Blended and Step Family Readers Forum
OK where do i begin my girlfriend is 41 i am 37 her daughter is 13 she has two other kids aged 15 and 10 who i get on with fine. They see there dad tuesdays and wednesdays and every other weekend he was in a relationship with somebody but it didnt work out and last week told his kids that he has met somebody else and they would be able to meet her soon. Last thursday the kids came home the 13 year old was in a weird mood and was being naughty i lost my temper with her and told her off which her mum has always backed me up on and i would with my daughter when we got home she asked her daughter what was wrong seeing as she had came home in a wierd moon but she wouldnt tell her mum why then wrote her a note to her note saying please read alone basically saying i have no right to tell her off a nd saying they she would go and live with her dad. Now up until they went to thier dads i thought i had a reasonablly close relationship with the 13 year old and things were going great with me and the whole family situation. On the friday they went to thier dads for the weekend and she starting saying that i was trying to take her mum away from her and that she wouldnt come home and would live with her dad if i was still here by the time she had to come back. She then started saying that her mum would always sit with me and not her which isnt true as before she went to her dads in the week she would sit next to her mum and have a cuddle. She also starting saying how she wanted a holiday with just her and her mum so they could have alone time together. I feel her daughter is playing some kind of game as when we saw them in town shopping she seemed happy and had a smile on her face. Me and my girlfriend arnt sure on how to deal with her so some reasonablly mature advice would be great.
Being the third wheel kid
I am 33 and the only product of my 2 bio parents. They divorced when I was 2, my mom remarried and my step dad adopted me when I was 4. He had 2 teenage children from a previous marriage that did not live with us. They welcomed me as a step sister but the age difference didn’t really allow us to get close. My mom and adoptive/step father had 2 kids together when I hit my adolescence. Around this time I experienced depression and rebelled a lot. This resulted in me getting my way and finally having the opportunity to connect with my bio dad who had been kept from me like a dirty little secret for most of my childhood. He too had remarried and started a new family by this time so I gained 2 more much younger half siblings. So if you have been following my confusing story, at this point I have 6 siblings. Two much older step siblings, 2 much younger halves from mom and adopted dad, and two halves from bio dad and step mom. To make a long story short, I would say that I have had a positive relationship with all of my parents (and siblings) for many years now. All that said, ever since visiting my mom’s nuclear family for Thanksgiving I had been very sad suddenly. My little brother and sister are both in their early 20s and both still living with my parents (myself and both step siblings all moved out early, around age 16). My little bother and sister have had the unique experience of having THIER parents stay together for their whole childhood. It should also be noted that they all moved to the south after I graduated high school and so they grew up far away from the rest of us. Anyway, during the Thanksgiving trip my little sister said the words “my mom” in conversation to me about 5 times. For some reason I let it go because I figured it was a reasonable accident but now that I have had time to obsess over it I have been randomly crying and feeling like I don’t belong anywhere. What about me? Don’t I get to have a family too? I have had the pleasure of having so many people in my family tree, but at the same time I feel like a part-time member of all these families. It’s like I am a part of the family but I don’t get the benefits of being fully included anywhere. I don’t know what I should do really. I just think it is strange that all this is coming up now.
Mom, wife, TV producer
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Only child about to get step siblings.
I am seventeen, and an only child. I live full time with my dad, who is about to get married, in June. I have known his fiancee and her two children (a boy, seven, and a girl, ten) for around a year now. I cannot imagine living with them, and I don’t yet feel comfortable around them. I get along well with the daughter. My father’s fiancee and her son are a different matter though. I don’t have any real common ground with his fiancee. Her son is rude to me, and is defiant and loud, and doesn’t seem to be disciplined for it. They are very different people from myself and my father (or at least the way my father used to be)I don’t really know how to deal with the new family dynamics, and I would appreciate some help. Thank you.
Husband is afraid his children will hate him
My husband of 10 years has a 19 yr old daughter in college. He doesn’t ask questions such as let me “see” your grade card and “show” me your class schedule -because he thinks she will get mad. I went to college and showed all that to my bio parents. I see nothing wrong – since we are paying for it – My insistence on disclosure makes my husband feel that I am driving a wedge between he and his daughter. That is unintentional – I want her to go to school – I just want more information. Incidently – we are paying room and board for her at school as well as room and board for her at her mother’s house. Daughter only visits once in a blue moon and only calls about the same amount. Anger is a real problem, on both sides, I can’t ask anything, and if I do, he gets mad. I also have a daughter – and plan on being very involved (like I already am) and I will know everything about what I am paying for. He also has another daughter that went to school and failed – but we had all her information and it was never an issue. It is like this child won’t make any mistakes and will always be an excellent student – so don’t ask. I am having a lot of difficulty with this. What should I do?
Sleeping in own bed
My partner & I have care of his 4 year old daughter every second weekend. While she is at her mother’s house, she sleeps with the mother. Can you please suggest how we can get her to sleep in her own bed at our house, as I don’t beleive children should sleep in grown up’s beds (and instilled that into my two children) How do we do this successfully when we have such limited time with her? Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
Having Trouble with my Ex
A stepmom asks: My husband and I have been living together with my children from a previous marriage for 3 years now, (ages 10 &13). We married just over a year ago. We have a good relationship together with the children; they accepted him right away. The tension lays with two issues. My ex-husband and my husband knew each other. My husband says he has difficulty bonding with my children because some of their character traits remind him of the negative side of my ex. My ex-husband tells our son lies about me, which causes our son great distress. This angers my current husband because we are under a court order not to discuss the legal issues with the children. I agree it is frustrating when we are forced to smile and champion their father. My question is how can my husband look beyond the physical and charactistic similarities my children have inherited from their father and still deal with the negative influence he has on the children? Shirley Cress Dudley responds:I see a couple of issues. It’s hard to solve something this complicated with an email, but I’ll give it a start- All of our children display some of our positive and negative attributes. If your husband could look for those positive attributes (that also exist in you) and love your children through you. They may remind him of his old friend, at times, but, now he has the advantage of changing their behavior, from being with them on a more regular basis.I agree that it does not help children to be involved in the adult battles, or hear negative talk about other parents. I know it’s difficult, but you don’t have to “champion” their Dad, just avoid negative talk about him. If the kids come home telling stories about how he spoke negatively about you and your spouse, tell them that “we don’t speak negatively about your Dad in this house, and don’t want to hear the negative talk from his house.” Encourage the kids to also ask their Dad to refrain from involving them in the adult matters. It is O.K. to say, “We don’t agree with some of your Dad’s choices.”- and leave it at that. It sounds very difficult (and it is) but taking the higher road will be the best path to a successful marriage and blended family. No negative talk about the ex, in front of the kids, and raise your children through mutually agreed upon house rules (developed by you and your new spouse.) For more information, read Chapter Nine of Blended Family Advice.
Also, don’t forget couple times, at least twice a month, when you and your husband go on dates and do special things together. And- at least once a day, some time alone to talk and process the day.
It can work out, but lowering yourself to your ex’s level of behavior doesn’t benefit you, your kids, or your new marriage. Look positively towards the future, and raise your kids to do this also.
O.K. for my husband to hang out with his ex’s parents?
A step mom recently asked: I have a 10 year old stepson who gets along great with his other step brothers that live with him with his bio mom. He asked us if we can have these boys over our house but I don’t feel comfortable with this. We did it twice and I feel he doesn’t spend time then with us when we have him for two weeks. Also my husband feels the need to have a relationship with the ex in-laws. This also makes me uncomfortable because he involves me in the situation like having breakfast with them and inviting them over to our house and I feel uncomfortable around them. It bothers me and I don’t know if I am being selfish or what his motives are. Should I be ok with this?
Shirley Cress Dudley responds:
It’s difficult to answer this question without more information- but I’ll give it a shot…
Talk with your husband about your concerns. I don’t see a problem in maintaining a relationship with the stepson’s grandparents (would that be the ex-spouse’s parents?)- as long as he keeps your marriage a priority. It’s O.K. to be uncomfortable, and actually quite normal. I do think it is crucial for you to be with your husband when he visits with them (so they see you as a married couple.) Just share your fears and concerns, with your husband and then listen and let him respond.
I also think it’s O.K. for your stepson to have his other step brothers over for a visit- just make it a short one. If he is visiting you for 2 weeks, they could come over 1-2 afternoons to play, but not stay over night. That might be a good compromise. Also, you could remind your stepson that he spends time with his stepbrothers when he is at his mom’s house- so during the visits with you and his Dad, you’d like to spend some dedicated time wtih him.
Your husband chose you because he loves you. I think you may have some insecurities over his talking with the in-laws, but he will always have some sort of relationship with them, because all of you have a part in raising his son. As long as you and your husband are the core of the relationship- and your marriage is in the center of it all, getting the most attention, then all that you mentioned will be O.K.
It may be good to talk with your husband about scheduling regular date nights, each week (or at least 2-3 times a month) and also time, each day, to check in with each other and talk about the day. It sounds like your marriage may need a little more attention, so that you can “weather” the difficulties of having a blended family.
I hope this helps. Let me know if it does. If not, you could consider blended family coaching. I would spend some time talking to you and your husband and helping you work through these issues so that both of you are happy. www.blendedandstepfamilyresourcecenter.com/CoachingwithShirleyCressDudley
Future Stepdad wants to bond with 7-year-old boy
A Reader asks:
I am in a relationship after being separated for 5 years. I have 2 boys 22&20 (at university,) and an 11 year old daughter. My girlfriend has an 11-year-old girl and a 7-year-old boy. We do not all live in the same house we but are looking around for a place for all of us. My main problem is I struggle to have any sort of relationship with the 7 year old. He has no motivation to either do anything that means hard work. The two girls are in the same class at school and get along fine. I have a good relationship with my ex while my partner’s and her ex are at each other most of the time. Any advice on how to get along better with the 7 year old?
Shirley Cress Dudley responds:
I see several issues. Right now, you are in the “relationship stage” – getting to know each other and spending time together. The time spent with your girlfriend’s 7 year old boy should be fun and engaging- opportunities to get to know him better, and for him to get to know you.
I see that you are looking into putting the family together into one home. I wouldn’t advise living together, but would encourage you to consider marriage. When you are living together, you don’t have the same level of commitment as marriage, so the kids will not see the need to commit to the family either. The higher level of commitment (marriage) will help all of your kids better adjust to the blended family. This will also help your college kids respect the relationship.
Once you are a family, together in the same home, then I would suggest you and your wife develop house rules and guidelines. These guidelines include family chores and expectations for each child’s participation in the family. These guidelines would apply to all the kids, whether living fulltime, part time, or visiting your home. You present these guidelines to all the kids, and the biological parent enforces them. Then the 7 year old would experience consequences if he did not participate in his assigned family chores.
It may also be helpful to get premarital counseling or coaching for your blended family, and purchase some resources to learn more about the nuances of blending a family. For more information on resources- check out http://www.blendedandstepfamilyresourcecenter.com
Bio parent speaks negatively about stepparent
A reader asks: I am new stepdad. Children are 6&9. Their biological father is voicing his dislike of me to the children. I can tell they feel guilty and conflicted about having a good relationship with me. What can I do to help them?
Shirley Cress Dudley responds: I know it’s tough, but there are some key principles to remember that will really help you out in this situation.
Don’t get defensive- your stepson’s dad is feeling threatened by the new dad in the family, so don’t take it personally.
Always speak positively about their biological dad (in front of the kids.) Yes… I know this one is really hard- but it’s important. You and your wife can set the positive example of how the co-parenting relationship should be. In communications with her ex, your wife should mention that you are going to only speak positively about him in front of the children and expect him to do the same.
Here are some helpful statements you can make to your new stepkids:
- “In this house, we aren’t going to speak negatively about any of the parents, and that includes your Dad. He loves you and so do we.”
- “It takes a while for everyone to get used to a new blended family- including the parents.”
- “It’s O.K. to like me and spend time with me. Having fun with me, your stepdad, doesn’t mean that you don’t love your Dad anymore. It’s not competition- you can enjoy the time you spend with both of us.”
- “I’m not your Dad, but a new addition to your family, your stepdad, who will love you and do what’s best for you, when you are in my care.”
Good luck to you and congratulations on your marriage and your new blended family! For more information, you may want to check out our articles, newsletters, and also Chapter Four and Chapter Seven of Blended Family Advice ebook.
Relatives won’t give equal gifts to step kids and bio kids
A reader asks:
HELP! I am tired of losing sleep. I married a man 7 years ago with 4 boys. I have a girl and a boy from a previous marriage. (Ages of all kids 13-22) When we first got together, his parents and only sister welcomed me and my children. They called on birthdays and sent presents for both. My parents are dead.
3 years ago, my husband voiced his opinion on the gift giving situation. One child (out of the 6) would get a tshirt one an Ipod, one a book one $25. This was totally hurtful to all involved. He asked that each child be given the same, that all were his children and all needed to be treated the same. Since then, they have shut me, my husband and my children off. No calls on birthdays, etc. We have tried to ask what we did wrong to no avail. Now, they send stuff for his kids to the exwife’s house. I don’t like feeling like this. I think it probably bothers me more than the kids. If they had never accepted the kids or myself in the beginning I wouldn’t be so concerned. They are totally unapproachable. I wish I could fix this.
Shirley Cress Dudley responds:
Yes- the behavior of your husband’s family is hurtful. You and your husband did the right thing by requesting that all family members be treated equally- that’s the only way your blended family will be successful.
This is a tough situation. Your husband needs to communicate, again with his relatives about the importance of treating all family members equal. In person is better, but a letter will do. Below is a template you and your husband may want to follow:
Dear Mom, Dad and Sis-
I really love you. I appreciate the way you have accepted my wife and her kids, when I remarried over 4 years ago. It really means a lot to me that you support me and my blended family. Blended families are tough, but I’m very happy that I remarried, and glad that you supported me.
In recent years, I have noticed that the gifts to my stepchildren have not been equal to the gifts send to my biological kids. I mentioned this to you before, but I’m guessing you really don’t understand. We are all family- and we all treat each other equally. My wife doesn’t treat my kids as inferior to hers, and I treat her kids as my own. It’s very important to us that we treat all our kids equally and love them all the same.
I really need your support on this. I love you and hope you understand.
From now on- all gifts to everyone in my family will need to be equal. If you can’t remember the amount- then buy gift cards at the beginning of the year, of equal amounts, and send them out at birthdays. If you can’t do this- then we request that you only send cards.
We will, in turn, do the same. I hope you will support my blended family as much as you did when I first remarried. If not, then I respectfully have to take care of my family first. All unequal gifts will be returned. We will be having a family meeting in my home, soon- and we are asking all of our kids to cooperate. I love you and hope you will understand.
Continue to love your kids and step kids- I think that’s great that you are trying very hard to keep everything fair and equal. You can express your concerns to the kids and ask for their cooperation. I believe all of them are old enough to understand the necessity for equality and participate- as a family in this. Good luck to you and your family.
A reader recently asked me: “Are there any blended families that never get along and are just too incompatible?”
Shirley Cress Dudley responds:
Great question. Yes- there are some families that have been blended for years (sometimes up to 20 years!) and still haven’t accepted each other as family. Here are some reasons a blended family may stay incompatible and not blend.
If the children are over 21 when the couple remarries: It’s possible that the family doesn’t “blend” because the children have moved out on their own and are starting their own families. That’s O.K., as long as there is respect for the new stepparent, as their parent’s spouse. It does make life a little tougher for the grandkids (who don’t understand why some of the grandparents are not accepted equally,) but it’s somewhat understandable if the kids are already on their own as adults and making their own decisions. These adult children are limiting the love these stepparents can have for them and for their children, but it is their own choice.
If the parents did not consider their children when they remarried: Once the divorced mom and dad start dating again, they are looking for not only a spouse, but also a stepparent to his or her children. It does make dating more difficult, but it is very necessary to understand if your new love is interested in getting to know your children, love them and spent time raising them with you. A parent should only marry someone that will be a good stepmom/stepdad to his or her kids.
If the parents are not willing to treat each child (biological or step) fairly and equally: Some parents forget that they should treat their child the way they want their new spouse to treat their children. Each parent should treat each child in the home (whether biological or step) equally and fairly. House rules need to be established and followed by all. There should be consequences, enforced by the biological parent, if these house rules and guidelines are not met. It should be unacceptable for a child to treat a stepsibling or stepparent with disrespect or rudeness.
Some families just don’t blend: In reality, there are some families that never get along. In my opinion, I don’t think it’s the kid’s fault- it’s the parents’ fault. It’s the parent’s responsibility to communicate their expectations for the newly blended family. Reminding their children that everyone should treat each other with respect, everyone is loved and special in this house, and to treat your stepfamily the way you want to be treated. If the parents don’t communicate these guidelines, then the kids don’t know how to act and feel it’s O.K. to have a constant “war” going on.
Personality Differences: I don’t believe personality differences have a part in the blending process. As a parent- when our kids are born, we love them, immediately and automatically. We may have children that have our personality or children that have personalities completely different from us. It doesn’t matter- we love them just the same. But, there are days when we may not like this child (due to their behavior or actions) but we still love them.
In summary, I do believe that any family can get along- yes any blended or step family- no matter how different, as long as the parents are devoted to each other and determined to be the best parents they can be to all of the children in their home. For more information on this topic, check out Chapter Four of Blended Family Advice.
Discipline in the Blended Family
A reader asks: I married a man that had no children. We have 2 kids together and I also have 2 children from another marriage.My teenage daughter is always fighting with my husband. He is upset if I don’t take his side, and she is upset if I don’t stick up for her. What can I do?
Shirley Cress Dudley responds:
I understand you are in a difficult situation. You feel in the middle, between your husband and your daughter- wanting to defend/protect/support both of them. Let’s back away from the issues and start over a bit.
It’s time for you and your husband to form some blended family rules and guidelines for your family. These guidelines will apply to everyone in the house (biological, step kids- everyone.) You and your husband will develop these house rules and guidelines in some private time- with only the two of you present. Make sure each of you expresses your needs and goals for the family. You both may need to compromise a little, but be prepared to present these guidelines to the kids as a united front.
If the kids do not follow your guidelines, make sure they know there will be consequences. Consequences should be fair for all kids (although maybe a little different based on their developmental stages. Examples: time out for the little ones, younger teens lose their phones, and older teens lose use of the car for a set period of time.)
Let the biological parent be the “heavy” in enforcing the rules for the kids. The step parent should be in a supportive role, but not the lead role in the discipline. This should work if you both agree on the guidelines, remind the kids, and then enforce consequences.
You and your husband are the center of the marriage. Making these guidelines is crucial to the stability of your home. You are not favoring one person over another by forming guidelines- you are parenting your kids in the best way you can. Remind all kids that you love them and expect respect and kindness in your home. The adults should set the example.
For more help on this subject, read chapter 2 of Blended Family Advice.
A Blended Family with Varying Ages in Kids
A Reader asks: “How would you blend a family with kids 15, 13, 8, and 4 year old twins?” Shirley Cress Dudley responds: I admit I had some help on this one. I asked my 16 and 18 year old what kinds of things they do, when they are visiting their Dad, and their 3 year old half-brother. Here’s what we came up with:
- Watching kid’s shows are fun. (My teenage kids can sing the songs from Bob the Builder and other TV shows.)
- Going to a drive-in movie together (G rated or animated.) Get out the blankets and the snacks and make it a fun evening. If the little ones fall asleep early, you can even watch a double feature (maybe PG?) after the younger ones fall asleep.
- Family night- order a pizza, rent a movie and watch it together.
- Holiday Activities- decorate the Christmas tree together, dye Easter eggs, carve pumpkins (little ones use markers to decorate pumpkins)
And basically, do anything you can, together, as a family-
- Prepare the meal (little ones set the table or put out napkins)
- Clean up after dinner (little ones carry silver wear back to the sink
- Wash the car
- Clean the house (little ones can “dust” and carry little loads of laundry to the laundry room
Good luck to you, in blending your various ages of children. Just treat them fairly, love them all, and they will follow your example and be good siblings to each other.
For more information, Read 52 Fun Things to Do under $25.
Family Chores in a Step Family
A Reader asks: “My 17 yr old daughter & I moved into my husband’s house & he has a 19 yr old daughter at home who rarely does chores. I buy the groceries, clean up & make my 17-year-old help. My husband doesn’t understand why this bothers me so much. How can I get my husband to understand this isn’t right? Shirley Cress Dudley responds-Well, there are several issues:
- Your stepdaughter sees you as an invasion to her home. You want to change the rules, but she doesn’t see the need to change. She has probably acted this way for some time and wonders why Dad’s new wife wants her to change her behavior.
- Your children (biological and step) are being treated differently.
- You and your husband have not established a blended family home together.
It sounds as it moving into a new home isn’t an option. In this economy, I truly understand. If that were possible, I would recommend it as the ideal scenario. However- in your current situation, it’s time for you and your husband to establish yourselves as the new parental unit of the home- with new house rules and expectations.
Spend some quality time with your husband, explaining how you would like to figure out ways everyone in the family can feel at home here. Talk with him about how you imagine your home to function, and how you see each family member participating. Use “I” words, not “you.” Don’t focus on your stepdaughter’s issues; instead, concentrate on the way you imagine things could be. For example, “I imagine a household where everyone picks up after themselves, everyone has assigned chores, and we all work together as a family.”
Discuss with your husband what house rules and expectations you believe are important. Together, make a list of guidelines for your girls to follow. Each of you may have to “give a little” to get what’s most important to you. When you talk with the girls, you need to appear as a “united front.” Tell the girls that you are going to have a family meeting, and they need to be there.
Set aside responsibilities for each teenager. These responsibilities come with living in the home and acting as a family member.Tell both girls you want your new home to be a great place for everyone. Remind them that you love them and want what’s best. As long as they live with you-they are under your care and your supervision. As they get older and more independent (which the 19 year old should be heading in this direction, if she is not in school) they will eventually want to move out on their own, and make their own decisions. But, as long as they live with you (i.e.- eat your food, live in your house) they will be under your guidelines and expectations.
There should also be consequences for not doing their part as a family member. Any child (no matter what age) that is still living in the home, should follow parent’s instructions. You may need to take away use of a phone, car, or television, until you see your guidelines met. Make sure your husband takes the lead in enforcing rules with his daughter, and you take the lead with your daughter.
It may be difficult for your husband to enforce guidelines with his daughter, if things have gotten a little lax over the last few years. Encourage him, and remind him of all the reasons you love him. I wish you both the best. For more information, Read chapters 1 & 2 of Blended Family Advice.
Kids Don’t Like Future StepDad
A reader asks, “What if your kids hate the person you are dating? Is there any hope?”
Shirley Cress Dudley responds-
Great question. Right now, your kids are responding to the fact that mom and dad aren’t together. Anyone you choose to date will not be popular with them.
There are several things you can do
- Remind your kids that you need adult companionship and will be dating.
- Tell them that this person does not replace their other parent, but will be someone you choose.
- Let them know that there is no competition between them and your new companion. You love them the same and always will.
Look at it from a different perspective
The person you are dating is someone you choose- not your kids. If your kids are still young (under 18) and this new person may end up as a step parent to them- look for not only a good mate but a good parent to your kids. Someone who will love your kids and be patient as they get used to this “new world” will be the best mate for you and a good step parent to your kids.
For more information, check out Blended Family Advice ebook.
Testimonials about Shirley Cress Dudley
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I really appreciate you taking the time to give me answers to my questions. Also, I really enjoy reading everything you write.- Nicola H., Stepsibling
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“We have your report 52 Fun Things to Do for Less Than $25 on our refrigerator, and we’re marking off an activity each week.”- Tina, new step mom
“I admire your work on behalf of blended families.”- Terri
“I greatly respect what you do. I am a social worker in children’s mental health and have a step family of my own.”- Melissa (Canada)
“I’m really glad there’s someone out there, doing what you’re doing. God bless!” -Dick
“Keep on doing what you’re doing, Shirley. You’re brightening things for all those kids out there trying to figure out what’s going on in divorces and remarried families. God Bless.”- Lorne
“Keep on changing the world…one blended family at a time, by supporting and building them up!” -Louise
“Thanks for what you are doing with blended families…I think it’s great.” -Sarah
“I love the work that you do- keep it up.” -Ali
“I really admire what you do. You are doing so much good for families dealing with blended family situations… I recommend that everyone should follow Shirley Cress Dudley (on Twitter.)”- Debbie Barth, Trump Network Team Leader and Marketer
“If I have a blended family in need of coaching, I’ll send them to you. “- Coach Dee Kite
“I appreciate the work you do with families! Thanks for being the voice that is needed” Mark Hundley, Speaker, Author, Psychotherapist, Life Coach
“I wish I had an army of someone like you considering the kids I work with and the families. Keep it up.”- Jeff Wolfsberg, Teen and Family Expert, Speaker, Alcohol and Drug Educator
I’ll use your book, Blended Family Advice, with my clients, it’s much needed.”- Kara Tamanini, Therapist and Author
“Shirley Cress Dudley is one of the most caring professionals in the stepfamily arena I have had the privilege to speak with.” Tricia Powe, Talk Show Host-Stepfamily Straight Talk, founding director of StepFamily Straight Talk