.

Both families coming together need to realize that there will be foods, activities, traditions, and routines that are different - but it can be okay. It is very important to have constant communication about your lives coming together. It is very important to talk with the children so they can be a part of the blending process.

Your lives may not mesh perfectly, but you can find a place where things can be okay.

Blessings in Your Blending!

About Kristie Carpenter

Women’s author, speaker, and mentor Kristie Carpenter, aka The Blended Family Mom, has been a blended family/stepmom since 2004. Her blended family currently includes four children and four grandchildren!

Follow Kristie on Facebook, Twitter (@BlendedFamilyM), and Instagram (theblendedfamilymom).

Her books - “The Blended Family Mom,” and “Blended Mom Moments,” are both available on her website.

The post Blessings in Your Blendings: His Kids, Your Kids appeared first on Social Stepmom.

Blessings in Your Blendings: His Kids, Your Kids was first posted on March 7, 2019 at 9:00 am.
©2017 "Social Stepmom". Use of this feed is for personal non-commercial use only. If you are not reading this article in your feed reader, then the site is guilty of copyright infringement. Please contact me at quyen@riperesolution.com
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I’m dealing with child support payments and it has caused a tremendous amount of stress – how should I deal with it? “I’m so sick of making money for other people”. 

If you’re with someone that is paying for child support, then you will feel for my good friend, Nick. When I first met him, he was in the beginning stages of a nasty divorce. Unfortunately, he’s one of the many good men out there that have been punished by the courts in fighting for equal custody of his children.

Nick’s equal custody in the eyes of the courts amounted to getting his children twice a week during the week plus every other weekend as well as paying over $2,000 per month in child support for his two young kids. He is an incredibly high income-earner, but he is broke.

Nick is a great father and wants nothing less than to spend time with kids and watch them grow up. He will do anything for them, including putting himself near bankruptcy. He’s one of the many men that have written to the Ontario Premier to express the anguish and unequal treatment fathers experience when it comes to custody battles and child support payments.

It’s a broken system. 

From the single moms that have been plunged below the poverty line after devoting years to their families, only to be been abandoned by their partners and not receive a dime from them – to the amazing fathers that want no less than to spend all the time with their children but get shafted financially and time-wise.

No doubt will this put a strain on their lives and in new relationships. But it is something that can be adjusted for. Nick did. He had no choice.

How do you deal with a partner that is drowning in child support payments?

It’s tough because child support payments are difficult to change. A commitment was made to bring these children in this world and the courts want to make sure the children’s best interests are looked after, first and foremost. While child support is not meant to destroy people’s financial well-being, it sure feels that way a lot of times.

Remember, it’s not forever. But you must adjust your lifestyle to accommodate for these payments, because they’re not going away. If you can prove significant financial hardship, you can apply to get the payments reduced – this is the extreme case.

Establish a budget

Establish a household budget to see where your money is going and what is left after your fixed payments, including any debt and child support/alimony payments:

  1. Start with the household after-tax monthly income
  2. List out what the fixed recurring expenses are each month (e.g. mortgage/rent, line of credit, student loans, alimony, child support, monthly membership fees, insurance, etc.)
  3. Allocate money towards your financial goals (individual and family), such as retirement, paying off debt, kids’ education, building up an emergency fund, trips, or major purchases (this is where you pay yourself and ensure you are looking after your financial future)
  4. Determine what is leftover for variable spending, such as food, entertainment, gas, gifts, household purchases – these vary on a week-to-week basis, especially when you have children in and out of the house on any given week. This is the area where you get creative and scale back on expenditures.

For example, if you determined the household has $800 per month for variable spending, then on average you should be spending about $200 per week.  However, allocate more money for the weeks your step-kids will be around. If they’re not around the following week, expenditures are scaled back for that week. Let’s say your step-kids are at the house every other week. Then your variable spending allocations for the month may look something like this:

Week 1 with kids: $220 Week 2 no kids: $180 Week 3 with kids: $220 Week 4 no kids: $180

For the spouse that is not making child support or alimony payments, you can offer to pick up more of the household bills – this is a conversation you must have with your partner because you don’t want to build up resentment nor do you want to watch your partner suffer. Do what feels right for you and your partner.

Put that budget into action!

Create a list of your favourite activities, and then challenge yourselves to do it in the lowest budget possible.  If you and your partner enjoy food, cook together and source your ingredients in low-cost stores. This may require time and research on your part – but that is the trade-off. Maybe it involves buying plants to grow some of your ingredients (gardening is therapeutic!), but here’s a chance to be creative and enjoy the little things. Make everything, from DIY Christmas gifts to DIY organizers and decor in your household. Shop at thrift stores – they have a lot of hidden gems.  Sell things that you don’t need. Get your children involved and make family activities out of it.

Simplify your life but fill it with love, experiences, and gratitude – no amount of money in this world can buy this.

About Michelle, The Sassy Investor

Michelle Hung is a newly published author of The Sassy Investor, the first of its kind colourful book that teaches women how to invest and build a lifetime of wealth.

Have a story to share? Feel free to reach out to her!

The Sassy Investor Social Sites:

Visit Us: http://www.thesassyinvestor.ca

Book: http://thesassyinvestorbook.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/thesassyinvestor/?hl=en

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/thesassyinvestor/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/sassy_investor

Email: michelle@thesassyinvestor.ca

The post 4 Ways to Deal with Child Support Payments! appeared first on Social Stepmom.

4 Ways to Deal with Child Support Payments! was first posted on March 5, 2019 at 9:00 am.
©2017 "Social Stepmom". Use of this feed is for personal non-commercial use only. If you are not reading this article in your feed reader, then the site is guilty of copyright infringement. Please contact me at quyen@riperesolution.com
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The Only Clothes You NEED to Pack on Your Holiday!

Whether you're a fashionista or not, we have all fallen victim to the stresses of deciding which clothes to pack for a holiday! Don't over complicate it, and most importantly- don't stress! You're going on vacation/holiday/business trip/visiting family, whatever it is you're doing get excited and exhale that negativity. As expert travellers here is how we pack only the clothes we NEED when on holiday:

Answer these questions to inform your choices:

What type of trip is this?

Business trip? Sightseeing? A lot of physical activity? Multiple dressy events? Figure out what type of trip this is going to be to start thinking about what choices you need to be doing on this trip.

What activities will I be doing on this trip?

Sure you might be going to Italy so you're thinking 'fashion'! But are you walking all day? Leave those stiletto's at home and opt for a more practical shoe. Figuring out the activities you will be doing beforehand ensures that you will have all the garments you need to make the most out of your trip!

What’s the culture of my destination?

Crop tops might be an okay shirt of choice where you live but in more conservative countries? Absolutely not. Your Thailand retreat vacation might have you excited to break out all those summer clothes that have been hiding deep in the back of your closet this winter, but you won't be able to go into any of the temples dressed that way. Be culturally sensitive and do your research on the location you're travelling to. As a guest, you certainly do not want to offend the locals whose home you are visiting and of course, you want to be sure your outfit choices enable you to make the most out of your trip!

How will I be carrying my belongings?

Are you using a purse, fanny pack, pockets? Knowing the limitations of how you're going to be able to carry your items will inform what clothes yo back and the accessories you bring!

Your clothing must be interchangeable!

The key to packing efficiently is: mixing and matching! Your tops and bottoms must be able to interchange. Instead of packing 1 top, 1 bottom, and 1 topper for each activity you do create individual looks with a limited number of items by mixing and matching! Now you're bringing a fraction of the items while still having the same amount of outfits- look at you go!

Social Stepmom Tip #1: Think about fabric! If you want to maximize how many times you can wear your clothes pack fabrics that don't easily wrinkle and arent easily stained!

Social Stepmom Tip #2: Tell us your colour story! To make sure all your looks are cohesive, stick to a colour story! Think about how each item will compliment another. Deciding what your colour story will be is the key to creating a browsable and organized suitcase when you travel.

Social Stepmom's go-to items:
  • Small heels
    Go from day to night in heels that elevate your outfit but are comfortable enough to wear all day!
  • Dark wash jeans
    They don't stain easily whatsoever, they can be elevated from day-time to night time, they can be worn regardless of the temperature (not too hot of course). Jeans are a great addition to a suitcase for almost any trip
  • Plain shirts
    Yes, this might be a given- but sometimes a classic white tee is underestimated! Save room in your suitcase by packing 1-3 classic shirts that you can dress up or dress down. Elevate that tee with some jewellery, and accessories!
  • Cool sneakers
    Sneakers are in and our feet, back, and overall wellbeing could NOT be more grateful! Take advantage of this trend and wear your comfiest yet trendiest sneakers on the plane, with that sundress, on a hike- wow did you just use a single pair of shoes for 3 totally different activities? We are so proud!

What packing guidelines do you have for yourself? Keep the discussion going on our Instagram and share your tips with other over packers in need!

XO, Social Stepmom

The post The Only Clothes You NEED to Pack on Your Holiday! appeared first on Social Stepmom.

The Only Clothes You NEED to Pack on Your Holiday! was first posted on March 1, 2019 at 9:00 am.
©2017 "Social Stepmom". Use of this feed is for personal non-commercial use only. If you are not reading this article in your feed reader, then the site is guilty of copyright infringement. Please contact me at quyen@riperesolution.com
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Healthy School Lunch Recipe!

Miguële will be sharing school lunch ideas with Social Stepmom on a monthly basis, in hopes that they will inspire you, and help you prepare HEALTHY and NOURISHING school lunches for your children, and stepchildren.

I like to keep my children’s school lunches simple, clean, naturally low fat (for liver love and liver detoxification), full of fibre, nutrients & minerals, and as close to nature as possible.

This lunch includes:

Morning Snack

Mangoes, approximately 2 cups. I buy organic frozen mangoes, and I thaw them in the refrigerator overnight.

Lunch

  1. Veggie salad (cucumber, tomato & red pepper). Dressing is freshly squeezed lemon juice and oregano. (you can use a dressing your kids love).
  2. My homemade curry lentil soup (leftovers from the evening prior. The recipe will be in my E-book).
  3. Wild blueberries, approximately 2 cups. I buy organic frozen wild blueberries, and I thaw them in the refrigerator overnight. You can drizzle organic maple syrup over the blueberries for extra sweetness if your children have a sweet tooth.

Afternoon Snack

Red apple + 2 Medjool dates (not shown).

“If it came from a plant, EAT IT. If it was made in a plant, DON’T”! Food for thought!

Yours in health,

Miguële xo

The post Every Bite Counts with @PurelyMe_: School Lunch Recipe! appeared first on Social Stepmom.

Every Bite Counts with @PurelyMe_: School Lunch Recipe! was first posted on March 1, 2019 at 9:00 am.
©2017 "Social Stepmom". Use of this feed is for personal non-commercial use only. If you are not reading this article in your feed reader, then the site is guilty of copyright infringement. Please contact me at quyen@riperesolution.com
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5 Tips on How to Handle Vacationing Without your Stepkids!

I have been thinking about our upcoming holiday, and how to ensure everybody’s feelings are going to be spared when we are taking our next trip solo. No, I don’t mean solo just me, or me and the hubby. Solo in our world is without our stepkids. Travelling with our grande family includes at the minimum (if everyone is around) nine people plus, plus, plus! We cannot do several trips each year as it is just absurd. As a solution, we divide and conquer just like we do with a lot of our blended family problems.

Let’s take a look into some scenarios that may not blend your blended family:

Stepmom: “Hey we are going on a family vacation next month.”

Stepkid: “Awesome where to?”

Stepmom: “St. Maarten.”

Stepkid: “For how long?”

Stepmom: “8 days”

Stepkid: “When do we leave?”

Stepmom: “We?”

Stepkid: “You said family trip?”

Stepmom: “Yes, your Father and me and your siblings/half siblings/step-siblings,etc.”

Stepkid: “So we are not going?”

Stepmom: “No, you are with your Mom!”

OUUUCCCHHHHHHH

Here is another chit chat to steer away from:

Stepmom: “Did your dad tell you that we are going on a family vacation next month?”

Stepkid: “No!”

Stepmom: “Oh too bad.”

Stepkid: “Wonder why he didn’t tell us?”

Stepmom: “Probably busy working and slipped his mind.”

Stepkid: “That’s odd?”

Stepmom: “And probably because you are with your mother at that time?”

Stepkid: “So we are not going?”

Stepmom: “No, you are with your mom, sorry that’s really too bad on the timing.”

Stepkid: “But I thought you said family trip?”

Stepmom: “Yes I did!”

Stepkid: “Aren’t we part of this family?”

Stepmom: “Aren’t you with your mother at that time!”

Stepkid: “Yes?”

Stepmom: “So what’s the question?”

Believe it or not, these conversations can and do happen. There are some stepmoms out there who intend them to be mean and injurious and pretend they didn’t understand what they were doing and saying. Then there are some stepmoms who accidentally land themselves in a situation where they wish they could have done better. Just as a side note, your stepkids know which version you are.

To help you in this awkward situation here are some of my suggestions:

1. Understand it is OK to travel without your stepkids.

2. Try to book a place that your stepkids haven’t brought up or implied they wanted to go.

3. Avoid the words family vacation or if you want to use them I like to say our petite family or our grande family.

4. Be upfront and honest with the kids. Share with them that you will be disappointed that they will not be with you. That’s it. No excuses, no rambling. That’s it.

5. Tell them you look forward to picking the next trip with them together, and maybe if you have the option to let them pick some part of the trip to make it feel like they have a choice and are absolutely part of the clan.

Being a perfect stepmom is much easier said than done. In my family, this March break has been like a yoyo for us. We wanted to bring only one of our stepkids away with our girls so that we could spend some time bonding in a smaller group. We explained that since our stepkid hadn’t been away with us in a while that we thought it might be nice. This, we thought, had been initially granted to us. Our stepkid was excited to join but would have been with either parent. BioMom sent an email asking us to take another one of her kids with us. We declined because it defeated the purpose of the bonding. Then we ended up in a back and forth exercise with the parenting coordinator, and something along the lines of some confusion of dates, so our initial agreement was no longer granted. Needless to say we are solo this week of our March break even though we tried.

It isn’t easy explaining to kids that we are going away and so and so is joining and you will be going away with your mom. My bet is that they want to be with their mom, but deep down that has to seem like a bit of rejection. We try to constantly level the playing field with whatever we do, and so the kids know that if they did something special then the next turn would go to the other kid who wasn’t there.

Blended families are tricky. Going away without hurting feelings can be challenging. Think about your approach and stick to it. Social Media makes it more difficult to keep your life private so don’t forget to be sensitive to what you post and what your messages are when you do!

Bon Voyage!

Sarah

The post 5 Tips on How to Handle Vacationing Without your Stepkids! appeared first on Social Stepmom.

5 Tips on How to Handle Vacationing Without your Stepkids! was first posted on February 28, 2019 at 10:52 am.
©2017 "Social Stepmom". Use of this feed is for personal non-commercial use only. If you are not reading this article in your feed reader, then the site is guilty of copyright infringement. Please contact me at quyen@riperesolution.com
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