Teaching any child healthy habits, starts right in our own homes, by our own example but how do you manage when you are a step parent with a visiting child? When you take part in raising someone else's child, there is a lot to be said, or should I say left unsaid… A child needs to find comfort in both homes. It becomes strenuous when you have completely different parenting models and the child gets caught in the middle. In one home there are absolutely no expectations or follow through while in the other there are rules in effect and enforcement stands.
I find it difficult to teach these skills because in the short time we have during each of our visits, it is evident these life skills are lacking and are not taught at all in the custodial home and I catch myself correcting and instead of teaching. I have to remember this is not her fault at all and be more aware of the needed skills, and gently remind and encourage her of their importance.
When it comes to eating and nutrition, again this area has many areas that need work. I cook… I love being in the kitchen, trying new recipes and making up my own dishes. There doesn't have to be dessert with every meal and we don't keep lots of junk food and soda in the house. This causes quite a bit of drama, as I don't make eclectic meals but I certainly don't allow fast food and chicken nuggets every night. It’s important to find a balance and offer options rather than just taking it all away. We are working on chewing with mouths closed and using napkins instead of T-shirts and forks instead of fingers. It's a work in progress but we are coming along.
When you are in a blended family and parenting rolls collide, taking a back seat is sometimes the only way to really make progress. I don't want to be the nagging step mother so I let a lot of things fall by the wayside, in hopes, that from witnessing our behaviors and seeing how we are all held accountable and have expectations of each other it will become second nature. I use moments of chaos as teaching moments and become forgiving when it appears that what I’m asking is almost foreign or not at all understood. I try to be as lenient and understanding yet firm and state my expectations more as a choice and option rather than demand. When frantic screams of " Where are my boots, I can't find my boots, and the cyclone begins to spin out of control, I gently remind one that if " we take off our shoes and put them where they belong, we will always know where they are." For now, I receive the daggers that her eyes throw and hope that one day soon, it will all sink in. I still get hugs, I give lots of love and praise but until that ah hah moment when it all comes together, I use every opportunity to teach, acknowledge and continue to be an example meeting and exceeding my own expectations so that I not only preach it, I demonstrate and practice it too.