Monday, November 12, 2012

Daughter doesn't have her own room or permanent bed

A mom is worried about her 5 year old daughter. When she visits her dad, she is sleeping in a temporary, flip out, Wal-mart bed. She doesn't have her own bedroom, and the fiance is pregnant.  Her ex-spouse says he is on a waiting list for a 3 bedroom apartment, but that it will be at least 3 more months. I never talk bad about my ex in front of my daughter but I don't think this is right. What can I do?

Shirley Cress Dudley responds:

It's a difficult situation, and I know you want to do what's best for your daughter. The way you handle this- will make a huge difference to how your daughter perceives her visit to her dad.

Kids need both their mom and dad- and I see that you wrote that you don't talk bad about her dad or step mom in front of her- which is wonderful, and you should be praised for this- I know it's hard at times.

But- when your daughter talks about the situation, your reaction is making it harder on her. You have spoken to your ex-spouse, and he is doing everything he can to get a 3 bedroom apartment. He has also provided a bed (one you don't approve of as an ideal bed) but he has purchased her a bed.  From my perspective- the situation is fine, and he is providing a safe and welcoming environment for her.

If you talk to your daughter differently, it will make a dramatic difference.  The Wal-mart bed was specially bought for her- so that means she is special and they made an effort to make her feel at home.  (It might make a great sleep over bed for friends when the 3 bedroom apartment is available.)

Talk about how it is difficult to live/visit a smaller place, but sometimes that makes people closer. Tell your daughter stories of early in your marriage and what kind of house you lived in- or possibly stories of your childhood when you shared a bedroom, or slept in a temporary bed or sleeping bag when visiting relatives.

How you talk to your daughter can greatly improve the situation. You ex is doing what he can, and I believe you should support him on this.

I know it's not ideal, but he is providing a bed for her, and he is actively looking for a larger apartment.

Kindest Regards,

Shirley Cress Dudley, MA LPC NCC FACMPE
Director of The Blended and Step Family Resource Center
Author of the book, Blended Family Advice

Monday, November 5, 2012

Surviving the Holidays in a Blended or Step Family

Do you dread the holidays?  I've created a three-part series on Surviving the Holidays in a Blended or Step Family. You can learn how to prepare for the holidays by clicking here.

Hurry, though- because this three-part series started over a week ago, and the special offer at the end of the video series ($50 off) ends tomorrow, November 6th at 9am.

If you need help keeping the crying, yelling, chaos of the holidays to a more successful, organized, peaceful event- then check it out.

Talk to you again, soon!


Shirley Cress Dudley, MA LPC NCC FACMPE
Director of The Blended and Step Family Resource Center

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Are you an Incredible Chick?

We are excited to announce the opening of an online center for women called Incredible Chick. This website is an online community created to transform, inspire and equip woman through collaboration, inspiration and education. The website is under construction, right now, but give us a couple of weeks, and then come check it out. I think you'll be as excited as we are to now have Incredible Chick available!

Monday, April 30, 2012

A mom wonders about why her 5 year old son won't visit his dad or have sleep overs. She says there is a history of abuse (emotional and physical) but that her ex-husband has never hurt her son.

Shirley Cress Dudley, the blended family expert replies:
I'm sorry your son doesn't want to visit his dad. It's important for him to have time with both his mom and dad. But, you also mention that there is a history of abusive behavior from your ex-husband.

Even though you said your ex has never hurt your son, he does have that capability, and you have experienced both emotional and physical abuse from him.

I'm sorry you are having a difficult time.  It's good you realize that your son needs to spend time with his father- children need a relationship with both their mom and dad.

But, if your son is refusing to spend the night at his dad's place- and there is a history of abusive behavior- it's time for some investigation. I know you said your ex-husband has never hurt his son, but your son is still afraid of being at his house, alone at night.

Find a local child therapist. I recommend an LMFT or someone that has "play therapy" in their qualifications. Let a therapist talk with your son and figure out what's going on.

If your son has nothing to fear, the therapist will help him with this. If there are some real concerns, then these will also need to be dealt with. It's possible your son only needs supervised visits with his dad, and these may not include over night visits (unless another adult is present.)

You are right that your son needs time with his dad, but find out what your son's concerns are about, before having him spend the night.

I wish you the very best.


Shirley Cress Dudley, MA LPC NCC FACMPE
Executive director of The Blended and Step Family Resource CenterBest selling author of the book, Blended Family Advice

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Coming back from college to a blended family

Guest post by Marina Salsbury:
Going to college is an exciting time for any young person. Meeting new friends and teachers, registering for classes and getting to know a new environment are all stimulating changes. However, it can also be a time of family changes. Some students are surprised and upset when their parents get divorced after they graduate from high school. They may be even more shocked when they come home on a school break after their parents have become involved with someone new, and find themselves faced with a blended family and new siblings to deal with.

Sharing a Household
Sharing the house with relative strangers can be challenging for anyone. Students coming home on a college break want to relax and connect with friends and family. Suddenly having a new family members to deal with can be difficult to adjust to immediately.

Some of the issues that can come up between step-sibling are territory and sharing space. Young adults often have a strong need to voice their opinions or make clear what spaces are their own and may not be receptive to sharing the rooms they grew up in. Having to negotiate things like using the television or sharing a communal computer with unfamiliar new family members can be hang-ups, too.

Personality differences can also be a source of friction. Being thrown into a household with unknown people and obliged to live with them is rarely enjoyable when it isn't by choice. It's not uncommon for new step-siblings to struggle over power and territory and to have difficulty knowing where they fit or what their roles are in the family.

Younger children may also resent having an older step-sibling suddenly appear on the scene during a school break after being gone to college for a while. The younger sibling may feel like the dynamic and players have changed yet again just when the new family arrangement was starting to be figured out.

Getting Used to Step-Parents
Another challenge for college students coming home to newly blended families can be learning to get along with new step-parents. They may resent the step-parents' roles with their birth parents, and become angry or upset when they witness affection between the two.

Children, no matter their age, can also feel conflicted if they begin to like their new step-parents. They may feel like they're betraying their birth parents, and become defensively angry, annoyed, or easily agitated toward one or the other.

Another issue that can arise in any blended family is tension about family and house rules. Families often have both overt and covert rules about behaviors. When the rules change, especially if they're unspoken, children may feel they no longer know how to behave or what expectations are.

Changes to rules that are stated outright can also be difficult to accept. In newly blended families, rules may change about how decisions are made or what types of behaviors are acceptable. Teens and young adults visiting from college can find it disconcerting and upsetting to realize the way of doing things they've always accepted has changed. In particular, they may resent feeling like they need to ask permission for anything from their step-parents.

The key to all these potential problems is clear communication. Parents would do well to ease their college-age children into new family dynamics as much as possible by discussing changes early on. It certainly won't do to let a new family situation be a total surprise to a visiting college child.

Regardless of how old children are, they'll still tend to think of their birth parents as their real parents. Step-parents may face an uphill battle to help their new family members become comfortable with them without forcing issues. Showing respect through honest and open communication with young people is the best attitude new step-parents can take. However, even if there aren't any huge tensions or hangups, everyone involved should expect a period of adjustment for all family members.

For more information or help for your blended family, check out The Blended and Step Family Resource Center.

Guest Post by Marina Salsbury- Marina  planned on becoming a teacher since high school, but found her way instead into online writing after college. She writes around the Web about everything from education to exercise.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Five biggest problems in a blended family or step family

Though blended families may be becoming more common today, that doesn’t mean they’re any easier to nurture. According to a report by Gary L. Sanders, the blended family has some developmental hardships and differences from traditional nuclear families. It doesn’t take a psychology degree to know that members of such families may need to have more time and patience to form a stable, functioning family than do traditional families because there are less resources available to fit the situation as a consequence of the term’s newness. Here are some strategies for dealing with the transition phase into the blended family.

Blended family child-rearing difficulties
When both parents in the household are not on the same parenting page, problems can arise, just as they can when each biological parent lives in separate households. It takes a lot of communication to avoid these problems altogether. First of all, it is of utmost importance to keep the children's interests in mind, while putting your spouse's interests first. You’ve got to present a united front. Doing so can save the marriage, and it can subsequently ensure a happier household. Child-rearing difficulties are a common ground for divorce, so it is vital that all adults involved are able to work together and to make joint decisions.

Sibling rivalry between step-children
Just as it can be difficult for a child to adjust to having a new baby in the household, it can also be difficult to add step-siblings into an existing family. It can be especially difficult when one family moves into the other family's home, where the children may feel like they do not belong. It is important to keep as much of a routine as possible, as well as to adjust the family's rules to fit your new situation. One sibling should not be made to feel less important than any other, and they should all have to follow the same rules so no one feels inadequate. Doing so will help avoid serious sibling rivalry.

Romance after remarriage
A second marriage in a blended family is much different than falling in love for the first time. A first marriage is all about romance and starting a new life together, while the second marriage is going to carry a little bit of baggage - there are children to worry about now, and biological parents, and on a romantic level, damaged expectations from a previous relationship. The practicalities of life often hinder any alone time that might be involved, but romance is vital in keeping a stable marriage. Set aside a block of time each week or every month, when mom and dad can do anything they like without the kids. Also, be sure to take a few minutes every day to check in with your spouse and to catch up on the day's events. Communication and romance are necessary elements in a marriage.

Respect for the step-parent
"You're not my mom!" Get used to hearing it. It won’t be a one time thing while you transition into your new family. Children will fight with a new authority figure, and they may have little respect for that adult. Or, maybe, if you’re a little bit luckier, they’ll see you as a friend instead of a parental figure. Yet no matter the situation, you have to work with your partner to be sure that they respect you. Don’t let the kids intimidate you; don’t let them walk all over you. Work with your partner to determine disciplinary action when children become disobedient and disrespectful.

Bonding with blended family members
Blended and step families who are able to get along well and to bond with one another are much happier as a result. Since some children may feel resentment toward new family members, it can be difficult to bond in the beginning. Parents need to understand that it is hard on children to uproot and to be placed in a new environment with different people. Give them some time, but make sure the line of communication is open. Spend some one-on-one time and let them know that you’re not just their mom’s new husband or dad’s new wife, but part of the family. Talk to the child and find out what is bothering him or her, so you can take the appropriate steps to work out any problems.

The creation of the blended family is as difficult as maintaining harmony in even the most traditional, “Leave it to Beaver” families. The biggest obstacle to maintaining harmony is making sure that, even if everyone’s needs are not being met, they’re being heard. Keep communication open and honest, and you’ll be well on your way to a happy family.

Note from Shirley Cress Dudley:  If you need more assistance, consider getting a copy of Blended Family Advice, or getting coaching at The Blended and Step Family Resource Center.

Guest Post from Allison Gamble
Allison Gamble has been a curious student of psychology since high school. She brings her understanding of the mind to work with

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Should my stepchild have a photo of the ex in his room?

A step mom recently asked:
Is it O.K. for my stepchild to have a picture of his mom in his room? What about a photo of his mom and his dad together (my husband with his ex.) That really bugs me and I wonder if it's O.K.

Shirley Cress Dudley responds:

Blended families are tough.  Good for you- for reaching out, when you need an outside opinion.  There's nothing wrong with a child having a photo of their "other" parent in their room. 

Having a photo of mom and dad together is not healthy- it perpetuates the dream of mom and dad getting back together. This photo needs to be put in a special album or her, or stored away.

Parents sometimes say- "but he's been through so much- can't he just keep the photo?"  These are the parents that stand together for a group "family" photo at school events, or even get together at the holidays, "for the kids."

These are the parents that are keeping their kids from accepting reality- ignoring the changes that have happened in their lives.  These parents are keeping their children from healing, and learning to cope with life when it doesn't go the way they want to. These parents are actually hurting their kids, by shielding them from reality and allowing things like couple's photos in the home.

Let your partner read this- it may help.

Shirley Cress Dudley
author of the book, Blended Family Advice

Saturday, July 2, 2011

One of my kids just won't accept our new blended family

A blended family mom recently asked what can be done about her daughter who isn't accepting her new stepdad and the blended family. It's been several years, and all the other kids are adapting.

Shirley Cress Dudley responds:

You may not like this answer- but here is what I believe needs to happen:

Your daughter needs discipline.  She doesn’t have to like your husband or her step siblings, but she is required to be polite, friendly and respectful. If she is not, then she should experience consequences (by you- as the biological parent.)

Life changes, things happen to us that we can’t control, and we don’t like, but we have to adapt- that’s just life.  It’s time for her to learn how to adapt. As a parent, it’s your job to teach her.  By requiring her to adapt to her new blended family, you will be helping equip her for life. Don’t label her as non-adaptable- it’s basically just poor behavior and it needs to stop. She’s running the show by trying to getting things the way she wants them to be, 100% of the time- and that’s not life (not in a family, a marriage, a job, or anything.)

I recommend the book Blended Family Advice or also seeking blended family coaching, so that you have the support you need while making these changes in your parenting and in your family.
Good luck.

Kindest Regards,

Shirley Cress Dudley, MA LPC NCC FACMPE

Monday, May 9, 2011

Sandra Staub- New coach for The Blended and Step Family Resource Center

Hi, I’m Sandra Staub, counseling and coaching from New Orleans, and one of the new coaches, here at The Blended and Step Family Resource Center.

I want to give you a little more information about me and my work as a licensed counselor and a coach within the Blended and Step Family Resource Center of Charlotte, North Carolina. 

As a child, my mother was born into a blended family.  Back then people didn’t call it a “blended family”…back then we said, “step-family” and it came with step-mom, step-dad, and step-sibs.  Looking back at my mom’s family from my teen and young adult years, I saw some things that I felt were not right…not fair to my mom’s step-sibs.  Though I could not articulate it, as a child I could see things that I sensed needed to be different in the adult world I watched.  This awareness helps me know that children see much around them that they are unable to verbalize.  

My goal in coaching is for our conversations to make a positive difference in your family.  If what you are doing today isn’t working, my job as your coach is to talk with you about doing some things different.  Maybe it will be for you to learn to really listen to your mate or to one of the children…maybe it will be about the consequences needing to be enforced with one of the children…maybe it will be for you and your mate to learn (how) to put your marriage at the center of your family…or maybe it’s acceptance of how unexpectedly difficult this is right from the start of your marriage.  

Whatever the issue is, if you are willing to look at it… to talk about it…to deal with it, we can work together for you and your mate to build a strong and successful blended family.  

Until next time, 


Sandra M. Staub, LPC

New to the Blended and Step Family Resource Center- Logan Campbell!

Hello, I'm Logan Campbell and I am so excited to come aboard the Blended and Step Family Resource Center!

I am a licensed professional counselor and high school counselor in Charlotte, NC.  I have had extensive experience working with children, teenagers and adults living in blended families and have also had personal experience as a child  living in a blended family.  I can definitely relate to the challenges- and benefits J of blended families and am passionate about empowering families to create stable and successful lives together.  

I truly look forward to hearing from you and sharing ideas on the issues you face and the successes you have made! I am available for telephone coaching and also in-person coaching in Charlotte, NC.

Thanks for welcoming me to the team! 
Logan Campbell, LPC