Category Archives: Children and divorce

Guest Post: Expert Insights: All About Stepmoms with Peggy Nolan of The Stepmom’s Toolbox

With over half of all marriages ending in divorce and half of all children under the age of 13 living with one biological parent and that parent’s partner, according to, step families are becoming more prevalent and more common. What makes them the same and what makes them different than first or original families? Recently I had a chance to circle around with Peggy Nolan of The Stepmom’s Toolbox to learn about the unique role stepmoms play in today’s families. Here’s a bit of what she had to say.

eNannySource: What are the three most common myths surrounding the role of a stepmom?

Peggy: The most common mythos surrounding the stepmom role is The Wicked Evil Stepmother, perpetuated in folklore and brought forward into our modern day storytelling by none other than Walt Disney. Stories like Cinderella, Snow White and Hansel and Gretel paint stepmoms as spiteful, greedy, jealous and vain women. Many women in the stepmom role spend a lot of energy dispelling this myth to those in their circle of influence. Another myth is that stepmoms are home wreckers. Modern stories like Stepmom (starring Julia Roberts) and The Other Woman (based on the book Love and Other Impossible Pursuits, starring Natalie Portman) depict the stepmom as a home wrecker. Most stepmoms are kind, loving and caring women who simply find themselves in no man’s land when it comes to being a stepmom. Most stepmoms are not notorious home wreckers. In fact, most women enter into a relationship with a man with kids after he’s divorced. Another common myth is that stepfamilies are just like first families. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Unfortunately, a 1970’s sitcom portrayed a stepfamily as a happy bunch who immediately clicked, rarely argued and all problems were solved in 30 minutes or less. Many new stepfamilies are under the illusion that their family will integrate as soon as the “I do’s” are said. This illusion is in direct conflict with reality. It takes time for stepfamilies to integrate. It also takes the Three P’s – Patience, Persistence and Perspiration.

eNannySource: How do you define the role of a stepmom?

Peggy: I define the role of stepmom as any woman who is in a long-term relationship with a man who has kids from a previous relationship. Women in the role of stepmom are not their stepkids’ mom. A stepmom may do mom things, but this does not make her the mom. Stepmoms are another adult who cares for and loves their partner’s children.

eNannySource: How can step families work to coordinate childcare so it’s seamless?

Peggy: This seems to be one of the trickiest parts of step family dynamics. Even with the best co-parenting, glitches happen. Someone is late for pick up or drop off. Someone forgets it’s his or her weekend to take the kids. In high conflict situations, these glitches can escalate rapidly. If the parents have a difficult time communicating, many times the stepmom will step in and attempt to be the peacemaker and “fix” the problem. This can be risky, as now the stepmom has put herself in the direct line of fire from three different sides – her husband, his ex and the kids. In lieu of good communication between the co-parents, there are tools that stepfamilies can use to coordinate childcare, such as Our Family Wizard or other online calendaring tools.

eNannySource: How long does it take a step family to function as a cohesive family unit? 

Peggy: On average it takes seven years for a step family to integrate. Some may integrate sooner, some later, and some may never integrate. One of the biggest mistakes step families make is to make their stepfamily become a first family. Stepfamilies are not first families in any way, shape or form. Every attempt to make them so is like trying to hammer a square peg into a round hole. It’s important for stepfamilies to practice becoming a stepfamily: Practice communication, practice relationship investment, practice building trust, practice getting to know each other, and for the couple – practice date night, practice united parenting, practice making your relationship a priority. It takes 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert in anything. And if the average stepfamily integration takes seven years – that’s four hours of stepfamily practice every day for seven years. I did the math. It equals 10,200 hours.

eNannySource: What’s your best advice for new stepmoms?

Peggy: My best advice comes from my wonderful husband. It worked for me and it works for everyone I pass it on to. When I suddenly found myself as a custodial stepmom to my husband’s youngest son, I asked my husband how he wanted me to play the stepmom gig. “Be your wonderful self,” he told me. “You can’t go wrong with that!”

This advice works because it’s simply too exhausting to be anyone else. As the stepmom, you are not the mom. Don’t try to be her. Don’t try to outdo her or be better than her. It’s not a competition, so don’t make it one. Don’t compare yourself to the ex-wife. That will only serve to create jealousy and self-doubt. Just be the wonderful you that you are. Trust me, you’ll do more for your marriage and relationship with your stepkids when you live from your true center.

In the fabulous words of Oscar Wilde, “Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.”

eNannySource: What’s the most common mistakes new stepmoms make? What’s your best advice to combat it?  

Peggy: I believe one of the most common mistakes new stepmoms make is trying to create a first family experience in a stepfamily. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. If you keep hammering a square peg into a round hole you’ll remain frustrated. You can try to shave off the ends, but that won’t work for long. Successful stepmoms know that this is a marathon and not a sprint. It takes time to merge households. It takes time to integrate kids from different relationships. It takes time to get on the same page with your partner about parenting, finances, household responsibilities and shared goals.

eNannySource: Anything else you’d like to share?

Peggy: The best thing women in the stepmom role can do for themselves is practice self-care. Too many women run themselves into the ground by trying to be everything to everyone. Give yourself permission to take care of yourself. Get plenty of rest. Eat right. Spend time in silence through mediation or prayer every day. Get at least 30 minutes of physical exercise a day. Pursue a hobby or dream that brings you joy. Focus on your relationship with yourself first. Why? Because we teach others how to treat us by how we treat ourselves. If you want to feel loved and appreciated by your man and those you love, you must love and appreciate yourself. Self-care is as necessary as oxygen!

Peggy Nolan is a leading authority on self-care and personal development for women in the stepmom role.  She has been referred to as the “Self-Care Queen” by her peers and clients because of her strategies to reduce and manage stress work. Peggy has been part of a stepfamily for over 40 years. She knows what it’s like to be a step-daughter, a step-sister and a stepmom. Peggy is the mom of two adult children, the bonus mom of four adult children and the grandmother of two. Peggy’s articles have been featured in The Huffington Post, Divine Caroline, The Diva Toolbox, Applaud Women, Aspire and StepMom Magazine. Peggy has also interviewed numerous leading experts in stepfamilies on her highly acclaimed internet radio show, The Stepmom’s Toolbox Radio Show. You can connect with Peggy at

by Michelle LaRowe,  Editor in Chief, e Nanny Source

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Filed under Children and divorce, Divorce, Divorce Support, Life after Divorce, New relationship after divorce, Post Divorce, Relationships

Guest Post: 5 Things to Remember when Co-Parenting after Divorce

After the dispute is over and the child custody lawyers have done their job and been paid, parents embark on the difficult and enduring task of raising children with their former spouse. The bitterness that so often stems from the end of a marriage is difficult to put aside, but the trauma it causes to the children of divorced couples can be significant. The tips offered below will help guide parents through the delicate process of sharing custody.

  • Put Parenthood First

The most important thing for divorced couples to remember when it comes to custody issues is to put parenthood ahead of everything else. As angry or hurt as they may feel, those issues should have been addressed during the divorce. Now is the time to focus clearly on the best interests of their child or children. It can be difficult to overcome painful, if selfish feelings and work with the person who has left you feeling betrayed, but having a child with someone means that is your job, no matter what else occurs.

  • Forgive the Past

As difficult as it can be, letting go of the pain is the absolute best way to reduce the amount of trauma your children experience due to marital conflict. If you need help to manage this, family therapy doesn’t have to end because you have divorced. After all, you may no longer be married, but you will always be a family, and you and your children may benefit from some guidance and mediation from a professional counsellor.

  • Respect their Role

If forgiveness is more than you can currently manage, make sure that you are at least showing respect to your former spouse’s relationship with your child or children. Whatever their sins as a husband or wife, their role as a father or mother is critical in your children’s lives and remembering its importance can help you to come to peace with their continued presence in your life.

  • Discuss Important Decision

Although you are no longer married, as parents you will have a relationship for the rest of your lives. As with any other relationship, communication is the best way to keep things running smoothly. Openly discussing needs, obstacles, goals, and concerns will be the most effective way to avoid conflict and reach fair compromises. It will also help to keep the best interests of the child or children involved in sharp focus.

  • Parent Together

Self-awareness is something that many people struggle with, but understanding your ability to work with and be around your former partner is the only way to make to right custody plans for your family. For parents who are able to put aside their personal feelings or whose divorce was fairly amicable, coordinated parenting is the best way to go. With this method of shared custody, parents can work together, spend time with their children as a complete family unit, and collaborate on important decisions.

For couples who are left angry and unable to moderate their conflicts after divorce, parallel parenting may be the best option. In this arrangement, parents will coordinate through email and other indirect communication, while limiting their contact as much as possible to avoid traumatic fights that will impact their children negatively. If even this is more cooperation that they can achieve, intervention from a mediator or custody specialist may be necessary to ensure that the children are protected from continuing conflict between their parents.

Author Info:

Alan Brady is a freelance writer who focuses on issues that impact families. He currently writes for, which connects people with local child custody lawyers.

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Guest Post: Divorce Lawyer Tips for Effective Co-Parenting

As a divorce lawyer it is not uncommon to see a lot of hostility and arguing between the parties during a divorce. Months and years of acrimonious living can lead to lots of hurt feelings and grudges. However, if children are involved it is important for both parties to understand that even though their marriage is over, their partnership in raising their child is not. Therefore, the parents together need to reach an effective co-parenting strategy for their child and themselves so that during this difficult time, the child feels a sense of stability.


I have found that a strong communication strategy can really help divorced parents. This requires each parent to let go of past hurts and disagreements. For those who find this difficult to do one effective strategy is to treat post-divorce interactions with you ex as you would a conversation with a difficult coworker – unpleasant but necessary. Conversations should be kept factual and professional and emotions should be left at the door.

This in no way means that you are required to agree with everything your former spouse thinks. Even married parents have different parenting styles. The important thing to remember is that you should keep communication lines open and you should never use your child as a messenger between you and your spouse unless you re sending a pleasant greeting or a thanks.


Co-parenting requires involvement by both parents. It means cooperative scheduling and a bit of understanding. Flexibility is key. I have found that parents who put their child’s interests above their own wants have the most success. This means not being obsessed with the minutes and hours your child spends with your ex-spouse. For example, there may be times your child wants to go to a special party on the weekend when you have custody. You should consider your child’s wishes in this regard and decide whether it makes sense.

Explaining the Divorce to Your Child

I sometimes see former spouses get so wrapped up in their own emotions from the divorce that they forget just how impacted their children will be by the news of the divorce and exactly what it means. Remember to listen to your children, reassure them, and tell them you love them. If possible, try to make time for you and your ex to sit down together and reassure your child that he or she did not do anything wrong and did not cause the divorce. Hearing it from both parents together reinforces this idea. It may also be a good idea for former spouses and their children to talk together, or separately, with a professional.

Co-parenting is hard. It might be one of the most difficult things you ever do. I have found in my years of practice that if you can do this successfully you will have given your child a wonderful gift that many other children of divorce don’t have:  a peaceful childhood. For more resources on divorce and family law visit the  Morgan Law Firm blog.

Scott Morgan is a board certified divorce lawyer in Houston who regularly blogs on the subject of divorce and family law.

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Guest Post: Dating after divorce – the difficulties of that extra mile

Recovering after a divorce is often a difficult process, especially if your marriage didn’t end amicably. Having to split up your assets, change homes (or adjust to living in one alone) and find trustworthy divorce solicitors can all be stressful. But restoring your confidence in relationships and learning how to date again might seem particularly daunting.

It is important to consider when to start dating on your own terms instead of when others think you should be ready.  Once you take that step, here are some tips to help keep your new relationship in balance with the rest of your life.

Find easy ways to keep in touch. If you and your new significant other are both in the throes of full-time careers and/or still have children at home it can be a challenge to find time to build a new  relationship. The easiest way to overcome that challenge is to stay connected in ways that don’t necessarily require you to see each other in person every day. Talking on the phone, or even video calling, is a good way to stay in touch that only requires a few minutes a day. It can also be a way for you to ease back into dating again with less pressure.

Make the kids feel like a part of your relationship. If you do have young children, one of the most important steps you can take to make your new relationship easier for them is to be honest and upfront. Once you are in a committed relationship you should introduce your children to your new partner. If they have questions about you dating again help them understand how important it is to you. Try meeting on neutral ground, such as a park or a restaurant, at first so they don’t feel overwhelmed.

Have a date night once a week. Even with all the new technology available to help you keep in touch, face-to-face interaction is still an important part of any relationship. If you struggle to find time with each other starting a date night routine is a great way to remedy that. If you always know that you’re going to spend time together on the same day at the same time, it becomes easy to not plan anything else for that time.

Communicate your expectations and hopes.  Starting a new relationship should be a fun endeavor for you but it is important to have a conversation about what you would like to happen. It’s easy for spouses, after being together for a while, to just know what each other want. Learning how to be with someone new might mean that you have to talk about things that you haven’t had to in a long time. If you want to be in a committed relationship, putting that on the table can make all your other interactions with your new partner a lot easier.

Have fun.  Because why would you be dating otherwise? The beginning of any relationship should be about discovering a new person and falling in love. If you find yourself in constant anticipation or extremely happy then let yourself enjoy it. After a difficult divorce, you deserve it.

Cherrie is a freelance writer who currently specialises in writing about divorce, from finding family law solicitors to divorce forms.  You can find her on Twitter @Cherries_Scoop




Filed under Children and divorce, Confidence after Divorce, Divorce, Divorce Support, Life after Divorce, New relationship after divorce, Post Divorce, Relationships

Guest Post: Sharing your Kids after Divorce – A Guideline

Sharing custody after divorce is potentially the best option for everyone involved. The parents will both still get a hand in raising the children, the children get to continue to live with both parents, and everyone is potentially happier. However, joint custody is often easier said than done.

How do you know if joint custody is a realistic expectation for your family after divorce? What are some of the possible benefits? And what are some good guidelines for practicing joint custody?

Disclaimer: I’m not an attorney. I can only speak from personal experience and prior research. If you’re struggling with these issues, or wondering about legalities, perhaps it’s time to consult a divorce lawyer for child custody considerations.

Is Joint Custody Right for your Family?

How do you know if joint custody will work for your family? Well, here are some of the indicators that it’s a strong possibility:

1)      You and your ex live near one another

This is the first crucial factor in joint custody. Parents must live near one another to be able to give the children a stable life and development. Children should still be able to go to the same schools, attend the same extracurricular activities, and overall continue living much the same life.

The necessity of this cannot be overemphasized. Parents considering joint custody need to live near enough to one another to provide a stable and uninterrupted life. Otherwise there’s too much risk of the children suffering.

It should be noted that there’s still the possibility of children living with the father during summers. This is a completely separate type of joint custody, however.

2)      You and your ex both respect each other’s involvement in your children’s lives

The child benefits from both the Mother and Father being involved in their lives. Both parents understanding and accepting this is crucial for joint custody to work. Otherwise there will be too much conflict and tension throughout the arrangement.

3)      The parents are able to cooperate and communicate in a reasonable manner

Again, the parents should be able to get along well enough to be able to communicate with one another. As both parents will be playing a critical role in the child’s upbringing they need to be able to communicate and coordinate their effort in the joint upbringing.

4)      You agree to never fight in front of the children

Fighting with your ex during joint custody is nearly unavoidable. There’s too much history and—let’s admit it—hurt feelings to be able to do such a difficult task as raise children together. Despite this, you need to both agree never to fight or argue in front of the children, and never involve them in the disputes. Otherwise joint custody is likely counterproductive, and is more harmful than helpful.

Joint Custody Benefits

Joint custody has a multitude of benefits. These include more paternal involvement, decreased risk of financial problems, shared responsibility, and increased child happiness and resistance to the negative effects of divorce.

Joint custody has been proven to increase paternal involvement in raising children. Obviously this is only natural as the father gets increased time and interaction with the children. Furthermore, it has been shown that paternal involvement can pay a critical role in the raising of children. For example, see this study. To summarize a piece of the study:

Children raised without fathers are:

  • 70% of kids incarcerated
  • Twice as likely to quit school
  • 80% of the adolescents in psychiatric hospitals
  • 90% of runaways

As you can see, having a father around can be a huge benefit. One that is, perhaps, underappreciated.

Financial troubles—due to lack of child support payments—are also considerably less likely under joint custody. The father is around to bear some of the financial burdens, and because he is connected to the family still he’s less likely to default on any payments.

Last but not least, the children themselves benefit. They are less likely to feel unloved after the divorce since they still frequently interact with both parents. Also, since one parent isn’t in effect disappearing, they’re less likely to be afraid after the divorce. Furthermore learning to live with both parents teaches them flexibility and the ability to adapt.

General Guidelines and Rules

Any recently divorced parents who decide to share the kids after divorce should set up a few ground rules and general guidelines which both parents agree on. This will not only make everything smoother but protect the children as well incase conflict arises. Some good guidelines are:

  • No fighting or arguing in front of the children
  • No using the children to pass along messages
  • Never discuss child support issues in front of the children
  • No badmouthing the other parent to the children
  • No forcing the children to choose sides
  • Never include the children in any debate or argument
  • No using the children to spy on the other parent – “Did __ have a date? Seeing anyone?”

Following these ground rules—even just sitting down and agreeing to general guidelines—can really help everyone out in the long run. So even though it might be hard, make sure you communicate with your ex if you’re considering joint custody. If only for the sake of the children.

Hopefully this guideline helps ease divorce and custody issues, and makes moving forward, in the direction appropriate for you, a little easier.

Author Bio:  lan Brady is a passionate blogger who loves to share his personal experiences concerning divorce, his daughters, and being a single parent. Blogging about divorce greatly helped him comes to terms with his divorce and life afterward.

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Guest Post: How to Help Children Through a Divorce

Although a divorce can be stressful for parents, it can be even more traumatic for children. During a divorce, children experience a range of emotions that can include sadness, anger and even relief. For many children, a divorce is their first experience with a life-altering event. For this reason, they may lack the knowledge and skills to be able to express their feelings. Additionally, many children feel guilty or will blame themselves for their parent’s separation. Therefore, the following ideas are designed to help any family that is facing divorce to be able to help their child to cope during this stressful time in their life.

1. Be honest – At first, it may be difficult to tell a child that their parents are going to have a divorce. However, children are often the first ones to realize when their parents are struggling. Therefore, parents should sit down with their children, and inform them about the divorce in a calm and honest manner.

2. Avoid sharing too much – While children deserve an honest answer, they do not always need to know about the details of the divorce. If the reason for a divorce will put one or both parents in a negative light, then it is best to simply say that they are unable to work out their differences.

3. Do not place blame – Young children often see the world in terms of either good or bad. Finding out that their parents are divorcing can cause them to wonder who is to blame. Parents who may be hurting at the time may also feel the need to blame the other parent. However, this will only lead to more anger and confusion in the child. Instead, parents should express that they are united in their decision to divorce.

4. Explain changes – Change is inevitable during a divorce. Explain to the child how the divorce will affect them. For example, as soon as it is determined, let the child know about custody and visitation arrangements. If a move is expected, then clearly explain when and where the child will be moving.

5. Keep communication open – One of the best things a parent can do during this time is to be available for their child to express their feelings. By keeping communication open, a child will feel as though they can talk about the things that they are going through. It is also important for parents to listen to their children without judging when they express negative emotions. Instead, they should calmly help their children to find appropriate ways of handling them.

When a child feels the support of both of their parents during a divorce, then they are more likely to emerge from the experience with a positive relationship in place with both of their parents. For this reason, it is best to practice honest and open communication in order to help children to find their place in their new family environment.

About the Author:  This guest post is contributed by Debra Johnson, blogger and editor of welcomes your comments at her email Id: – jdebra84 @

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Guest Post: Building Relationships with Adult Children When You Re-marry

Becoming a step-parent presents many challenges – even in the best situations. Becoming a step-parent to adult children is especially difficult. The children have grown accustomed to a family dynamic that does not include you, and they are not forced to see you every day or spend time with you that they don’t want to spend, as they would if they were younger.

Building a relationship with adult children when you re-marry requires some special considerations. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

Start from the Beginning

Don’t wait until your marriage is final before you start thinking about your relationship. As soon as you meet the children, start making efforts to build a relationship. Share conversations about things you have in common. Invite them to spend some one-on-one time with you to get to know each other better.

Establish a friendly relationship right from the start and work on building it over time.

Respect Boundaries

Though you may want to have a close relationship with your beloved’s children right away, they may not feel the same toward you. It may take time before you have a relationship with them – or before they even want to have one with you.  Don’t push too much too soon.

Learn to respect their boundaries, and you will be more successful in your attempts to forge a relationship. This extends far beyond respecting what they want in a relationship from you. Recognize that though they are your spouse’s “children,” they are actually grown adults who deserve respect.

Don’t Try to Be a Parent

This is a good rule of thumb for step-parents to children of any age. Your spouse’s children already have parents, and they are unlikely to want to replace either one of them, no matter how much they may like you (or grow to like you). As adults, it is unlikely that they need a real parental figure anyway.
Focus on being a positive and loving person in their lives. If you are successful at building the relationship, you may even become their friend (maybe even a close friend).

Adjust Expectations

Adult step-children have their own fully formed personalities and their own lives. They don’t have to have a relationship with you. They don’t even have to like you. Know that what you expect to happen in the situation may never materialize. You may do everything you can to build a bridge, and all your efforts may be rejected.

Focus instead on doing being polite and keeping the situation pleasant. Over time, you may build on that and find some common ground. You may even be able to build on that and find your way to friendship. Just accept that your expectations may not match the reality of the situation, and you just have to act accordingly.

Becoming the step-parent to adult children can be a difficult and complicated process. However, you can manage to build positive and rewarding relationships with them with some effort. Just remember to respect boundaries and avoid trying to become a parent as you work on the relationship.

Did you become the step-parent to adult children when you re-married? Tell us about your experiences in the comments!

Tara Spenser is currently the resident writer for, where she researches the most affordable business capital available. In her spare time, she enjoys blogging, swimming and being a mom.


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