Bonding With Your Stepkids: Book Club!

5 05 2010

Stepmothers often write me to ask what they can do to bond with their stepchildren. I usually recommend spending one-on-one time with your stepchildren doing things at least one of you enjoys! My stepchildren (15, 12, and 10, a boy and two girls) are all big readers and I often will read the books they are reading so we can discuss what we thought about the book. It’s been a fantastic way to create common ground for us.

I recently came across Cindy Hudson’s work and was thrilled because it helped me with even more ideas about what I could do with my stepdaughters. Cindy is the author of Book by Book: The Complete Guide to Creating Mother-Daughter Book Clubs. She is the founder of two long-running mother-daughter book clubs, and she lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and two daughters. Visit her online at www.MotherDaughterBookClub.com and www.MotherDaughterBookClub.wordpress.com.

I hope you enjoy Cindy’s guest post! And a big thank you to Cindy!

Mother-Daughter Book Clubs

by Cindy Hudson

During the last couple of years I’ve been lucky enough to talk to lots of moms in mother-daughter book clubs all over the country. Over and over I asked, “What are the benefits you see to being in a mother-daughter book club?” The reasons were as varied as the women who answered, but when I looked at all of them together, I began to see a pattern. Three overriding benefits emerged that served as an umbrella to all the others: These type of reading groups are great at providing a way for moms to stay closer to their daughters as they grow, they provide a connection to the broader community, and they encourage literacy. How do they do these things?

The simple act of reading together and talking about what you read is powerful. When you read with your daughter you let her know that spending time with her in a shared activity is important to you. You’re not driving her to an activity that you will watch; you’re not distracted while you talk on the phone or answer emails. You also get to talk about what you read. That may not sound like such a big deal, but the whole world opens up through books. You may start off talking about what happens to the characters in the story, but then you may get into important, related issues in your own lives. Over the years I’ve talked with my daughters about problems with friends, worries about school, questions about sex…all issues that may not have come up, or would have been awkward to address, without the entrée given us by the book we read.

Meeting with your group also lets you branch out and connect with other moms and daughters in your community. When my first group started nearly nine years ago, I didn’t know most of the moms and their daughters. But once our meetings got going we started trading parenting advice during dinner before our discussions. We talked about difficulties our kids were having in school and shared the names of pediatricians. We brought food when someone was sick, and we went away together for the weekend. We also got to know our daughter’s peers and watch them grow. Now it’s hard to imagine a time when we won’t be an important part of each other’s lives.

Finally, when you’re in a book club with your daughter you help her keep reading for fun. As kids grow older, many of them stop reading outside of school, because other activities crowd their lives. But reading for school doesn’t inspire the imagination the way reading for fun does. One is a chore, the other is recreation. My daughters and I always look forward to reading book club books, partly because we can imagine talking about them with others in our group when we get together. We have learned to appreciate genres that weren’t particularly our favorites, and we can recognize what others appreciate in a story that doesn’t resonate with us.

I believe being in a mother-daughter book club can have a positive effect on both you and your daughter in many more small ways you’ll probably never know. It’s hard to imagine making a better investment in your future relationship with your daughter than picking up a book to read together with a reading community you create.

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The Doctor Is In: Yvonne Kelly

29 01 2009

yvonneGuest blogger Yvonne Kelly, MSW, RSW, founded The Step and Blended Family Institutein Tottenham, Ontario in Canada with her husband Rick. She is a certified Stepfamily coach and counselor. Her latest project is on Step Dating, which I’ll feature more of in later posts. A teleseminar and educational materials  on the topic will be available on her website soon. Yvonne acquired two stepdaughters when she married her husband Rick, and they later had three more children.

Beyond the Holidays

by Yvonne Kelly

Welcome to the New Year – 2009. For many of you I’m certain you found the holidays to be a time of stress (quite normal in stepfamilies I might add) and for others it was a time of rest and recuperation. I’m certain for some, you are still wondering “where is the R and R, after the holidays?” Regardless of what camp you find yourself in, it is time to pick up and move on into this NEW YEAR ahead of us. At The Step and Blended Family Institute, we want for all of you to experience this next 12 months ahead as a year of renewal and change. This doesn’t mean making 12 New Year’s Resolutions, one of which you might actually keep. It’s about deciding that if there is anything you want to learn more about, anything you need support around, or anything you can do to change things for the better, you take the steps to do it. And I will actively applaud you when you take the first step towards doing so. Small changes, efforts and taking initiative are the first steps to improving one’s own life and the world around us. Even when the circumstances around us seem less than adequate, or maybe even downright offensive, there is always at least one thing we have in our power to do, to make it better. Sometimes, that one thing might be simply accepting what it is that we’re facing instead of fighting against it, resisting what is really happening, and thereby increasing our frustration and immobilizing us from taking any action to improve things.

I would challenge each and every one of you to stop, think about just one thing that you could do, or one thing you could say to another person, that might actually bring some relief or resolution or peace to whatever situation you are currently experiencing. I know that for the majority of you visiting this site, you are doing so because you are trying to find the balance in what can be a very complex life as a stepfamily or blended family. I also know first-hand what many of you are experiencing as I am entering my own 15th year in our blended family. So when I say, stop, breathe and decide on even just one thing YOU can do to make a positive change in whatever situation you are dealing with right now, I can say that because I know it works and because it’s what I aim to expect of myself on a daily basis. The other reason that this is the most effective way of helping yourself in any situation, is because each one of us can choose to make changes for ourselves – we have that power; we don’t have that power over anyone else. However, when we do our part, take that first step, utter that first word or make that first gesture, so often we find that our very actions and gestures, positively influence the very individuals we had been hoping would change all along.

The families we live in are complex and constantly changing – there is just no arguing that fact. Most of us at some point, find ourselves facing challenges we had never expected in our lives with very little experience or the answers we feel we need to deal with these situations. But there are answers, there is support and there is a tremendous amount each of us has to offer when we adjust our mindset and start to look at what we can do (instead of what we can’t do) to make our relationships and situations better. That’s where it begins and when we can do that, it will be much easier to invite and engage with other people in improving any situation. So I invite each and every one of you reading this to: decide the things that are not to your liking, can improve. Decide there is a role you can play, and be the one to make the first offer or the first step. And believe that even the smallest forward movement is significant and will lend itself to the next positive movement and before you know it there will be momentum for important and lasting change.

So without having to make too many resolutions to yourself, make one decision – that this will be a better year than the previous one because you have the ability to make choices and to find things that can make it better, even one small step at a time. And if support is necessary for you in a given situation, ask for it, and if there are things you need to learn, then seek out that information.

 Do whatever it takes to move things forward and create the life you want because it certainly isn’t going to happen to any of us otherwise.