Christina is a working mom of three who is happily married the second time around. We all know you’re not “supposed to” jump into a relationship right after a divorce, but we also know everything we know goes out the window when it comes to true love. And so it was with Chris and Cam. She was newly divorced with two young children; he was single and only 21; they met; and that was that. They blurred lines, bent rules, birthed a baby, and blended families. Today, 10 years later, they are making plans to celebrate their 10-year anniversary. I love their story, and I love what follows even more.
During the past decade, Christina has learned valuable lessons on living the blended life — lessons on divorce, remarriage, the virtues of a stepparent, communication with your ex-spouse and children’s parent, co-parenting and visitation, managing multiple schedules, and dealing with a plethora of personalities. If any of those issues are of interest to you or someone you love, you’ll want to keep reading.
What are the key elements of a successfully blended family?
“Never say anything negative about the children’s father.” Christina admits she had to “bite [her] tongue a lot.” Even though her divorce was caused, in part, by strong opposing views, she knew it was a tough ordeal for her children, too, and didn’t want to make it worse by saying hurtful things about their father whom they love. Though you speak the truth, if it’s going to hurt your children to hear it, better to keep it to yourself.
An in-tune stepparent, never tries to replace the kids’ mom or dad. Step-parents have a rewarding and sometimes awkward role, depending on how you play your part. I have to quote Christina on this because she says it best:
“The thing I love most about the type of stepfather Cam is . . . he knows when to step up and when to step back. He never tries to replace the kids’ dad. When it came to certain decisions concerning the kids, he would listen to me, give his thoughts (pros and cons), and leave the decision to their dad and myself. And when their dad wasn’t there to step up, Cam would step in.”
Sounds like temperance, patience, and a lot of love and support are virtues that make the role of stepparents more rewarding. And it helps when they’re appreciated as much as Christina and the rest of their family appreciates Cam and all he does.
Lack of communication — even with your ex — can lead to parenting pitfalls. Healthy communication, Christina learned, is not only important with the love of your life, but also with your ex-spouse in matters of parenting. And here’s why: As their kids got older, she and her ex started noticing that when their communication faltered, their kids would play it to their advantage (sneaky little smarties). “Communication is key” is a blended family commandment.
Different parenting styles, different households, same page: It didn’t work for Christina’s blended family when the kids were given consequences at one house, then when it came time to go to the other parent’s house, they didn’t carry over. There was no accountability, no responsibility; one parent was undermining the authority of the other; it just wasn’t working. So, Christina and her ex-husband do their best to communicate and be on the same page when the children transition from one house to the other.
Their parenting styles are very different, which makes it an ongoing challenge and exercise in patience and compromise. But overall, the kids benefit from the stability and structure their unified effort provides (and they claim power back from their savvy kids).
Celebrate as many birthdays and holidays together . . . EVERYBODY. Yep, you read that right. Christina, Cam, the three kids, Alexus and Andre’s father, their father’s new wife and their young son all make an effort to get together to celebrate important occasions. Now that’s a blended reality right there. Christina explains that setting aside differences and drama to support the kids and give them that stability all children want and need is more than worth it (even if you need some wine to get through it).
Christina’s blended family tips are valuable because she’s lived them and they’re applicable to real life: 1. never say anything negative about the children’s father; 2. mindful stepparents don’t try to replace biological parents; 3. communication is a cornerstone of co-parenting; 4. both household’s need to stay on the same page; and 5. celebrate as many special occasions together as possible.
Thank you for being tuned in parents and a special thanks to Christina for sharing her life lessons and family with us! Your comments, suggestions, stories, and more parenting tips are most welcome! And there’s more for you, too, on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest!