Q: I want to "connect" with our teenagers. But they have class, homework, jobs, friends and extracurricular activities. My husband and I both work and we're usually coming and going as well. Everybody in our house passes like ships in the night. So how's a parent supposed to connect with teens when life gets crazy?
Jim: With two teen boys in my home -- and since I'm often on the road for work -- I understand completely. It's challenging, but you'll never regret making the effort.
Start by making what little time you have together a positive experience. I encourage you to lavish love and affirmation on each of your teens. Go out of your way to tell them how proud you are. Even though I'm sure there are areas where they could improve, give them a pat on the back for the things they're doing well.
Then find ways to carve time out of your busy schedules. (I deliberately scale back work travel in the summer to spend time with my wife and sons.) Your teens may act like they don't "need" time with you, but I can assure you there's no greater gift you can give. Maybe it's an early morning before school over breakfast. Or perhaps a few minutes after school or just before their bedtime. Those one-on-one times with your son or daughter are priceless moments they'll always cherish. Time as a family is important, but time alone with your teens can breathe new life into your relationship.
Although your household is bustling with activity, don't let that discourage you. You'll be surprised at the difference a few moments here and there with your teens can make in your relationship.
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Q: Should I go through with my plans to remarry, even though my intended spouse's children are against the marriage? In fact, they seem to hate me.
Greg Smalley, Vice President, Family Ministries: Entering a second marriage and "blending" a family is never easy. Research shows that a majority of remarriages involving children end in divorce. And if the kids are openly opposed to the marriage, it stands to reason that you can expect an even rougher ride than the average couple in your situation.
Without detailed knowledge about all the dynamics involved, we're obviously not in a position to make definitive statements concerning your chances of success. But I can tell you that blended families present parenting challenges that must be navigated with extreme care. An unsuspecting stepparent may be suddenly confronted with a whole set of long-standing alliances and power struggles.
If you decide to move forward with your plans, you're going to have to work extra-hard to overcome the barriers and develop positive bonds with your new stepchildren. It won't be easy, but it's part of the challenge of building a successful blended family. It will mean taking a sincere interest in the kids and spending lots of one-on-one time with each of them. In particular, you'll want to take special care to praise them at every opportunity instead of simply punishing them when they misbehave. In other words, make an intentional effort to "catch them being good."
Because of the unique challenges involved, we recommend that those who are planning to remarry and "reconstitute" a family should seek professional counseling well before the wedding. Couples who attempt to go it alone may be setting themselves up for frustration and failure.
Expectations, roles and parenting styles should be clarified and openly discussed with the help of an experienced marriage-and-family therapist. Our staff counselors would be more than happy to help you get started; call 1-855-771-HELP (4357) or visit FocusOnTheFamily.com. I wish you the best.