Drina Nibbe, MAMFT, is a psychotherapist working with children, parents, and families in Centennial, Colorado. In this guest post, she draws on her extensive experience with blended families to help ensure Mother’s Day is as happy an occasion as can be.
Mother’s Day is one of those Hallmark Holidays, invented for the sole purpose of selling cards. It does remind us “associates,” however, to thank moms””or the “Director of Operations,” rather””for all they do for us.
Kids in a divorced family situation often tell me they feel like they must hate one parent to be loved by the other, and that they must be a different person in each house. The expectations you set for holidays such as Mother’s Day or Father’s Day could exacerbate those feelings, so here are a few tips to ensure the occasion is fun and seamless for the entire family:
Know your own needs. If you would like a day just with your girlfriends, don’t feel guilty about going out with them on Mother’s Day. If you need to relax, ask for the time and space to hit the spa or to curl up with a good book on your own.
DO: Give dads (step or biological), and your children, a wish list of the Top 10 activities or gifts that would help you meet these needs– it’s your day, after all.
Know you are appreciated. One of the most important lessons in parenting is renouncing the expectation that your kids– or any outside forces, for that matter– need to show you validation, acceptance, or appreciation. When you set up this expectation, you judge and criticize your parenting based on whether your children do enough to recognize your efforts””was their last-minute gift of gas station chocolates really meant to be a gesture of love?
DO: Write down a list of things you are in control of, which you know you do well, and validate yourself. Complete the sentence “I feel like a good mom when I”¦” For instance, “I feel like a good mom when I am engaged and in the present moment with my child(ren).”
BIOLOGICAL AND STEPMOMS:
Model appreciation. Kids learn through their own experiences and by watching the actions of those closest to them. If you recognize the good qualities of either their biological or stepmother, you demonstrate first-hand how to respect parents and this will likely spill over into your own relationship as well.
DO: Create a card with your kids for the other woman in their lives. Write down “I appreciate”¦,” and let the kids fill in the rest.
Take charge and set up clear roles and responsibilities to maintain familial harmony. Stepmom should be a supportive, friendly adult, while you, as the biological parent, are responsible for any disciplining. Research proves the most successful blended families understand the relationship between stepparent and child cannot be forced. This doesn’t excuse a child’s bad behavior towards a stepparent though, so clearly define the “respectful” rules of conduct for your household well in advance.
DO: Create a special ritual or routine for Mother’s Day to foster togetherness–just don’t forget to do this with both bio-mom AND stepmom.
What are some of your favorite rituals, activities, or ways you have recognized a mother in a divorced family? Please share them with us on our Facebook page””and make sure you connect with Drina while you’re at it!