“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
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
Fans of Freaky Friday get ready to experience déjà vu! The popular comedy about a mom and daughter who swap bodies is seeing its fifth iteration with the latest version appearing on The Disney Channel. The movie, which demonstrates the very real push-pull relationship of parents and their teens, stars Broadway veteran Heidi Blickenstaff as Katherine Blake and Cozi Zuehlsdorff (Dolphin Tale and Dolphin Tale 2) as Ellie Blake. In real life, Blickenstaff is a step-mom to two teenage boys and we sat down with both actors to ask: If you could switch places with the parent and teen in your life, what would you want them to know? Heidi Blickenstaff 80s music is the best. Eat your greens. Spend less time on your phone and more time interacting, person-to-person. Wear sunscreen. Always be kind to people. Cozi Zuehlsdorff Sometimes with teenagers, "I hate you" actually means, "help me" Take extra time to tell your kids they're beautiful. It means everything coming from a parent. My room may look messy but I know where everything is. Vegetables aren't really that important. If I'm on my phone, maybe I'm using it to achieve world peace so give me the benefit of the doubt. Freaky Friday premieres Friday, August 10 (8:00 p.m., ET/PT) on Disney Channel and DisneyNOW.
5 Reasons Why You Should Watch "13 Reasons Why" With Your Teen Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why has gained an incredible amount of popularity and criticism ever since its debut in 2017. The show tackles difficult issues like sexual assault, suicide, gun violence and bullying. Because of the explicit content of the show, parents have remained wary about their children watching it. However, Gary Direnfeld, counselor for over 35 years, says parents should not only let their teens watch the show but they should watch it with them. Here’s why. YOU CAN DECODE WHAT’S HAPPENING: The first reason to watch it together would be to help your teen decode some of what is happening on screen. “Sometimes watching intense, graphic scenes can be traumatic for people and it can overwhelm them,” says Direnfeld. “Having a parent there to help interpret what is going on, to provide support and emotional safety, can help the child integrate the experience without it being traumatic.” YOU CAN ASK HOW IT AFFECTS THEM: Talking to your child about how the show makes them feel is another good reason to watch it together. “Asking about the kind of impact that it has on your child is important because they could be going through something similar and it would be unhealthy for them to go through it alone,” says Direnfeld. “The thing that 13 Reasons Why teaches us is that children are exposed to explicit and extreme material on the Internet and we want to help them cope with that stream of material before they are actually exposed to it.” YOU CAN ASK WHAT THEY ARE GOING THROUGH: Watching the show together can be a catalyst to discovering what your teen is going through. Some teens suffer from anxiety or depression or have gone through traumatic experiences and may feel shame and embarrassment, but having a parent to talk to offers them a way to figure those experiences out. They can learn how to manage and respond. YOU CAN LEARN ABOUT THEIR EXPERIENCES AT SCHOOL: Watching the show together gives parents a chance to ask their teen about their experiences at school, while also being able to instill their own morals and values, says Direnfeld. “Regardless of how a drama is critiqued, the explicit content is still there, and it exposes our children to behaviour that can be frightening and overwhelming,” he says. “From my perspective, it is what