Parenting Experience

  “Here's the story of a lovely lady……” Ok, this is where the comparison ends between the Brady Bunch and Rebecca Eckler’s blended family. In her new book, Blissfully Blended Bullshit: The Uncomfortable Truth Of Blending Families, Eckler gets candid about the realities of blending families and the hard truth behind what it means to meld a new life with exes, in-laws, new children, bonus children, bio children, households and even a dog. We sat down with Eckler to talk about her new book, falling in and out of love and what she wants you to know about being blended. By Rachel Naud Why was it important to you to write this book? There are two reasons I thought it was an important topic to write about candidly. I didn’t realize how hard being in a blended family was, and it was only AFTER I would vent to girlfriends, who were in, or had been, in blended worlds themselves, that they would admit that they had the same issues. I had no idea what they had/have been going through, again, until after I was the one to start the conversation. Also, I realized there was nothing out there about what to do AFTER you blend families. There is a lot out there about the stepmother/stepchild relationship, but there was nothing about what to do when blended stops being so splendid, and all the BS that pops up in blended families. When you blend families, it’s not just about ‘How To Be A Step-Parent.’ Blending affects everyone, from our in-laws, ex-in-laws, our exes. When I read the stats on blending families, I was shocked. By the year 2020, there will be more blended families in North America than any other kind of family makeup, so, really, there is an epidemic of people blending, who have no idea what to do after they blend. I wanted to help, or at least share, what people are going to have to deal with, and hopefully they can learn from my mistakes. When you reach a certain age, and get divorced, and start dating again, there is a huge probability that you will be dating someone who already has children. And no one has really shared what it’s really like to blend, and all the variations of people who need to get along for blended to be splendid. I also wanted people like my parents, my (now) ex’s parents, and

How I Helped my Daughter Transition from Dorm Life to Living on Her Own By Sara Dimerman After my younger daughter’s first year away in residence at university, I thought that we were pretty much done with questions such as, “How long after the best before date can I keep yogurt?” and “When should I choose ‘permanent press’ on the washing machine?” However, after she moved into a house with four other girls for her second year away from home, I learned that there were many more questions to come – such as how to make hot chocolate on the stove like the way I make it for her at home. And I continued to encourage them because being able to ask for direction when you’re not sure what to do  is an indication that you’re not ashamed to show that you don’t know everything there is to know, especially when living alone. I think it’s great that students living in residence during their first year away at university buy meal plans. This way, at least parents know that their teens won’t be starving or having to worry about what to buy and make for meals. Especially in addition to adjusting to living independently and managing time and responsibilities like never before – laundry and getting themselves up in the morning, for example. By the time second year rolls around, most students are tired of cafeteria food and showing a great deal more appreciation for home-cooked meals when they come back to their nest for visits. However, many are not quite prepared for the effort it takes to think about what they need to put into their fridge and cupboard (often  only on one or two of the assigned shelves), making time to shop for those ingredients and then cutting and cooking them up, after a long day of classes.  Even though my daughter has an interest in cooking (and often sends pictures so that she and her dad – the cook in our family – can compare their creations), she often lacks the energy or space required to cook a meal for herself. So, we agreed to pay for weekly meals in a box ( three  at a time which allows for six dinners over the course of a week) which still means that she has to prepare the food, but this saves her the time of shopping for as many ingredients, teaches her to

3 Tips on Managing Your Teen's Mood Swings   Is your tween or teen experiencing the symptoms of what I call the ‘Emotional Armageddon Syndrome' or EAS? Let me give you an example of how EAS might look like. This is a real story. Picture my 13-year-old daughter bombarding me with hugs, telling me how much she loves me. A split of a millisecond later, her smile magically transforms into the meanest frown simply because I said: “Honey, don’t forget to clean your room before you go to bed.” Does this sound familiar? The truth is most kids become a different child when they reach the tween or teen years. As they enter the pre-adolescent years, they begin to experience physical, emotional and social changes. Frankly, many have a hard time facing their puberty and don’t know what to do with it. If you remember, our bodies were totally wacked and out of control when we became teens. Between the menstrual cycle, wild hormones, physical development, voice cracking, new desires and curiosity, puberty can be quite challenging. Then, you have the teenager who tends to over-react as her world is seemingly crashing down. “I hate school. All my teachers hate me. No one wants to be my friend. Everyone is trashing me on social media. My life is a disaster!” Maybe you’re noticing these unpredictable and intense mood swings yet finding yourself unprepared to deal with these changes properly. The good news is that, according to research, mood swings during adolescence are actually normal, aren’t necessarily a reason to worry and they shall pass. I wonder if these researchers have tweens and teens at home? Anyhow, the key here is to help you and your tween/teen manage these swings in a healthier way. In this post, I’m sharing three tips to help you guide and support your child during this intense journey so that they learn to face mood swings in a healthier way while keeping your sanity along the way. Does this sound like a plan? All right, let’s get started! Tip 1. Stay Calm One thing that worked well for our 17-year-old son and seems to be working well for our 13-year-old daughter is focusing on how we’re going to react to their mood swings before we correct the behaviour. An effective way to address your children’s mood swings is to remain calm, in control and exercise patience as you interact with your moody tween or teen. In other words, don’t take

6 WAYS TO CONNECT WITH YOUR TEEN Many of us have made the resolution to do better. To have more meaningful relationships with our teens and to connect with them on a higher level. If you want to make this year the best ever with your teen, here are six things you can do. By Brooke Martin   LISTEN Teens have their hearts and minds pulled in different directions from daily pressures and worldly influences. The art of listening is a gift that heals wounds, loves unconditionally, and ignites creativity in the one being heard. Think about it. What kind of person do we lean into when we are trying to sort out problems in life? Generally, we gravitate to the open-hearted, non-judgmental and unsolicited people in our lives. The ones who listen, truly listen. Why is the art of listening so powerful? We can help our teens discover who they are by creating a safe space where they can pour out their thoughts and perspectives of life, tell their stories, and unload disappointments. MONITOR DIGITAL DEVICES Strap in parents! Teens today are the first generation of "screenagers," which means we are the first generation to parent screenagers. This is not an easy task! As a mother of three teenagers, the digital device battles flooded our home for a good two years until I finally grew a backbone and buckled down. As a result, my kids are happier, less stressed, and there is more peace in our home! Teenagers are turning to devices to cope with normal hard emotions instead of learning healthy coping skills in life. The average teenager in the U.S. spends nine hours a day of screen time. Studies show teens who spend over three hours a day are much more likely to have depression, anxiety, feel fatigued and chronic stress. The iPod was released in 2007 and Instagram was released in 2010. In the U.S., from 2007-2015 the suicide rate in girls doubled and increased 30 per cent in boys. Suicide is the second leading cause of death amongst all teenagers in the U.S. and is the No. 1 leading cause of death in teenage girls. How can we make improvements? SELF-CHECK. Our kids model our behaviour. Are we on our phones during dinner? Do we set our own time restrictions? Do we turn to social media (or video gaming) to cope with hard emotions instead of healthy coping skills? Be transparent with your teen in your own personal

How Instagram Led to one Tween's Passion Project My tween helped both of us to find inspiration through Instagram. It all started when Penny got an iPhone. My stepdaughter was nine at the time, which may seem young for a phone of any kind, but my husband and I had decided, back when she was eight, to start her with a BlackBerry Bold, as a way to keep in touch with her when she wasn’t with us. The BlackBerry Bold 9900 debuted in 2011; getting one in 2016 is not exactly a tween’s dream. Its only purpose is for talking. Texting is nearly impossible and forget about apps or games. So there was no real worry about her spending too much time on it. When she was at her mom’s house she could call us to say good morning and we could call her to say goodnight. She said “Thanks” with very little enthusiasm when we gave it to her for her birthday. My stepson, who is two years older, had about the same level of enthusiasm when he got a similar BlackBerry Bold when he turned eight. But she knew the drill. Don’t lose or break the retro phone, and when you’re nine you’ll get upgraded. And she did it. So a year-and-a-half later she scored my old iPhone 5S in rose gold. And with it, she had access to the world of Instagram, Snapchat and every other app out there. Within minutes she asked if she could get an Instagram account. Initially, we said no. We were already aware of our friends’ opinions about our decision to allow our kids to have phones so young, and we were conscious of the pressure it can put on other parents when their kids come home from school saying that other kids in their class have phones. Trust me, I get it. And if my stepkids lived with us full-time, we definitely wouldn’t give them phones. My son, who is four, is certainly not getting a phone when he’s seven, or eight, or nine, or even 10. But if you are divorced, and even a day goes by where you don’t see your kids, then you get it. The phone was our lifeline to Penny. But the apps? That, we weren’t sure about. And yet, neither of us wanted to ban it. I follow the theory of “everything in moderation” in both my own life and parenting and social

Kandi Burruss Always Means Business! How the reality star juggles motherhood, marriage and managing more than a few businesses Kandi Burruss’ social media profile seems to grow every single week. At the time of writing, she had gained 100,000 followers on Instagram in just one week, bringing her follower count to 5.8 million. She also has 1.8 million followers on Twitter and 100,000 subscribers on YouTube, all of which clearly point to Kandi’s incredible work ethic and determination to make her dreams a reality. It was during the ‘90s that her career kicked off, when she started a girl group called XSCAPE. Since then, she’s had albums that have gone platinum, has written the songs “No Scrubs” for TLC, and “Bills, Bills, Bills” for Destiny’s Child, and in 2009, Kandi joined The Real Housewives of Atlanta, which launched her into a new level of stardom and has made her a household name. She runs her own businesses, is a full-time reality TV star, and is raising her 22-year-old stepdaughter, Kaela Tucker, 16-year-old daughter, Riley, and her two-year-old son, Ace. At only 42 years old, Burruss has established an empire for herself, is in a loving relationship with her husband, Todd and has also done everything in her power to be as involved in her kids’ lives as much as possible. She sat down with INBETWEEN to talk about the 11th season of The Real Housewives, regulating social media for her teen, and how she keeps her newest business venture, Kandi Koated Beauty, hustling. THE REAL HOUSEWIVES OF ATLANTA It’s not unusual for a Real Housewives series to continue for more than 10 seasons – especially when you factor in the plethora of life-changing events that are too large or drama-filled to cover within just one show. Burruss has seen great success with The Kandi Factory and Kandi’s Wedding spinoffs, with the latter bringing in huge ratings for Bravo. The 11th season is currently airing and brings with it the same flair from previous seasons, but with a little more emotion. “It’s more focused on real-life stories and situations that people are going through,” says Burruss. “We’re trying to support each other a bit more and pay attention to what’s happening in each other’s lives.” It’s no secret that Kandi has had to butt heads with other stars on the show, like NeNe Leakes and Kim Zolciak, but more recently, she’s also had to handle comments that have been