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Ask Yourself

* Is living in a Blended Family or a Stepfamily “more than you bargained for?”

* Does step parenting feel like the most challenging and thankless job of all?

* Is the tension and conflict taking its toll on your relationships

* Are you becoming worried about your children and their well-being?

* Are you constantly arguing with your partner about the kids, discipline and parenting in general?

• Is your ex or your partner's ex causing real problems in your blended family and in your relationship

• Are you at the end of your rope and need some answers NOW

* Are you considering entering into a Blended Family or Stepfamily and want to be prepared?

Blended Family Summer Vacation


Step Institute

Blended Family Summer Vacation:

How to Plan for a Cool Summer When the Heat is On, with Transitioning Kids, Busy Schedules and Unexpected Changes.

It’s summer and just when I think life is going to be relaxing and stress free for my clients taking a break from the often grueling school year schedule, I get 7 or 8 calls from people begging for support around the challenges and stresses they’re facing as their family life is disrupted by the blended family summer reality. What does the typical blended family summer look like?

It’s busy, it can be disorganized and it ‘s often stressful when kids are transitioning in and out of households fulfilling visitation requirements or just spending more time with a non custodial parent. The transitioning kids want to have fun because it is summer after all, and the biological parents want to spend memorable quality time with kids they may not have the opportunity to see regularly the rest of the year. And added to the mix, stepparents, often reluctantly, are under pressure to make summer enjoyable and stress free even though they may feel anger and resentment about having to plan their summer around the schedule of an ex spouse, or having to care for step kids who have trouble settling into the routine of their home. Summer isn’t supposed to be this complicated but this is the reality of many blended families as they work at making summer fun.

These may sound familiar:

One client is angry because her husband’s ex has changed all the plans at the last minute and now her summer has been turned upside down with two more kids to take care of for 8 weeks. Another client worries that when her step kids come for the summer her husband does not apply the same house rules for them as he does for her kids who live there year round, and another client has major concerns that when her kids spend time with their dad, there’s no supervision and the kids watch TV all day and load up on junk food. These are just a few scenarios that make summer more stressful for blended families and contribute to tension and anger that can easily ruin what we all think should be the time for relaxing, taking it easy and enjoying a rest from the regular work week stress .

And the kids have issues too. For all children, summer, a break from school for most, holds the promise of easy days and fun activities not usually enjoyed throughout the year. But for those children from divorced, separated and then blended families, the required schedules to make this work, not to mention the distraught adults who often can’t agree on much, combine to create anything but a simple, easy summer. Even when we think they are untouched by the complexity of life in a blended family, we can be sure that they have their own moments where they are saying “why can’t life just be simple, one mom, one dad, (preferably ones that get along), one reality, one family vacation and not so much shuffling back and forth?” The transitioning kids have to adapt to a different home with new house rules and other kids to get along with, and the custodial kids have to make room for the visiting kids, share their things and perhaps witness different discipline and favoritism that they don’t see the rest of the year. So it would appear that everyone has their crosses to bear in this thing we call summer, so for those who take comfort in knowing they aren’t the only ones suffering, take heart. You are Not Alone!! Summer in the blended family can be complex.

So, what to do about all this short of taking it in your stride, chinning up and looking on the bright side, none of which is bad advice in good measure, by the way? Here are a few pointers that I serve up to most of my families in preparation for the summer holidays. And the first piece of advice is to really begin to look at this and plan ahead of time, not just your holidays, but planning ahead of time for ways of coping and also how you will mentally approach this summer challenge. It’s called living intentionally, and often living with an intention of being able to manage something that you once though unmanageable, or being able to enjoy some of what you once thought unbearable, is the absolute best way to approach many of life’s challenges, of which living in a blended family throughout the summer months, is only one.

Remember also that there can be many good and positive things that come from the blended family summer experience and the secret to making it a success is to plan, plan and plan some more. Here are just a few pointers:

Kids arriving for summer vacation

1. Talk to the custodial parent about the exact schedule for the visit so there are no surprises about arriving and leaving. Request an email with details clarifying and confirming the schedule. Even with teens it is important to have all the details in writing. Ask about any new issues such as diet, allergies, medications etc. and make sure the custodial parent knows what kind of clothes to send so everyone is prepared for all the activities you have planned.

2. Provide a special place that the child or children can call their own, where they will sleep and store belongings undisturbed. This will make them feel welcome and part of the family.

3. Try to maintain the schedules of the kids living at home to minimize disruption and possible resentment. With special activities or outings try to include the whole family, but don’t stress if they all can’t be involved because of busy or conflicting schedules. This may be the time for the biological parent to take individual time with his children.

4. Plan enjoyable activities for the vacation children but make sure they are included in the family rule system and the chores.

Kids leaving for summer vacation

1. Confirm in writing (email) the drop off and pick up schedule and any other important information such as medication details, dietary restrictions and important phone numbers.

2. Ask for general details about planned activities so that you can provide appropriate clothing and equipment. Talk about these activities in a positive encouraging way especially of the child seems nervous or unsure.

3. Assure children that everything will be fine while they are enjoying the vacation with the other parent and share things you plan to enjoy or accomplish on your mini vacation.

4. Have some fun yourself. Read the books you’ve been meaning to get to, catch up on chores, and enjoy time with friends and family.

General tips include:

1. Teens can occupy themselves with some supervision. Encourage teens to find a summer job which is great way to experience the accountability of the world of work, including, getting to work on time, following directions, and managing money. If a job is out of the question then encourage volunteering or helping with chores around the house. Allow some hanging out time with TV and videos but make it a reward for time spent productively.

2. Younger kids require more direction and supervision. Scan the local paper for day camps, theme camps, recreation department and YMCA activities, and local library programs, many of which are inexpensive or free. Encourage kids to experience new activities that they don’t take part in during the school year. Organize switching off play dates among friends and family.

3. For rainy days encourage the kids to start a hobby, play board games, help with cooking, or start compiling a family history that can be an ongoing project throughout the summer. Each child can be involved at an age appropriate level.

4. Take the opportunity to visit and connect with family and friends. This is very important and helps children maintain a sense of continuity and connectedness.
5. This may sound simplistic but it’s the one thing that I know can make or break a summer experience, or any experience for that matter. Make a conscious decision not to dwell on that which is disappointing or the things that didn’t go as planned. When we get into obsessive thinking about what we don’t like, we invite more misery into our lives and misery is a companion that likes to keep company with us. Re-focus on what you can do and what is in your control, to make things as good as they can be and then put your energy into what is working and what you find enjoyable. Negativity is often what robs us of our pleasant and enjoyable experiences, so the good news is that deciding how we want to look at things and what we’re going to spend time thinking about, will absolutely affect how we feel about our experiences. So choose to enjoy rather than to stress and you will be surprised at how this alone, can help you get through a lot of experiences that otherwise might seem unbearable.

Summer can be fun for everyone or at least have elements of good times and moments that you will be glad you had and remember forever. With planning in place there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to create and capture some of those moments.
And if all else fails, know that it is temporary and this too will pass - that the kids and your spouse may actually have had a good time together and made memories that are invaluable, that your kids learned to share and to be flexible, and that next year you can get a jump on summer by planning ahead and making it happen closer to the way you want it .

Best of Luck to Everyone!!





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