Thursday, March 5, 2015


I have a friend who has just got engaged for the second time.  Both he and his fiance have children, but he is concerned about how their re-marriage will affect both families.  I have been in this exact position as a child
when my father remarried, so I remember it well and understand his concern.

Here are some suggestions:

    Your kids have probably had you to themselves for some time, even years.  Now you have a new
    love interest and even though they may be adult themselves, your kids may feel insecure, not
    knowing for sure that your love and attention towards them will be the same.  The younger the
    child, the more confused they may be because suddenly Daddy (or Mommy) is loving the person
    they married in a different way and they may feel excluded.

    When people remarry and move into either one of their existing residences, it feels to kids like an
    encroachment.  Someone else is moving in and changing things without 'their' permission.  Many
    memories have been made in this home and now it is changing.  This feels uncomfortable for
    kids.  It also feels uncomfortable for the new step-parent.  They don't feel they can start the new
    marriage on fresh ground when there are reminders of the previous relationship everywhere.

   Many single mothers in particular become tired of having to be mother and father to young and
   even teenage children.  This weariness is abated in their minds when another adult can share the
   load and help discipline their children.  NOT!  Children feel insecure enough with the new
   relationship without the new step parent trying to weigh-in on discipline.  Even as a nine-year-
   old I yelled, "You're not my mother!", at my aunt who helped Dad for some years in place of a

  When everything a child has ever known becomes uprooted and changed they can easily lose their
  sense of connectedness.  New children moving into another family are not in the old family
  structure any more.  They may not be the oldest or the baby now.  Their home, their rooms,
  their schools, their friendships will likely be changed.  Family expectations will likely change.
  Their last name may change.  It's like a tug-of-war is going on.

Here is one huge extended family we know having the time of their lives on their combined property. Talk about feeling connected! They often gather together to just enjoy and play competitive sports.


1. TALK to your kids before you make major decisions. If a situation is going to affect them, and
    most changes will, seek their input. Tell them that you know things will change, but lay out how
    you are going to spend quality one-on-one time with them. Look after the physical and emotional
    needs of your own kids, then gradually, as they learn to trust you, start to include the step children.

2. LISTEN to your kids.  If they say they are scared (insecure), afraid of the step parent or unable to
    get along with the step-siblings, don't fob it off.  You are their reliable parent, the 'go to' guy/gal.

3. DON'T TAKE SIDES.  Listen to your own children, but also sum up the whole situation and
    discuss issues with your spouse if theirs are involved.  There is nothing that undermines trust more
    than a child who feels they are being treated unfairly.

4. DISCIPLINE YOUR OWN KIDS.  It has been said that it takes around seven years for two
    families to truly blend.  That includes the love, care and discipline of your blended family.  The
    important thing is for parents to decide what their disciplinary process will be.  It is better to
    discipline your own kids, but back each other up.  Family values and house rules should be
    consistent between parents.

5. ENCOURAGE ORIGINAL FAMILY CONNECTION.  Remember that your kids' absent
    parent is usually still a major part of their lives.  Refrain from referring to your ex partner in a
    disrespectful manner and allow your children to see their other parent at regular intervals unless
    a court order says otherwise.

6. CREATE A NEW FAMILY IDENTITY.  Doing things together such as camping, hiking,
    playing sport, playing computer games and the like, all create new family memories and it is not
    long before kids have created for themselves a new base from which to continue to grow as the
    new family.

Written by Sally Burgess, Forefront Families LLC


I love it when a picture tells its own story.  A friend posted this beautiful picture the other day and it immediately made me think of how one bright spark, splash of color or ray of hope can change our whole perspective.

There are many truly sad things happening in our world at the present time.  In fact, terrible things have been occurring since the beginning of time, but now we have the benefit of immediate media coverage that brings such injustice much closer.  If only we, as individuals, could make a difference and help make the world a safer and happier place to live in and bring up our kids.

It is true.  You and I may not be able to radically change the wider world, but we can make THE difference in our own homes.  We do have choices.  We can view our own circumstances with a sense of hopelessness, or with great anticipation of hope.  I am not saying that there is a ready answer to all issues we are facing, but we can look at things differently if we have a positive attitude.  You may know the old adage -  'Two prisoners looked out through prison bars - one saw the mud and the other, the stars'.


What comes out of our mouths will confirm in our minds what we think about ourselves.  If a parent tells a child they are hopeless and won't amount to anything, that is what the child believes until he/she realizes that it was their parent's opinion and doesn't have any resemblance to fact.  We don't always realize that what we say to our kids is a reflection of the way we feel about ourselves.  'I can't, so you certainly can't either!' On the other hand I have heard people say, "You can do anything you put your mind to."  What a liberating thought that is!  It gathers even more traction if you make it personal.  "I have been watching how hard you have been practicing your violin, and it sounds terrific.  Well done!"  It is even more liberating when you tried something, but you made a mistake.  All you can think of is what you did wrong, but an observer makes no reference to your error.  He only sees the good and encourages you for what you did right.  Now, that is a winner right there.  That really makes you want to walk on water!

* We shine when we feel good about ourselves.
* We feel good about ourselves when we believe in ourselves.
* We believe in ourselves when we are encouraged for our successes rather than being berated
   for our faults.
Sure, we want to work at it until we get it right, but the key is recognizing that effort carries more weight than the end result.  With enough endurance, we will succeed in our goals.

Check out your home environment.  Are conversations uplifting or critical?  What/who is the source?  Don't get into the blame game, but start with 'I'.  When our attitude is positive, then the whole tone of the home changes and our kids see that they, too, have the opportunity to shine.  Let's be a color standout against a gray world.

Written by Sally Burgess, Forefront Families LLC

RESTORATIVE JUSTICE - Making things right!

 It was so annoying upon returning to our home country, New Zealand, each year to see more and more property being defaced by graffiti. Disenchanted youth, whose families had failed to help them develop an identity of their own, would join gangs and claim an object or area as ‘theirs’ by scrawling coded lettering over it. This included walls, bridges, public, and even private property, wherever it was most noticeable and daring. Feeling hopeless and helpless to make a mark on society through academic and professional careers, they were making their mark by tagging. It was their billboard!

The newspapers published a number of stories followed by a request from the Government for any ideas on how to curb this practice. In response I put together a 26 page proposal as a possible answer to rectifying the problem and presented it to the local political representative. Space in this column does not allow me time to explain the whole process and what all my steps were. In our discussion I suggested restorative justice, which is putting things back to what they were with the intent that what had happened never occurs again.


In the case of tagging -

    1. When caught, the youth and his/her parents would be required to meet with a justice
        official, the owner of the defaced property, and maybe an official from Children’s
        Services who probably knows the family anyway.

    2. The youth is required to look the owner in the eyes and sincerely apologize.

    3. The youth AND his/her parents are required to remove the tagging AND restore the
        property to its original state.

    4. The youth, under supervision, is required to remove more tagging (without their parents
        this time) preferably that written by others from the same gang. The youth is required to
        do this even though it might be against their gang code. Justice is done.

    5. Community service hours may be required in addition.


How can this process be applied in the home?

A. Peter breaks something of yours or his siblings and does not tell anyone.  When found out:

    1. Require a sincere apology to the offended person and an explanation of why what he did
        was wrong.
    2. Decide how that property could be restored. If it cannot be mended then Peter’s allowance
        is garnished over a period of time until the article is replaced.
    3. Peter is then required to do say 2 hours extra work cleaning up the garage or cleaning out      
        closets, a task not on his regular list of chores.

B. Stella, aged 12, spends the change from a $20.00 note you gave her to do some shopping for you.

    1. Require a sincere apology from Stella and an explanation of why what she did was wrong.
    2. She has to pay back the money.
    3. She loses a further month’s allowance.

This method of consequence is proving very effective also in schools, so that instead of a child being suspended they have to come to a meeting with the principal, parents, their offended party (teacher or peer), school resource officer, student representative and maybe the parents of an offended child. The same procedure occurs and justice is done.

Try this approach in your home and see how your child is less inclined to do this sort of thing again. Oh! By the way, the last few years when traveling back to New Zealand Sally and I have had to play the game, 'Spot the graffiti'. It is now very rare to find any. I wonder why?

Written by Brian Burgess, Forefront Families LLC

Tuesday, March 3, 2015


Many times I have I heard myself saying to my daughter who has two very small boys, "Enjoy them while they are young because you are going to miss it later."  I am sure that while she says, "Yeah, I know, Mom," she is actually cringing at my cheery, "You're gonna miss this!" when she is almost at the end of her rope with whining, fighting little boys.

The truth is, there ARE many things about our younger parenthood that we will miss.  The snuggles.  The giggles.  The first steps.  Piling into the big bed together and watching cartoons.  Helping the kids make tent houses all over the living room floor.  The funny or cute things the kids say.  Fun holidays.  The wonder on their faces as they discover something new.  They are all memories to savor.  But, that is not to say there aren't some really maddening times, sad times, times you wish you could run 100 miles and not come back, even wish you could wind back the clock to a time when you never had children.

As Forrest Gump said, "Life's a box of chocolates, Forrest.  You never know what you are going to get."  It's the same with parenting.

As grandparents, we enjoy the great memories of our own kids growing up and tend to remember it as being mostly rosy.  However, we are periodically reminded of the frustrating, annoying things that they did because they tell us so.  While I prefer to look at the overall result of happy, well adjusted children, I do acknowledge there was some pretty rough terrain to travel over to get there.  That, I don't miss!

Written by Sally Burgess, Forefront Families LLC


While I am not in total agreement with the sentiment above, it does serve as a great springboard to discuss the topic of emotional control. 

By the time we are adults we should have learned to effectively manage our emotions.  That does not mean that we don't feel like blowing our top sometimes, but it's rather how we manage the anger in an acceptable manner that counts.  Everyone gets frustrated to the point of distraction.  Anger is a natural and normal emotion.

Nothing can be resolved  by 'losing the plot!'  When we lose control, we are much more likely to overstep socially acceptable boundaries.  We may shout and say things that we don't really mean or that should be said in a much more kindly manner.  We might throw things, slam doors or do something reckless that might injure ourselves or others.  Words and deeds said or done in anger cannot be taken back.  We may say we didn't mean what we said or did.  We may ask forgiveness. Even if our apology is accepted, a level of trust has been broken and that sometimes takes a very 
long time to regain.


We need to:
a) BE AWARE of our emotional state so we can control it long before it gets to the boiling point. 
b) WALK AWAY. We are not children, but many adults act as if they are when looking at their 
     behavior.  Melt downs never have and never will be the answer.  Small eyes are watching and
     learning how big people deal with life's problems. This is not the way!
c) WAIT until we are in control, and until the other party has simmered down to a point that you
    can talk rationally.  This may take hours or even days. 
d) FORGIVE.  If we want others to forgive us then we must also forgive others.  The Bible says 
    that a lack of forgiveness or hatred dries the bones.  It is a big fat waste of time holding grudges.     
    All that does is consume our thoughts so we are forever looking backwards instead of forwards 
    to hopeful and happier things.
e) FORGET.  This means that once it is over we do not keep bringing up the subject/situation 
f) MOVE ON.  Sometimes we will never really get on well with a person, so we have to remain
    polite, but let them go for the time being or for always.  We do need to protect our own 
    emotional state so it is a good idea to surround ourselves with positive people who love and
    accept us, those who will be good friends, enough to lovingly tell us something that will 
    improve us.


However we handle conflict situations, our kids will do the same.  If we don't handle our emotions well our kids will think our behavior is normal and do the same.  If we do manage our anger then we are well equipped to show our kids how to do it, and SHOW them, we must.  We need to teach them to read their own frustration levels and how to resolve situations before they get beyond their control.


 In the words of Taylor Swift's song, we need to "Shake it off."  As the Aussies would say, "Build a bridge and get over it!"  Sometimes that's easier said than done!  Sure it is, but the sooner we learn to control our negative emotions, the more positive energy we will have for other things.

Written by Sally Burgess, Forefront Families LLC