Telling Your Stepchildren About Your First Pregnancy

Congratulations you're going to be a mother! You have all of the emotions from excitment to anxiety to confusion of a first time expectant mom. You have one thing that many first time expectant moms don't have: a stepchild.

You are a member of the growing group of expectant moms who are a part of a blended or stepfamily. You are faced with the unique challenge of having your first baby with a husband who has a child or children from a previous relationship.

Regardless of your relationship with your stepchildren,they may experience jealousy or insecurity that daddy is having another baby.

Dad should assure the children that his heart is big enough to love all of his children and that no one will take their place in his eyes.

Now it's your turn to talk to your stepchildren. What should you say? Consider the following:

Never offer assurance by saying things won't change after the baby is born. A baby brings changes in life. You probably won't feel like hosting your stepchild's slumber party after staying up the previous night with your crying newborn.

Do offer assurance by saying that even though you will have to eliminate some of your activities during pregnancy and after the baby arrives, your stepchild will always have a place in your heart.

Never offer assurance by saying you will love your newborn the same as your stepchild. Even if you believe this is true at the time you announce your pregnancy, don't say it. Why?

As the months progress, you will be taken by surprise at the intensity of love you feel for the growing baby inside of you. Seeing the first ultrasound and feeling the first movements create a bond that develops long before your baby is born. A stepmom usually does not have the opportunity to develop a bond with her stepchild before birth.

The bond of a first time expectant mom can be so great with her developing baby that if she is a stepmom, she often wishes her husband was sharing the experience as a first time dad as well.

Do offer assurance by reaffirming your love or by reaffirming the special place your stepchild has in your heart. Remind your stepchild that the new baby will be a part of him or her.

Being a stepmom expecting her first baby is no easy feat. In addition to the unsettling emotions pregnancy hormones bring, you have the challenges of a blended or stepfamily.

Take time to relax, pamper yourself and talk about your feelings with those you trust. Cherish each day you grow closer to meeting the little one you're carrying. Before you know it one day when you hold your baby, you'll know why mothers refer to their little ones as "the hearts outside of their bodies."

Article Source: Cynthia Wilson James is a childbirth educator, author, a midlife mom of two bubbly toddlers and a stepmom. She gave birth at age 42 to her first child and a second child at age 44. You can reach her at her website

Blending Families Takes Work!

Dr. David Hawkins
The Relationship Doctor

We live in a day when divorce is much more common than it was twenty-five years ago, and because of this, there are more and more blended families. We call them by different names -stepfamilies, ready-made families, and blended families -referring to families where one or both spouses have been married before and often have children from previous relationships.

Imagine the following scenario:

A woman was previously married for seven years and has two young children from that marriage. The marriage ended acrimoniously because of her ex’s chronic unfaithfulness. There is still a great deal of tension between them and any conversation concerning the children results in an opportunity for ongoing conflict.
After being single for three years, she began dating. A year and a half later she married her husband. He is several years older, and has been married twice previously, with one grown son from his first marriage and two teenage children from his second marriage. He gets along very well with his two ex-spouses.

While this woman loves this man, they are already experiencing some of the typical challenges facing blended families. This is one of many different combinations of blended families; his kids/her kids/ their kids; active ex-spouse, distant ex-spouse; cooperative relationships/acrimonious relationships with the ex, to name a few.

Consider some of these common hurdles for blended families:

• Children having loyalty issues between their natural parents and stepparents;
• Children feeling jealousy toward the other children;
• Entanglements, both positive and negative, with ex-spouses;
• Challenges with including the “new spouse” in decision-making about the stepchildren;
• Jealousy of the stepparent toward the stepchildren;
• Blending estates and finances;
• Blending religious and spiritual values;
• Ensuring the new marriage has appropriate time and attention;
• Guarding against too high of expectations for the new marriage and family;
• Establishing the identity of the “new” family.

With these challenges in mind, you won’t be surprised to hear that counseling those in blended families has been some of my most difficult work. While these families have many positive things to share with one another, they also have struggles not encountered by families without this history.

Here’s a recent Message Board request, suggesting concerns with blending families:

Dear Dr. Hawkins,
I am new at this and I consider myself to be a very spiritual individual, meaning that I do believe that my relationship with God is true. I recently married and now I am separated. To make a long story short, we started encountering problems when my 15 year old step daughter came to live with us. I have a 17 year old daughter who I admire, but I thought if I treated them with the same affection that every thing would be ok. Now he lives with his daughter and I live with mine. I pray daily for us to come together as a family, but it has been 3 weeks now. I want to grow old with my husband, but I don't know what to say without causing conflicts. I know that every thing happens for a reason, I just wish I knew this reasoning, I pray that it is from God and not from my husband’s reasoning. Pray for me because I love him and I want our marriage to work, I'm just at a stand still with being positive right now.

Clearly this woman is experiencing some of the “typical” problems encountered by stepfamilies. While the exact nature of their problems is unclear, it is likely that they, like most stepfamilies, failed to fully anticipate and prepare for blending families. Her note suggests there was conflict between her 15 year old stepdaughter and 17 year old daughter.

It is also quite obvious that she and her husband aren’t problem-solving effectively. They have failed to manage the conflict that is common to blending families and he has chosen to separate rather than continue to struggle with the issues.

What can this woman do now? While I’ll offer a few ideas, I’d love for you to weigh in on this issue. Assuming that the heart of the matter involves tensions between the two girls, and divided loyalties, what can she do now?

One, invite your husband to talk with a third party about the problems. Perhaps your pastor or professional counselor can help you untangle the conflicts and speak to each other in such a way so as to solve problems. Whomever you choose to counsel with, make sure they have some familiarity with stepfamilies and problems associated with them.

Two, use this time to examine your heart and reflect on the issues. While your heart is clearly breaking, the space between the four of you can be used to explore what isn’t working and how to come back together more effectively.

Three, consider family counseling, with a therapist familiar with blended family issues. It is quite likely that in addition to marriage counseling, the teenage girls need to have a voice in the matter as well. Children in blended families have a huge influence on how effectively the blending process occurs. You need to listen to their voice.

Fourth, read everything you can on blended families. I have written a very readable book on the topic: When You’re Living in a Stepfamily. There are many other good books that will help you understand what you’ve done well, and what needs improvement.

Finally, you are right about the separation occurring for a reason—though that doesn’t mean you should passively wait for it to end. Look and listen carefully to your husband to learn about what led him to separate. Listen with an open mind and a willingness to learn. Take what you learn and make healthy changes.


Two sisters, two different moms—TV's 'half & half' takes a fresh look at the blended black family

Take the Carringtons from "Dynasty," add 100 percent more humor and 200 percent more color and you have the Thornes, a family who puts the "fun" in dysfunctional in the sitcom "Half & Half." And while the title sounds like something you put in your coffee, there's nothing halfhearted about the UPN show, which is one of the most popular series on television with Black audiences. It also has earned nods from the NAACP, which honored the sitcom with four Image Award nominations--including one for Outstanding Comedy Series--a first for the show in its two-year run on UPN.

And signs are pointing to a third season of Monday night mayhem for the sitcom, which chronicles the adventures of two adult half-sisters with the same father who grew up in different homes and are trying to bond for the first time in their lives.

There's a lot of reality in the silliness that is our show," says Telma Hopkins, who stars as Phyllis Thorne, the ex-wife of San Francisco real estate mogul Charles Thorne (Obba Babatunde) and single mother to their daughter, Mona (Rachel True). "You've got two girls with just their daddy in common, who really don't know each other. You've got two mothers who are always bickering, who have their own insecurities. The people on this show, as ridiculous as they can be, are still people with whom you can identify since there are many, many broken families out there."

The show centers on Mona, a free-spirited neophyte music executive, and her younger half-sister Dee Dee Thorne (Essence Atkins), a very privileged, very pampered law school student, who become neighbors in the same apartment building, which their father happens to own.

Mona's parents, who met in high school and got married right out of college, divorced after three years of marriage. "One of the reasons Phyllis and Charles split up was because he wanted to pursue real estate as an entrepreneur and she was afraid of backing him," Atkins explains. "He eventually separated from her because he felt like she wasn't being supportive of' his dreams. So they got divorced and he met [Dee Dee's] mother.".

And that's the moment the fireworks began between the two Thorne matriarchs. After all, Dee Dee's mom, Big Dee Dee Thorue (Valarie Pettiford), has been a true thorn in Phyllis' side.

"What can we not say about Big Dee Dee," laughs Pettiford, who plays the woman folks love to hate. "She speaks her mind, whether you like it or not. She's rich, she loves Life, she loves who she is and what she represents, and she loves her family. And believe it or not, she loves and respects Phyllis--that's her sparring partner. She sharpens her teeth with her and she gives as good as she gets."

The cast agrees that their outrageous antics hook the viewers, but the realism of the story lines also reels in audiences week after week.

"I think the show is successful because it's funny, it's positive and it strikes an honest chord with people," says "Half & Half" executive producer Yvette Lee Bowser, who herself has four older half-siblings. "It's an accurate depiction of' blended families, which is how 60 percent of the families in America look today."

In fact, most of the "Half & Half" cast are part of blended families like the Thornes. True's real-life parents are divorced and she has a younger half-sister. Atkins informs that although she didn't have siblings in childhood, she now has a younger half-brother on her father's side. And Chico Benymon, who plays Mona's best friend Spencer Williams, says he didn't grow up with one of his brothers.

Bowser, who also created and executive-produced the top-rated sitcom "Living Single," says that her own experiences as the youngest child in a blended family serve as constant story-line fodder.

"I just basically rip pages out of my diary to tell stories on TV," admits Bowser, who modeled Mona and Dee Dee after herself and an older sister who lives with her. "There's a lot of me in Mona and a lot of me in Dee Dee. These two women are the two sides of sisterhood."

True says she too has a lot in common with Mona, whom she describes as the "everyman of the show." The actress and her alter ego both have a quick wit--although True points out that Mona has a team of writers feeding her those snappy one-liners. And True, like her character, is "a bit of a hermit." True says that she and Mona even own similar pieces of furniture in their apartments, which she swears is a coincidence, and they both share the same "weird sense of style."

"All my life people have said to me, 'Oh Rachel, only you could pull that off.' I knew they didn't really mean it as a compliment, but I just took it as one because I think that being different is a neat thing," says True, who vehemently refuses to give up the Frankenstein boots she rocks on the show. "I know platforms are out--I don't care. I'm 5 feet 3 OK! So with the boots I'm 5 feet 6 and I rule the world!"

Half-sister Dee Dee, on the other hand, is the optimist of the family, Atkins says. "She's the most bright-eyed and bushy-tailed character. It was her idea to move into the building so that she can get to know her sister better. She really has a great amount of hope in all."

Atkins also acknowledges that although Dee Dee is spoiled and very sheltered, there is hope for her.

"She's finding her wings this second season. She's definitely more sensitive and she's also been through more of her own struggles, having removed herself a little bit from the shadow of her mother," Atkins says.

As for similarities, Atkins admits that she and Dee Dee definitely share the same compulsive habit of cleaning things when they're anxious or upset. But unlike Dee Dee, Atkins is more pragmatic than her character and wasn't born with a silver spoon in her mouth.

"And it's very rare that you would catch me in a pair of hot pants," she jokes,

Despite their differences, the Thorne sisters and their families always unite when they need to unite--a message the show tries hard to convey.

"Even though they are truly dysfunctional, when push comes to shove, they are a family," Hopkins notes.

Bowser promises fans of the show some big changes in the Thorne clan in upcoming episodes.

"Mona and Dee Dee are becoming more integral to each other's lives," she says. "Of course Big Dee Dee is going to be having her baby and everyone is going to be making adjustments for the new little one in the family. Spencer is going to be making some big moves and Phyllis is getting a very significant man in her life, portrayed by actor Lou Gossett Jr."

But when it comes to the burning question in everyone's minds, will Spencer and Mona take the leap from friends to lovers? Benymon says that fans will just have to wait to see.

"There is some possibility that could happen in the near future," he alludes. "It's definitely a roller coaster that everybody's gonna like."

Reflecting on the show, Bowser says that she hopes to present the many facets of Black life to audiences. "We're not a monolith," she asserts. "We're not always angry, sassy or uneducated. We have many, many shadings, and not just in our skin tone. We deserve to be heard and seen."

The "Half & Half" cast certainly reflects this diversity and strives for it in the show.

"Mona's a weird alterna-chick and we really haven't seen a Black actress play this kind of role," True says. "I love that Yvette breaks some of the stereotypes and has been able to give Black women a strong voice."

Atkins agrees. "I would love for eur viewers to see the grace and the elegance of Black women," she says. "And I would love for them to see themselves in these characters."

by Nicole Walker
COPYRIGHT 2004 Johnson Publishing Co.
COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group

Remarriage Can Be Magic

Remarriage is tricky. Actually, marriage of any kind is tricky. To have a healthy marriage or remarriage, you need to develop many skills and have great determination to succeed.

Remarriage, though, has far more challenges than a first marriage. The good news, though, is that if you can get past those challenges, remarriage can be magic!

Here are five ways you can create a magical remarriage.

1. Remarriages often don’t work because of all the baggage that the couple brings into the marriage with them. A person who has been divorced usually has more hurt, anger and fear than a person who is getting married for the first time. A person whose spouse has died, has grief and often guilt or anger to contend with. All of this emotion comes into the new marriage right along with the couple.

To have a great remarriage, you need to be aware of the baggage as you go into your new marriage, and you need to accept it. Awareness and acceptance combined have amazing powers to heal. Start with awareness and acceptance, and you can resolve old emotional issues to pave the way for a great remarriage.

2, Second marriages often include children from previous marriages or relationships. These children can cause problems in remarriage, but they don’t have to. Although parenting someone else’s child can be one of life’s biggest challenges, it can be done. And it can also be fun.

The trick is to know ahead of time, before the second marriage, how you’re going to handle the logistics of joint parenting with an ex. Include the children in this discussion. Be clear on what everyone’s expectations are—know what the stepparent wants and can do, what the parent wants and can do, and what the children want and can do. When you lay out a family plan, you can create a wonderful blended family.

3. Ex spouses can be an obstacle to successful remarriage. If a previous divorce wasn’t amiable, an ex-spouses resentment can create all kinds of problems for a second or third marriage. Ex spouses can file lawsuits accusing all kinds of manufactured crimes, they can demand money, and they can poison children with their hatred and anger.

To keep an ex from ruining your second marriage, first, be sure you have the resources to have a good lawyer at your disposal. Second, make sure your new spouse knows what to expect from the ex. Third, do everything possible to diffuse your ex’s anger. Don’t engage in rehashing of your ended marriage. Avoid engaging in shouting matches with an ex. Allow your ex to feel what he or she feels and simply focus on dealing with whatever issue is at hand; leave old issues where they belong—in the past. When you do all of this, you can leave your ex-spouse out of the picture and focus on a great remarriage.

4. To have a wonderful remarriage, you need to keep your focus on THIS marriage, not on past ones. When you’ve been married before, you have a benchmark of marriage in mind. If the last marriage was awful, that benchmark won’t cause much problem.

If your previous marriage was good in any way, however, you might find yourself comparing your new spouse to your old spouse. Don’t do this. Telling your new spouse, for example, that he isn’t as good in bed as an ex is a surefire way of killing a second marriage. Telling a spouse that he doesn’t drive as well, cook as well, think as well, or do anything as well as a previous spouse dooms remarriage to failure.

Don’t EVER compare your current spouse to a previous one. In ANY way. In fact, you’ll do best if you don’t discuss a previous spouse at all unless you mention him or her in passing when sharing a memory of being someplace or doing something. To create a magical remarriage, think only about the remarriage.


Keep these tips in mind, and you can have a happy and successful, perhaps even magical, remarriage.

About the Author: Andrea Rains Waggener is a co-author of A Big Beautiful Woman’s Guide To Great Sex. Her site,, offers over forty love relationship advice.

Mother's Law

As I read Proverbs 6:20, which refers to "the law of your mother," I recall some of my mother's unique "laws" that have helped me many times. The first I call "the law of the warm kitchen." When we got home from school on a cold winter's day or when the holidays rolled around, the kitchen was always warm from baking and cooking that the windows were steamed. It was also warm with a mother's love. A second law I call "the law of a mother's perspective." When I would come to her all upset over some childish matter, she would often say, "Pay no attention." Or, "Ten years from now you'll have forgotten all about it." That helped me put things into perspective. But above all was my mother's "law of faith." She had an unswerving trust in God that kept her strong and gentle amid the fears, pressures, and sacrifices.

I'm so grateful for her "laws" because they have helped me through my difficult days. Christian mother, you too are writing "laws" for your children. Are they worth remembering?

Rights and Responsibilities of a Stepparent

Q: As a stepparent, do I have the same rights and responsibilities as the "biological" parent, who I am married to? Can the other (never married) biological parent legally tell me to never discipline their child? In a custody dispute between the biological parents, do I have any rights?

A: Consult a lawyer for the pertinent family law in your state. However, in general, stepparents do not hold custody rights unless custody is taken away from a biological parent and given by law to caretakers other than biological parents. It is usually the case that a parent's natural rights continue whether or not the parents have been married. Therefore, unless it is the case that the biological father is actually deemed incompetent to parent, (or voluntarily relinquishes his rights so that you may legally adopt) you will fare better to approach this situation with greater cooperation and less "going for the jugular."

Beware of the danger caused by blurring boundaries between two separate households. Taking on a fight with the biological father is not beneficial for at least two critical reasons: 1) there is little likelihood you could ever "win" on legal grounds and 2) more importantly, you contribute to strain, and a conflict of loyalty for your stepchildren. You must make appropriate room for their biological parent that does not invade the boundaries of your home. Reflect on your own tendencies towards creating conflict instead of long-term solutions which truly have their best interest at heart! It is your wife's job, not yours to handle this situation appropriately.

Consider that a part of the solution to your difficulty may lie in creating better boundaries between family situations. Do not discuss parenting with the ex. And any discussion that needs to occur about parenting between your wife and her ex can take place with the help of a family court counselor, or other family therapy mediator. The usual response to parenting differences by the court tends towards support of separate rules in separate houses. Except, of course, in cases of child abuse.

But rest assured that you do not have to account to your wife's ex" for your behavior in your own home! (Unless, of course, you were committing child abuse rather than exercising a different parenting style.) What goes on in your home need not be controlled by the biological parent living elsewhere. By creating stronger boundaries, you will likely circumvent conflict. The biological father will not be able to invade your privacy, once you stop responding to his "knock at your door."

Suggest to your wife that she begin by setting boundaries with her ex about what is discussible" between them. It is between you and your wife to decide what the rules are in your home, including discipline. She should make it clear that her ex is not invited into this discussion. Remain neutral and avoid hostility. But do not engage in discussion that is over the boundary to begin with! It is okay for her to hear his concerns, if she wishes, but it is not incumbent on her to feel compelled to continue to respond to them, once differences are clearly acknowledged.

Maintaining clear boundaries includes staying out of the middle of your wife's and her ex's negotiations. This is not really your battle! Your place of power is by her side in the marriage. This is where the two of you make decisions together about "house rules. It is then her job to set boundaries with her ex that respect the privacy and authority of your separate household. Do not make the mistake of taking on her battles. If she needs help, she should get outside professional consultation to help her establish these boundaries with her ex.

Your wife should simply represent clearly that there may be alot of things that the two of them do not see eye to eye on. And parenting styles is one of them. She may start by saying something like, "I appreciate your concerns. I do not always agree with your parenting style, either. However, I believe it is best to respect these differences. I decide what goes on when the children are with me. And when you are in charge, you decide what rules they abide by. I do not want to discuss this with you any further." In this way, your wife refrains from including you in the discussion and sets clear limits about separate household rules. For further discussion about dealing with ex's and stepfamily development refer to John and Emily Visher's book, "How to Win as a Stepfamily" and my article on "Making Healthy Stepfamilies".

It is your wife who holds the parental authority, as the biological parent. Your power is derived from the relationship with her. You negotiate regarding the agreements in your marriage and household (including parenting). But it is she who must clearly establish what is negotiated between biological parents. The lines of legal responsibility/power do in fact lie with your wife, and not you! Though this may not feel fair to you, it is the case that your place of power and "rights" rests only on your ability to successfully negotiate with your wife. But the good news, is that this does not seem to be a problem for the two of you!

Congratulations on a healthy marital relationship as well as a wonderful connection with your stepchildren. Well placed trust in a good relationship provides greater insurance for negotiating your needs for happiness than any court of law could ever hope to emulate!

by Gayle Peterson,PhD ( see more from this expert)

Wordless Wednesday

A Day for Mothers

To all Mothers in the world...

Chores in a Blended Family

Managing Shared Household Responsibilities

When you have a large family, work must be shared when running the home. No single person can or should be responsible for all of the household chores. This includes stay at home parents, you are the only people who have a job 24/7, and you need and deserve help. Chores should be divided equally among the members of the household according to ability. In addition to being helpful working as a team to keep the house in order helps promote unity and personal pride.

As much as your children may object to contributing to the upkeep and general maintenance of the home, doing so builds a sense of community. Working together to the same end promotes a sense of responsibility to one another. It also helps build a feeling of “home” for any family members that are joining an already established household.

No matter how carefully you try to divide chores you will undoubtedly find that your planning will be thought “unfair” by some of your family members. There are ways to help curb this feeling by rotating chores according to ability. Keeping chore charts or chore cards can help keep things organized.

A chart is a simple way of keeping track of who is supposed to be doing what. Simply list the chores that are to be done and the person who is supposed to attend to those chores. As work is completed it is checked off. Chore cards are a little more detailed in nature and can help ensure tasks are done to your satisfaction. Using 3x5 cards list the chore and any special instructions. For example, a card stating “Dishes” may include wiping down the counter and sweeping the floor after a meal. For children who are not yet reading you can paste pictures of the chores onto a card. An example of this could be a picture of a wastebasket that represents trash duties.

Keep in mind that some children have not yet participated in household chores. They will need careful and patient training on tasks you expect them to work on. Don’t be concerned about a job being done to perfection. Learning to do housework well, like anything else, takes practice. Rotate age appropriate tasks regularly and don’t forget to include outdoor chores such as weeding, washing cars, mowing lawns and pool care.

Whether or not to pay allowance to your children is an individual family decision. Some families choose to offer monetary compensation in exchange for children doing chores. Other families believe that contributing to the household duties is part of being a family and no such compensation is offered. Whichever model your family follows, you are not alone, but in good company!

by Cynthia Peterson