When I was in the fourth grade my parents divorced. My sister and I were the only kids in the elementary school whose parents had split. Within a year and I had a stepfather. Also the first in my little social circle. I tell you this only because it wasn't that long ago that step families were rare. Today it may not be the norm but it is very common. It was not easy back in the day and it isn't easy today. But now at least there's more knowledge and discussion on how to be the best step parent can be and how to blend families. And that's what we're gonna talk about for the next hour. And I want you to join in if you're -- of lifting inexperience. By giving us to call 260170. And we have all kinds of step parents in the studio who are here to spew wisdom that I see it on their faces. Sarah -- a parent educator at the parenting center at Children's Hospital she's a mother to a four year old Stan. And they step mom to a 31 year old son and a 27 year old. -- -- has been married fourteen years has three children aged 107 and one. And is the stepmother of the 24 year old daughter. Mark Vick snare mr. -- Has been married a year and a half and is the stepfather of ten year old twins a boy and girl and a seven year old boy. And Katie here and Mueller has been married five years has a three year old son and one and a half year old daughter. And a six year old steps. And to help us through this issue at step parenting and blending families. Is Terry capacity. Who is a domestic mediator and parent coordinator and a wonderful friend Fisher -- so appreciative of you being here. This is about the fullest house -- advocate and I love it. And I'm just gonna start off with the basic question what is the toughest part of being stepped. Not all wants out of the. For -- the toughest part was having to share. Time. For special holidays -- -- that was always very difficult. Well picking up the neat thing that I have in my office most often. The toughest part for people is getting past that fantasy stage. We're all going to be one big happy family and they forget that there's. Another. They normally. That this trial has to to work -- are an additional family you know more family members. So I'm withstand this week Sudan that things with he and his new wife okay this is our family. But this child has some element perhaps that stepped -- that they as well and need to spend time and so it's tough on me. On the child as well a lot of times parents say well I'm so excited I'm in love and this is great. And that child things. I'm in Paris by -- your acting terrible things and got up and your kids seeing him. And you're looking at each other year my god you're saying I love you. Did somebody other than. Meet the center of your world right and so it's an adjustment for everybody. Well and I perspective. Beautifully sent -- one thing. I -- -- and having conversations with a couple of those step parents that are here today as well as my own experience. Is the challenge of figuring out how to manage our own feelings because. Unlike other relationships really the goal with to mounting up our relationship with the stepchild. Is not in being completely honest about how you're feeling. It's really developing an internal boundary where you can figure out you know how to be authentic and that relationship and loving and kind. But take your feelings of frustration or confusion or. Maybe even anger. Somewhere else and feel like you have some support to do with those feelings in a separate arena. I think that can be a really hard balance to achieve her family's. Mark Q. Our resident dead. Yes but to all of a sudden have this wonderful family. Of twins. And another child. And had to have been a major adjustment in your life. From going to new children to three children when I got first got merit I would tell people so what happened the shares and I had triplets. Really really want her. Ten year old twins and a seven year old but it was it was an adjustment living together but. My wife and I had been together. For. -- dated for about. Three B. Three years before we got married so -- seen the kids aligning an overstatement of Rory and but I saw the kids pretty much every other day. Every other weekend so it was just very it wasn't a big step. To move in together and and you see -- just a little bit more you see when you wake up in the morning and sort of scenes because you know I was was. I was with sleep after them so vigorously I go home after they went to sleep. But it's a big change it is a big change. And it was there are lots of discussion with -- now wife on. What role you would play as a dad or step dad or authority figure from there wasn't. Really. A big like formal discussion I think the discussions were just. Gradual zero is were like -- about this kind of situation or what about that kind of situation. As we dated and then eventually got engaged and eventually got married. You know the discussions were just continuous. As to what my role would be you know. Role in the children's lives and I'm just my role as I -- does that. And -- talk to them on there to take care of them and that's that's how I assume are my role in the situation. Are you given. Equal. Hussein has -- equal authority on discipline. Yes yes if there's a situation. Where I see you know discipline needs to be the be. Meted out time you know the guys as much story is that my wife in that situation. -- it's important that that BO gradual introduction as opposed to all at once you're talking about this. Outside you know parents. You know to people day. -- they get engaged and then they get married in -- because they get married somehow the biological parents as early as this is my new partner and they have the world food bank. And and his child says I don't think -- Who yeah you know so it's exactly. So what needs to happen is a very gradual introduction to that role and have everybody disgust and be on the same page with that role. The other thing that is so important and -- know we're talking about step families and Blended Families. But when you have a second marriage it's important that that marriage becomes a priority because you or modeling for the children. Would a productive healthy marriage looks like. So if you have a situation where the biological parent says oh -- the step -- have no authority in the house. It undermines that step parent it creates defiance with the children. And of course it's gonna create marital discord. They can come quite a math. And if you don't discuss it and and figure things out ahead of time. And get on the same page right and and I I don't think it would really be possible for somebody to live in a house with three small children. If you couldn't discipline them at all or tell them what to do at all I think that would be virtually impossible for person do. I guess because everybody has a different style every body comes from a different background on how they were disciplined how they look at discipline. And I'm just curious if if you are in a situation where it was at the twins are acting up in your that you didn't. Is it ever that your now wife would say you know we ought not to do it that way. Not not not not. Really you know we have we have slightly different styles. But basically it's it's the same thing as far as just when news new corporal punishment there's nothing like it's more. You go to your room and they -- getting a little older now what's nice is that you can say you can ask them. Do you think you did something wrong and that the yeah. OK you go to your room and please don't he got he that he. Look at it as they get older a little bit easier to that to talk to them about it and they realize when they've done something wrong which its abilities you deduce from that point. Why I want everyone to stay with this and again if if you're a step up parent or you're a stepchild and you -- top 260 -- seventy. But up we're gonna talk to. Some moms who have their own children. And it blended in step children or maybe it was the reverse the had stepchildren than blended in their own stay with this I'm Angela under the W. Well we're back talking about step parenting and blending families and the joys and the victories and the rough spots. We have just a wonderful group of parents -- -- I'm thoroughly enjoying listening to everything you're saying. I wanted to go to Katie up here in Mueller who has correctly said that every single step parent situation is unique. I think it is unique. And it needs to be considered when you're talking about any dynamics in your home when it comes to discipline raising your children. And you have to consider. How long the step. Parent has been involved. Maybe in my situation I've been involved in my -- licensee was born. You a step parent might come into the situation and a second marriage where a mother father has. Has been deceased and so that step parent is replacing somebody that they. So. Considering all that. It's very important to to really look at your situation and why it is. There's no cookie cutter. That experience having a step parent and accused cutter solution so. Seek support seek counseling seek friends seek anything new -- and that will give you sound. Ideas of how to become. That it's apparent that does a great job. Just like to speak to that when I call that the Cinderella step on complex that our society has a view it. From this movie Cinderella that. So some people would think that step moms are evil that they. Our means to accept children that. They make them on service in their home that section and I wanted and yet we love our biological children more -- in this Cinderella story. I don't I want to speak to break that breaking the silence around that -- that parents don't have to be evil step moms are not evil I am not a witch. As you're laughing about that and I I sincerely a lot of my steps. And in fact I believe so much in this that I do not. The Cinderella movie in my how close. I do not allow this Cinderella story to be read to my children because it it portrays Esteban who -- about her step children. -- child excuse me and and I want I want that to be different I don't want my kids to know. -- to think that I want him to know that I fully lock my stepson and evil about them as well and I won't treat them any differently either. And you are correct every relationship is different and I think with -- -- in incredibly. Interesting. Is that 82% of children. Or in Blended Families. 82%. That's a huge amount. But guess what. Most of what we hear about her all of the negative things because that's newsworthy. We rarely hear about with this great relationship can be. And I am a professional but I am also a step parents. And a lot of these two children like you cannot a mansion. And we joke about and have since they were ten. A pat on the wicked evil stepmother. And it's a joke and they now call me -- them WE SM. And they address all of the cards consumed with just accepted that yeah that is what people think that's the -- -- at the Cinderella story. But that's not the reality for our family. And it and I think it's more common for it not to beat Hillary now collect it just doesn't get the publicity because it's not -- interesting. But I think it's more common to have a good relationship with you step children are with you step parents. Whether it's. You know stepmother doorstep fathers -- in his to have. Strained relationship. And I think it starts. With talking about Haywood we want for our. Family would we want rules in our home our our traditions our rituals. That everybody can take part of any enjoy. Something new not replacing Matt biological parent because that's always it just dangerous territory that creates something. New. And if they paste special with just good to have you you know here you and your steps on your stepdaughter. And and that becomes just -- a valuable memory. Just like you would have special memories with grandma that's right you know how I was just an add that I think when you love there father or their mother then. That trickles into the love that you should have for them whether. You Wear their stepmother from the time they were an infant alarm seven or eight. Or fifteen. And yet there can be -- just where you love the the spouse. And the kids. You're trying to. But it's not work. And so what do you do. Well on that situation. For me IIA. I had to goat and admit that to myself that I was struggling with and and admit that. I needed to have some support and seek counselor to help -- work through some of those issues. I've seats thought accounts or three times in my stepson IP six. -- worked through those issues so that I could address from within me and go back can be present. A loving mother to him because it's not. It is sometimes anger and I was feeling about the situation with. That other parents involved and has been -- just -- dynamics of everything -- was complex and complicated. I decided to go see somebody. I would say if you are struggling as a step parent and you need support you you should seek counselor. Social worker who is trained in step am I do think that someone who has not trained with those. Credentials and those understandings in courses. Can't actually steer you wrong I speak that because I was in the counseling situation that. Did it really helped me that much and Yemeni -- somebody who was understanding and we knew that. Dynamics of our family in and got that. Situations with the court in custody and young children all that just a lot to juggle that person really helped me. -- those are really areas are very very important. Now we're going to take a break and go in the newsroom but when we come back we're gonna talk about we're -- about being a step parent but also when you have your own children. How do you -- to that -- Very very important to stay with this will be right back. We are talking with step parents about. Adjusting to that life of now even some having their own children. For right or wrong the word blending of blending those families an -- in trying to and not just the families with in the home but the families without an. Without because that's that is also a factor. -- you had made an interesting comment about it. That blending families works fast when you can really truly put the children's best interest first. And remove yourself from some of the emotional issues that you have with the axis -- And but probably to our listeners I would bet. The majority of them are right now saying that is the issue. It into the -- and done right it it's it's an exceptional thing and axes. Also have the children's best interest. And want everybody to be happy and you know we'll put our conflicts aside that's very difficult. And so how do you address that. We actually have a class at the -- -- called focus on children it's a divorce program for people who were separating and going through a divorce and it's short it's really an introduction to the topic which is a major. Topic and I think a lifelong project. But it's a two hour program that we do once -- -- on Wednesday evenings and at all. Now the focus of the program is. How to focus on the children and we talk a little bit about communication skills and developing and moving from. -- is moving from an intimate relationship to a more business like relationship. And in order to be able to take their own emotions that equation we -- slip up sometimes and and it's always -- progress and not perfection. The situation but I think that that's that's the real goal if taxes are not on the same page. And this child learns to play one parent to the other. How do you handle. The challenges -- remembering. And this is to -- honestly is due for everything in life you it's remembering that we only have control over and behavior. So we react. To our axes behavior. With anger or frustration particularly in front of our children. That is incredibly damaging and I actually interviewed my step kids about this issue before the program. And I was really into it must have -- 31 years old married happily living in California. And the first thing he said wise. Don't talk about the other parents and pop out at thirty -- your cell that was still the first thing that he sat. He has children pick up on and on the tension level even if it's not verbalize that can it get. Because they're intuitive. And answer to it it is that tension that just eats and it's damaging and children will play one parent against the other. When families are intact much less when their -- It's very. It's their job there -- pence to two split and if they think it will say yes and mom saying that the negative to an advice first I mean that's their job. So if you look at it from that perspective it can kind of remove some of the emotion down I'd like you to Pritchard had to -- -- we have a caller Linda from Baton Rouge. -- I think wanting to address something similar to Linda. Then you -- people everywhere -- both. -- read Harry. Big -- For the past four years cheese and apple for -- end with the court. You know. Every -- very well great. Bob I bet. He'd just -- everything and didn't get it there. -- gonna. -- -- -- -- -- -- -- What -- -- a billion. What do you do. Well I it how it is cheaper a lot of big -- date issue is what problems she had. With this thing. It has traveled so what he is. Because you know she -- there's no. Intention. -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- What -- we have -- It only way to. Orbit -- But. What. I haven't seen it all over it like they haven't. I don't. Have been the -- Get what they -- out. When you go to court have you considered asking for a counselor or a parent coordinator. That can assist you and and your child -- in getting back on track. And maybe talking about whatever the issue is there's a loyalty by meant that you're really describing. Your your child is feeling loyalty to her father and and TU and sometimes. This is it at. Just damaging they. And he will veto it is -- is not all but that is yet toward yeah we always be -- -- any minute. We encourage -- all of by calling eight. And now we're in you know I don't. And the -- could go on the you know you go -- we can't. -- Me. Break well I think -- -- -- -- is on the court helping you bet it did they think oh I'm. The discussion needs to be with them. Well it does and and down like he needed a new -- person that can discuss this with dad. I would encourage you to continue. To not talk negatively and and continue with your efforts as as you've described. Because that's going to be where it is remembered one of the things that parents. That are in dispute for yet is that when they talk negatively about there. Co parent that child remembers that talk and sometimes it takes ten years before it was backed up on Q. But it always comes back to haunt you and that is very very -- Because actually it really did a lot of the apparent that our ability split deal -- -- Absolutely negativity -- (%expletive) we have our -- it -- for. And that would mean the world how out of all of the blue just -- I can get a check it out -- I'm gonna make it out. A horrible but what. Will it have been. As well. But that is will it get it. Well perhaps listening perhaps talk to your attorney and see if a parent coordinator. Can get on board because that's one of the things that parent coordinators do as they oversee and implement. Strategies to. Make sure that that parenting plan gets gets taking care of even if your child is 151617. Years old they can give you some good tips -- Thank you for the call we're gonna have to take a break I really appreciate and good luck to you. This is Angela under -- anyway. Well we're talking about step parenting and blended families and I wanted to sort of touch on very quickly. How does one try to work with the next. Initially when you're gonna get married is or sit down talk of I'm now part of the family. Is there or is that totally unrealistic. I. Well I I think that a conversation early on earlier is better than later. To define this new roles. To introduce the new spouse to the biological. Parent. And as a relationship is is going forward not talking about casual dating relationship we're talking about somebody. That you're serious about running one that that co parent can now. There's something it's going to be along with your kids taking care you kids transporting them all of those things attending activities. To that -- that child is not the messenger. You don't want the child to be -- the person that delivers the news guess what mom has a boyfriend that -- that child and terrible situation. And take you prepare that other parents that you guys can work together and that apparent the biggest I I I would think one of the biggest challenges. Is to be accepting of this new person in the child's life. But when things that you can think of this hey you know what this is one more person to love and care for his child it does not replace you. Well as -- as he's the bonus. -- That's what it I'm from an interesting situation and that I I know I've known my wife and her ex husband former almost fifteen years like I knew them both of them they were friends of her friend and I saw them occasionally. And just my wife had gotten divorced I was recently divorced and we started dating. And when. Her ex husband found out that that she was dating he was you know he liked me so there was no no realistic antagonism there. And we were pretty good relationship it's there's no we've never had any arguments we've never had any real. For any heavy situation then where you are altogether at a baseball game -- -- -- -- quite quite commonly were were all together at the same. Event it's it's very common common thing. And there's no no problems. And when you speak about what's best for the children you know when you are at any event. Think about it what are you supposed to be focusing on. Whatever that child's involvement it is in many events with it's a play you're supposed to be looking at the child perform in the plight. Not looking at -- acts. You know doing whatever crazy thing they may be -- and you're concentrating on. The -- event and that helps you focus on your child and that child can feel that what happens. But in so many shared. Experiences today where it's -- 5050 year close. And there are just philosophical differences on how they're -- being raised and a child comes to your place and says well I get to do X with mom or dad. But not here how do you handle that. Well it's parallel park it's a term that's called parallel parenting and it's something that I preached to. -- evaluations. -- coordination cases. And even in my hand my counseling practice parallel parenting means you parent in your house -- parent in my house and unless it's a safety issue. It's none of the other person's business. And -- if you can stay up later at mom's house. -- she has to deal with getting you up for school earlier. You know you don't have to worry about that people really mined each other's business. Because they're they're so used to having that intimate relationship. And when you separate whether it's a divorce or if you've never been married. You move from an intimate relationship into a business relationship. It's the business of co parenting it's not well let me tell you -- you're supposed to raise my -- you know it's a business of co parenting each different. Think also speaking backed by the children children know. It's kind of I thought it better way with my stepson that. They different rules -- mom's house or dad's house that come into affect him in his whole life he's been between his mom's house and stats house and he knows. The rules in our house and he knows generals and his mom's house and and when things do come up by disabled that's which you -- your mom's house in this as the way we do -- it dad's house and and that's just how it is in just like. In a way I think about it like in school kids know. Could they can get away where TJ can get away with -- and where they can't you know they just know that and it's just kind of how it isn't. And my assassination on an amazing. Enough flexibility. And he's just. -- -- really. A flexible when it comes to that stuff and he he -- that he's adapted that's exactly right he's a very adaptable and his personality. Thankfully is is is kind of go with the flow and I think have benefits him when it comes to having two homes in being backed report. Let's talk about the integration of having children which you're -- -- Added to them to step family. To do the step child and then your natural how that works. Is there jealousy is there are are the stepchildren -- threatens an old uncle loves me as much because now they have their own. I think it's probably like everything else we're talking about different on a case by case basis yes exactly things that was unusual in my circumstances is that I had the very close relationship with my stepchildren. From the time they were around ten and fourteen. Comment and love them very much and I was happy to marry their father. -- their father and I decided to start a family and you know to have another baby. It was challenging for one of my stepchildren and and we were surprised she was and grown and you know it was it was interesting exit to process that with her and allow her the space to have her feelings and and not to have to react to it out of what I thought it went. What seemed reasonable or rational. And I think giving her that space really allowed her to go through that process and then come around -- and my. My son and my stepdaughter incredibly close now. Love one another very much but I think. We have to allow space for all of the members of our families to have. Whenever feelings they're going to happen and to honor him. I agree completely. And you have to consider when you have a couple of hits all of us in menu you have a biological child. And into the mix suddenly the baby of the family is -- -- middle childhood. And and then there's maybe a question -- -- I have to share -- -- -- always had my own room and and so one of the solutions as you make sure that they have their privacy make sure that they have. The opportunity discussed their their feelings with -- judgment about it because it can be a feeling. But he deal with -- -- and you move on you have an open conversation and that can be very very helpful. Stay with -- we're gonna continue this conversation right after this. -- -- talking about to step parenting with just a great group of people. Mark my step dad brings up a very very interesting question. -- just wanted to touch on the term steps step parent in stepchild. And that it's it's kind of an awkward term to use some -- sometimes but you know it's because when people ask you who are these your children you know. Whether they're you know I'm I'm their parent or unity and sometimes you say step in the -- to trumpet. The term stepchildren. -- the terms step parent. And I -- yelling knowing your limitations. No it it doesn't mean how many times when you say yeah all of this company is treating me like he stepped on it and it has that negative let's think of the new worse let's. I have to say about -- co workers who and tell me that it really bothered. Her win her stepmother would introduce her as her daughter she felt like that she won that distinction. I've had the opposite experience and introducing that at some times where they may introduce me as the imam and I feel like well aware of that place for their mother. So it's a funny thing I can I think that her parents can go either way. So it's it's feels weird to figure out we're to tread lightly and you know what kind of it could be mom two or dead to. Just cook cook up well I -- I have a friend who refers to. His biological mother as mom and his stepmother as mama. And somehow now. You have to pay attention to confront it when you're speaking with him -- it but it works in that family. It it's a different word. You know what we've been talking a lot and we just scratched the surface literally but clearly. There is help out there and they're in our organizations like wonderful parenting center Children's Hospital who have classes that can help parents. I just ordered him. And one more time to focus on children of course program and happens once a month every month on Wednesday evenings for the next that'll be July 9. From six to eight and if you want more information or to register you could call 504. 896959. Runs but he can also look on line that the parenting center dot net. Let me tell you I think all of your kids are lucky to have I really do I think you're very thought out very sensitive. And and obviously doing a tremendous job I think each and every one before being on the show thanking their lucky -- -- -- -- And to Thomas -- -- Lewis I'm sorry we didn't get Cuban I'm glad you've got a great stepdaughter. Or what is it we're gonna freak out a new word.