Helping a Step Mom Adapt to Her New Role

I’m the divorced father of two kids. I’ve been going out with a wonderful woman for a few months now and we’re heading in the direction of getting married. The problem is that she’s not quite sure how to behave around my kids. What can I do to help her—and my kids—feel more like a family? How do I help my kids accept her as part of our family?

You are the single most important factor in determining how the new woman in your life will deal with her roles as your girlfriend and possible step-mother to your children. You’re the one who has to welcome her into your family and you’re the one who has to make sure the children understand her role. Like just about anyone stepping into a pre-existing family unit, your girlfriend is probably going to feel a little insecure. Doing some of the following will go a long way toward helping her feel more confident:
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Helping Your Kids Cope with Your Divorce

My kids are having a terrible time coping with my divorce. As their father, I am trying to be there for them as much as I can. But nothing I say or do seems to help. What should I do?

Sometimes, despite all your efforts, your children will need more help than you’re capable of providing. This doesn’t mean that you’re a bad parent, just that you know your limitations. Here’s what you should be looking for:
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Coming Up With Your Own Child Support Plan

My ex and I are getting a divorce. We get along pretty well and we don’t want to spend a bunch of money that we could otherwise use to raise our children haggling about child support in court. Can we come up with our own agreement, rather than getting attorneys and a judge involved?

If you and your ex are on pretty civil terms, in most states you can write your own child support agreement. As long as the needs of the children are being met, the courts will approve pretty much anything the two of you come up with. And since no one knows your kids, their needs, and your own individual financial situations better than you and your ex, your agreement will undoubtedly be a lot more reasonable for everyone.
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Taking The High Road

I’ve been divorced for about a year and I can’t get my ex to cooperate with me on anything that has to do with our kids. She seems much more interested in punishing me than in working together. Is there anything I can do to make the mother of my children change?

Communication and cooperation are supposed to be two-way streets, but things don’t always turn out the way they should. No matter how much of a jerk your ex is and no matter how horribly she treats you, it’s critical that you learn to be a mensch (that’s a Yiddish word that means "a decent human being" or "someone who does the right thing"). Here are some things that can help make you the mensch you and your kids need you to be:
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Fighting in front of the Kids

My wife and I-like most couples-have our share of disagreements on how to parent. One of the things we’ve been disagreeing on lately is whether or not it’s okay to fight in front of the kids. I think it will teach our children how to compromise. My wife thinks it will scar them for life. What do you think?

Parenting approaches are the source of just about as many marital spats as money and division of labor. Ideally, you should avoid having huge fights in front of your children. Kids are scared and confused when their parents yell at each other, and researchers have found that the angrier the parents, the more distressed the children.
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Communicating With Your Spouse

Ever since our baby was born, it seems like my wife and I are growing apart from each other. We hardly even talk anymore. She’s a stay-at-home mom, and I work a lot. We used to be great at communication, talking to each other about our days, discussing our child and what she is learning. I’m afraid our relationship isn’t as strong as it used to be. What happened?

Nearly all new parents experience a drop in the quality of their communication. Half the time it’s permanent. Here are some of the factors that researchers have found contribute to this decline in couples’ communication skills:
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