Thursday, April 29, 2010

20 Ideas For The Long Distance Dad


Article courtesy of Dads at a Distance
1. Go to the mall and have a photo of yourself put on a pillow case and then send it to your child. If you have a favorite cologne you might want to put a little bit on the pillowcase to remind your child of you.

2. Purchase or make stickers of your child's name and stick them over the names of a character in one of their favorite books. You can also get a picture of your child's face and place it over the character's face.

3. Make a video and/or audio tape of you reading bedtime stories. Send them to your child along with the book.

4. Arrange for flowers, pizza, etc. to be delivered to your child before or after a special even (a play, recital, sports game). Include a note telling them how proud you are of their accomplishment.

5. Send a package containing all the things your granchild will need if he or she gets sick. For example, you could send a can of chicken noodle soup, a special blanket or pillowcase, a video or audio tape wishing them a speedy recovery, crossword puzzles, a stuffed animal, etc.

6. Send home a photo documentary of what you do all day when you are away. Be sure to include things like what you eat, how you travel, etc. Things that you might think are boring, your kids will be very interested in seeing. Have your child do the same.

7. Have a star officially named after your child. Call 1-800-282-333.

8. Send a postcard attack. (Send a postcard everyday for a week straight, try to send postcards from unique places).

9. If both you and your child have access to cell phones, then go fishing with them from a distance.

10. Try including surprises in with the letters: fast food wrappers, foreign currency, pencil shavings, coasters, Band-Aids, your own art, flower petals, Sunday comics, sand, fortunes from cookies, newspaper clippings, stamps, old shoe laces, or crumbs from breakfast to show you were thinking of them.

11. If both you and your child have access to the internet, then go on a virtual field trip together. Be sure to use a free program like AOL Instant Message so you can communicate with each other while looking at the webpages. A couple of places to start would be NASA or PBS.

12. Find unique things to write your letters on, for example: things your child likes -- favorite color of paper, stickers, or pictures of things they like. Fun objects -- coaster, napkins, paper tray liners at restaurants, barf bags, old handkerchiefs, pictures of you, or of favorite spots. Paper cut into special shapes ( holiday shapes like shamrocks or hearts). Puzzles (cut your finished letter into pieces, try sending one piece at a time).

13. Send home some money so that your child can go to the ice cream parlor. Be sure to send a special letter along that can only be read at the ice cream parlor. If you both have access to cell phones then you can both be at a ice cream parlor talking over your ice cream.

14. Write a news letter (have a regular issue of your own family newsletter with columns about each child, family events, exciting news etc.).

15. If your child does not already have access to a speaker phone then buy one. Set the phone in the middle of the room, and you will be able to have dinner with them, be there as they brush their teeth and get ready for bed, etc.

16. Start a letter and take it with you throughout the day. Add a sentence every now and then and be sure to add where you are when you write the different sentences - i.e. an elevator, taxi, café, etc.

17. Play Internet games together like Jeopardy or Wheel of Fortune, both of which can be found at Other games that can be found on the Internet include golf, card games, chess, checkers, Sim City, strategy games etc...

18. Make a package that contains cookie cutters and the non-perishable ingredients of your child's favorite cookie so you can "help" them bake while you are away.

19. Choose a photo from your photo album that you can send to your child and then write a letter explaining the events surrounding it. Also if both you and your child have access to the internet. I recommend that you have a family home page. One free resource that I recommend is member websites which enables you to build a free web site you can use as cyber-family central.

20. Begin a Life's Lessons Booklet. Each week write down a few of the lessons you've learned in life and how you learned those lessons. When the booklet is full, send it to your child to use as he or she begins or continues the journey of life

A few years ago H. Jackson Brown Jr. sat down at a type writer and began a list of lessons that he had learned in life to share with his son, who was going off to college. He writes, "I read years ago that it was not the responsibility of parents to pave the road for their children, but to provide a road map." A few days after his son had received the gift he called and told his dad, "Dad, I've been reading the instruction book and I think it's one of the best gifts I've ever received. I'm going to add to it and someday give it to my son."

One Additional Free Activity
Before you leave home next time, hide some treasure (notes of appreciation, videos of you reading stories, candy, toys, etc.) around the house. Be sure to draw a treasure map of where you have hidden these things. Then mail it home. If your child has a portable phone, then you can talk to them and give hints as they hunt for the treasure. If you are not living with your child you can still do this activity by mailing the treasures ahead of time to the person who is taking care of your child.

Article Courtesy of Dads At A Distance

Copyright © 2001 by The National Long Distance Relationship Building Institute. All Rights Reserved.

This Article is based on 20 Activities For Long-Distance Dads To Do With Their Kids


Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Friends & Steps

It started out with an email message. Four years ago I moved back to Washington, DC after getting married and became a stepmom to three kids.

I sent out some email messages to let old friends and acquaintances know I was back and about my new life as a stepmom. I wasn’t expecting much to happen. One of those acquaintances suggested I contact a friend of hers who lived nearby. Like me, she was a new stepmom with teens and worked in public relations as a consultant.

We traded emails – and then Susan and I met for coffee to talk. We talked for three hours about our stepchildren, our marriages, and trying to balance the demands of families and careers. More coffees soon followed.

In Susan, I found someone who understood the emotional roller coaster ride of childless stepmom-hood. It meant a lot to know that someone else knew what it really meant to be a stepmom – and that I wasn’t crazy or even bad for having some of the feelings I was having – they were normal. She didn’t judge me when I expressed frustration about my stepchildren or my husband – and rejoiced with me in a success. I don’t think we’ve ever actually solved any problems – but I do know that we both have felt understood – and that has meant a lot to both of us.

We introduced our husbands to each other, and it was like seeing two long-lost relatives rediscover each other. They were instantly bosom buddies. For the past two summers, we’ve even taken vacations together – staying in a big house on the Georgia coastline to bask in the sun and sand.

When stepmoms in trouble contact me through my website and ask for advice, one thing I often suggest is that they find a stepmom friend to talk to. Let’s face it – you can talk to a lot of people about life as a stepparent – your mother, your sister, your single friends, your happily married ones – but it’s rare to find someone who understands stepfamily dynamics. You either need someone who has lived it, or a counselor or therapist who trained in it.

And there’s scientific research to support the value of friendships among women. Scientists believe that hanging out with our friends may actually calm us and relieve our distress. UCLA researchers found in a study on women and stress, that women “tend and be-friend” when facing a hostile situation.

The UCLA study was revolutionary. For more than fifty years, stress management researchers had focused predominantly on men - and posited mainly a “fight or flight” theory to explain how humans react to stress.

Instead, the researchers found that women have a broader range of behavior available to them when under stress because our brains emit oxytocin, a hormone that urges us to turn to others when under stress, not head for high ground. Women under stress focus on nurturing behavior and turn their efforts toward building social networks. This behavior releases more oxytocin and produces a calming effect.

It’s no small wonder that stepmoms can find so much comfort in friendship. When Susan and I sip coffee and talk about our families – it’s not a flight out of my marriage or my family life. It’s a step toward getting back to OK so I can walk back into my family with strength and grace.

Dawn Miller writes a column on life in blended families at
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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Don't Do It Again

How to Make Sure He's Not Like Your Ex
5 tips to finding true love after divorce
by Debra Holland

There's nothing like a fresh start — knowing in your heart that you're ready to move past the divorce and date again. Before that little black dress comes out of the closet, ask yourself: Do I know how to make a better choice this time around?

"Things will be different," we tell ourselves. And things really can be different, of course. But only if you're different in the way you approach your next relationship. Whether you're in search of Mr. Right or Mr. Right Now, unless you want to attract "Your Ex: The Sequel," consider these tips to help you choose wisely:

1. Pay attention to warning signs. Red flags wave for your attention, alerting you to a potential problem or a man's character defect. If you think back to the days of your courtship with your ex, in hindsight you can see the danger signs displayed during that time. What might not be so clear is why you dismissed the warning signals.

Did you deny the potential problems because you loved him and thought that was all that mattered? Did you think he'd change, especially if you got married or had a baby? Did you tell yourself your concerns weren't a big deal? Did you think he'd be different with you than he'd been with the women in his past? Did you jump into a serious relationship from early infatuation? Were you so needy, you latched onto him so you wouldn't feel lonely and empty?

2. Trust yourself and those close to you. By becoming clear about how you denied potential problems in the past, you can catch yourself before making a similar mistake with the men you date. Have faith in your intuition. Whether your intuition speaks to you in a still, small voice; a gut feeling; a hunch; or some other sensation you need to follow the messages you're given. If your intuition tells you something is wrong, it probably is.

Don't be dismissive of your family or friends; be open to what they're telling you. If two or more people give you the same feedback, pay attention.

3. Take a look at his past. Does he put the blame for the breakdown of previous relationships on the woman? Does he admit to cheating? Does he make excuses for not interacting with his children? Does he use a poor or dysfunctional childhood as an excuse for his current behavior? Does he tell stories about himself (or his close friends) in a light way, showing he lacks ethics in some areas?

4. Beware the "I'm-a-changed-man" line. When he says meeting you has made him a different man, it may sound wonderful to hear. But don't put a lot of credence into that statement. Most of the time, men don't change their character because they've fallen in love. He needs to undergo the life-changing experiences that made him a better man before meeting you.

A change in character or behavior patterns come only after steadfast work on personal growth. Has he gone to therapy, had extensive coaching, become religious and is active in a church, joined a 12-step program, embarked on a course of self-help reading, attended personal growth seminars, or taken purposeful steps to become a better person?

5. A dose of caution is good for romance. Who doesn't love a sweet fairytale? A made-up love story can be great for entertainment. But if you want something real — in a friend or a lover — don't get caught up in a fantasy. Remain vigilant about the details he shares about himself. As you well know, from your most recent relationship, some of those details can come back with a vengeance. Caution will help you screen out those men who look good on the surface, but won't be good for you.


Friday, April 23, 2010

Ex Wives VS New Wives

GUEST BLOGGER: Kela Price, Founder of Blended Family Soap Opera

Recently, I posted an article written by author and stepmom, Wednesday Martin, entitled; Ex-Wives, What Your Child’s Stepmother Wants You to Know. Jennifer Newcomb Marine, co-author of No One’s The Bitch, wrote this, What The Divorced Mom Has to Say, in response to Martin and other stepmothers. After thoroughly reading, dissecting and digesting both of these articles and their subsequent comments, I discovered what I and most of us already know. Both the stepmother and divorced mom, along with everyone else in the modern family, is trying to adjust to this new type of family. Both want to be respected and not demonized for their respective roles, and both want a little understanding along the way. That much is clear and has been for awhile now.

Ex-wives and wives have spent so much time focusing on the obvious. We both know that adjusting to divorce, remarriage and the modern family is difficult, especially if we live through it each day. We can even empathize and relate to what each other is going through, but focusing on this issue clearly doesn’t lead to solutions.

What do we do with this information?

There have been plenty of books, articles, blog posts, and discussions on understanding each others’ pain, but continually focusing on the obvious only makes each side feel more angry and entitled. As a matter of fact, while reading many of the comments from both articles, women admitted or it was implied in the tone of their comment, that they were angry about what each other had to say. The divorced moms were shouting that it wasn’t easy sharing their children with the stepmom, and they wanted to be cut some slack. The stepmoms were saying that it wasn’t easy for them either and they would like a little understanding as well. If you’re a divorced mom and /or a stepmom, then you’ve probably heard this or something similar before. My question is; now that we’ve heard both sides of the story, over and over again, what do we do with this information?

Anytime I sit down with an ex-wife and wife, who are clearly both committed to making it work, because they both have approached me for help, they both want to vent their sides of the story. And often times, it sounds just like the articles mentioned above and their subsequent comments. “I feel this way and you need to understand, cut me slack and empathize with me.” My question to them is always, what does that mean? What does it look like? When you say you want me to cut you some slack and understand where you’re coming from, what is it that you want me to do?

Divorced Mom

When you say you want me to cut you some slack and empathize with you, does that mean you want stepmom to allow you to be intrusive? Does that mean she should be okay with you encouraging, no matter how discretely, your children to dislike her because you feel threatened? Does that mean that she should invite you to holiday dinners or to go on vacation with her because that’s what YOU, not necessarily your children, want? Does empathizing with you mean that you can continue to act out because the divorce isn’t easy for you?


What does this understanding look like for you? Does it mean that you get to treat the divorced mom’s children/ your husband’s children, like they are sloppy seconds because you don’t love them like your own? Does it mean that you get to refuse to even slightly communicate with the divorced mom because you feel as if you shouldn’t have to co-parent with her to a certain extent?

When asked those set of questions, the conversation begins to get more productive because it talks about what both parties expect instead of solely focusing on how they feel. One way (let’s just talk about how we feel) allows us to continually beat a dead horse and spin our wheels, and the other way (what do we expect from each other), allows us to focus on solutions to a problem that largely contributes to the modern family’s inability to peacefully coexist.

After expectations comes acceptance. Both parties must accept the fact that things are going to be a certain way. The divorced mom must respect and accept that she cannot come to holiday dinners or expect her ex-husband to fix her kitchen sink, if it’s not okay with the stepmother. Why? Because she is married to your ex-husband now and that marriage must be respected. She is not the second wife that your husband took on in his concubine, and therefore she must share him with you. He has one wife and she would like to create special holiday traditions and memories with her new family that are separate from you. Just like you wouldn’t have welcomed an ex-girlfriend or another woman into your marriage when you were married to him. The stepmother understands that you will share some level of interaction concerning the kids. She knows that you will be at extra curricular activities, school plays and attend parent teacher conferences, but everything she does with her husband and your children is not up for debate.

Stepmothers you must accept that the ex-wife needs to communicate with your husband. Yes, she is going to need to call him on a regular basis. They may need to discuss child support, modified visitation arrangements, school issues and other issues pertaining to the kids. Additionally, you must accept that you will even have to communicate with her from time to time. Whether it’s during drop off and pick up, or phone call that you happen to pick up when she calls. You must also accept that your presence isn’t required at every single thing either, just because you are his wife. For example, it might be best to allow the biological parents to attend the parent teacher conferences and allow your husband to inform you of anything that you need to be made aware of.

Overall, both parties must realize that while they are entitled to certain feelings, the actions that follow aren’t always appropriate, acceptable or helpful to anyone in the modern family, including the children. We must learn to be in charge of our own feelings, form realistic expectations of each other, respect each others’ respective positions in the modern family and accept our reality. Our reality is that neither of us are going anywhere anytime soon. Divorced mom, you have to accept and respect that stepmom is the wife now and lady of her house. And stepmom, you have to accept and respect that divorced mom is the mother of your husband’s children…period. Just remember that “acceptance of what has happened is the first, most profound step of overcoming the consequences of any misfortune.”

Kela Price is a Certified Stepfamily Counselor and the founder of


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Have You Started To Doubt Your Divorce?

It's not unusual, in the aftermath of divorce, to wonder whether you have done the right thing. In fact, unless your marriage has been complete hell—and that is not usually the case—you will still harbor residual feelings of affection for your spouse and the happy moments you spent together.

“Unless it's a situation of utter relief from the most adverse possible circumstances,” says Dr. Mitchell Baris, “ambivalent feelings are likely to linger.”

There is, quite simply, a period of wondering whether you could have worked it out or whether you simply gave up too soon.

One friend of ours began harboring such feelings, especially after his ex started calling him and asking him to be open, at least, to trying again. Her requests were especially tempting to him because she had been the one to end the relationship and push for the divorce in the first place. Just a year ago, he had pleaded with her to give the marriage a shot, and now, miraculously, she was doing just that.

But for our friend, things had changed. The experience had revealed to him his wife's fickle, callous side, and he had started dating someone new. Not only was he basically content again, but also he had no desire to plunge himself into the pain he had experienced as recently as a year before.

What should he do? A therapist wisely advised him to get together with his ex-spouse. “Don't be afraid,” the psychiatrist told him. “You're thinking very clearly now, and you'll see things for what they really are.”

Indeed he did. His ex-wife claimed she wanted a reunion, but within minutes of their meeting at a local coffee shop, she was commenting on his tie (too loud) and his hair (too short).

Our friend was cordial throughout the meeting but was able to walk away from it understanding he was well out of a relationship that meant nothing but pain. He had looked into the eye of the monster, after all, and he had prevailed.

The moral of the story: After your divorce, face your ambivalence head on. If your spouse has really been a louse or is just not right for you, you'll have the ability to see that, even if in your weaker moments you're still not sure.

Source: FamilyEducation

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Sunday Dinners

Susan, the ex-stepmother writes: My blended family life was finally well adjusted and peaceful after twenty years, then my husband and I separated five years ago. We both have new partners now. His two adult children, my steps, always had Sunday dinner with us. We carried on the tradition after our separation. Life was good until the ex and I acquired partners. The new partners (who also have children) rarely join us, and are uncomfortable with the Sunday dinner tradition even though we are now on neutral ground – my stepson’s home. To make matters more uncomfortable, my steps’ biological mother has decided to invite herself to the Sunday dinners since they are now on neutral ground. Neither my ex or I like the woman.

Do you think it is possible for us to continue the Sunday dinner tradition? Will some just have to be excluded? I am loath to end family ties, but want to move on with my new relationships. Only one of my stepchildren is willing to come to my new home and have a relationship with my new partner. I am beginning to think it impossible to have my cake and eat it too – at least at the family Sunday dinner.

Writing this out highlights how complicated it all has become. I think we have reached the point where it cannot be worked out. We have to choose which relationships to continue because we cannot continue them all.

Thank you for any insights or suggestions you may have.

Chuck and Jae reply: Congratulations on having successfully navigated the sometimes rough waters of the blended family for all those years. The fact that your stepchildren have chose to continue the tradition of having Sunday dinners together with you, even after the separation, says a lot about the quality of your relationships with them.

If we understand you correctly, the current arrangement for this gathering involves just you, your ex-spouse and the mother of your stepchildren. Neither of your new partners attend, and neither of you enjoy the company of your stepchildren’s mother. To add to your discomfort, only one of your stepchildren is willing to spend time in your new home with you and your current partner.

We agree that the Sunday dinner arrangement should be discontinued. That does not mean that you have to end your long-term relationships with your stepchildren. You obviously mean very much to them. We recommend you tactfully let them know that you plan to discontinue attending the Sunday dinners, because you would like to spend that time with your new family. We think they would understand that reasoning, and it may relieve them of some of the awkwardness they themselves probably have been feeling. Also, please remember that their discomfort is not necessarily about you, but more likely their reaction to all the changes that have taken place.

We also recommend you inform them that you want to continue your relationship with them, albeit on a different basis. Perhaps you can meet with them for dinner or lunch (just the three of you) and talk about how you might do that. For example, you could arrange for a specific time and place to meet as a trio on a regular basis. At some future point, if the relationship continues, circumstances could evolve to where both of them are comfortable with your present partner. If that should occur, you could then establish newer traditions for family gatherings that would include them and your family. If not, you could continue to maintain contact with them in a variety of different scenarios.

Obviously, as you have already noted, they will each choose for themselves whether and how they wish to relate to you.


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Co-Parenting Jerks?

Can You Get Along With The Ex For Your Kids?


Q: How am I supposed to co-parent with this jerk?

A: For starters, quit calling him or her a jerk. So here you are, divorced from this person whom you married and fully intended to live with happily every after. Turns out, this person is less that what you expected. To make matters worse, you had a child or children with this person. Now you’re stuck with each other for the rest of your lives. It will surely be a long, grueling life if you choose to live it full of anger and resentment towards your ex-spouse.

Keep reading here