Chatting Blended Families with Anna Kate of Project Stepmom
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Blended Families & school - Episode 005
Families can be super complicated. Add step-parents, step kids and third cousins twice removed into the mix and you have the potential for a multitude of stick-icky situations.
Or, it can go smoothly.
Today, Anna Kate owner of projectstepmom.com, and I discuss what life is like for her as a stepmom.
How do blended families navigate school?
Let's find out!
How can Parents & Step Parents Navigate the Transition to Middle School
As a parent of a child navigating the transition from elementary school to junior high or middle school, the stress level is high. As a step-parent of a student making that transition, the process can be even rockier, but it doesn’t have to be.
For Anna Kate, the woman behind the Stepmom Project blog, part of making that transition smoother for her 11-year-old stepson hinges on communication and expectations. For Anna Kate’s stepson, there’s a routine, and an effort to give him the feeling that his opinions matter, when it comes to smaller family decisions.
Scheduling and their Role in School
For some blended families, the issues arise around scheduling. In addition to getting used to new teachers and more classes, middle school is often the time when students start to explore after-school interests, like robotics, sports, and band, although the options are practically limitless. Add in the schedules for multiple households, and it can get complicated.
This is another reason communication is important this time of year.
When there’s an issue with scheduling, Anna Kate says that she and her husband ask her stepson’s input, and try to work with it.
In addition to scheduling after school activities, blended families must navigate the shift between two homes. Every family’s schedule is unique, but Anna Kate attempts to maintain a reliable schedule that helps incorporate the needs of her step-son’s mother.
Communication brings clarity to responsibilities
It’s important at this age to make sure that children know and understand what you, as parents, expect from them, especially in regard to school.
In Anna Kate’s house, that means that her son hands over his folder of school work each night. They look over his grades and what he has coming up each week.
“We do not do night before frantic projects. That falls on Nikolai,” Anna Kate said. “He knows that he has to come and report on what he is responsible for. We will help in any way that we can, but we are not going to do a 3-day project the night before,” she said. If we are organized and receiving papers regularly, there’s plenty of time, so that there are no situations where projects aren’t turned in.
“We hold him to what’s expected and hold him accountable. If that happened though, Anna Kate said her son would have to bear the consequence.
Anna Kate’s tips include these:
Set your expectation of organization early in the school year.
Be clear about what you will tolerate and what you will not.
When middle school hits, that shift from one to two teachers to 7-8 happens, and although teachers are supposed to follow the same communication channels, they often don’t. This means that kids get lost. It’s important to teach your kids that it’s okay to talk to parents and teachers, and that they won’t get in trouble if they forget something, because they’re not perfect. Most adults aren’t perfect either.
It may help to set up meetings with administrators at the start of the year, to get clear on what you can expect from teachers, and what your children can expect. That knowledge can help to guide your child so that they don’t get lost as easily in the transition from to middle school.
“We can’t treat children like children and expect them to be adults. Parents like to forget that ‘we forget things too. We screw up too. *Note- I'm happy to report things are going smoothly in an update from Anna Kate! *
Being part of a blended family has many benefits, as well as challenges.
When Anna Kate met her then-future husband about five years ago, the relationship with him was solid, very quickly. The couple took it slower when it came to introducing Anna Kate to the boy who would become her stepson.
“I met my stepson about six months later, and jumped right in,” Anna Kate said. “We did introductory activities. He was shy, an only child, but we eased into it. And that’s one suggestion that Anna Kate has for other new step-parents.
Ease into activities with the new person.
Involve kids in activities.
Ask them where they want to go and what they want to do, what they want to eat.
“This gives them a sense of false control. It lets them believe they have pull in the situation. To achieve this, pick what you’re okay with, and then give them the option to decide what to do,” she said.
When you introduce the stepparent or new romantic partner to a child, you will have a little bit of a battle. Giving the child some control will help them to feel more confident in the situation and the relationship.
Whether you’re a parent or a step-parent there are things that you can do to set your kids up for success.
Make sure that you and your spouse agree on expectations.
Make your expectations clear to your child, but let them know you’re there for support if needed.
Talk to your child’s teachers, if issues arise.
Reach out for help if needed.
If you’re looking for a little extra support, Team Pasch is here for you. As a former school counselor turned academic coach, I understand the difficulties that come with the transition. I’m committed to helping kids prepare for middle school and do it with confidence! Contact me for information about fall 2018 coaching spots
Anna Kate’s Blog
You can follow Anna Kate on her blog at Project Stepmom. Anna Kate plans to continue incorporating lifestyle and recipe content on her blog. This fall she is attending the Tastemaker conference in Salt Lake City. She is super excited to build her photography skills and share her skills with other bloggers.
Communicating in a blended family
Organization in a blended family
The role of the step-parent in education
Anna Kate | Owner/Author of Project Stepmom
Project Stepmom exists to empower Stepmoms to bring their families to the table through nurturing recipes and positive, well-seasoned advice.
Anna Kate is a wife to Taras and a stepmom to Nikolai. They spend their days testing kid-friendly recipes and rooting for Alabama football.
Their story is not the traditional one, but is filled with good, old-fashioned love, parenting, great food… and many challenges! Follow along as they live Life Well Blended.