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Five Ways to Connect with Your Stepchildren

Five Ways to Connect with Your Stepchildren

Connecting with your stepchildren is one of the greatest gifts you will ever receive. I say this from experience. I have three amazing stepkids and they have brought more joy into my life than I had ever deemed possible. If you are not connecting with your stepchildren, then you are missing out on one of the utmost sources of joy in your life right now.

There is something to be said for choosing to love a person as a parent loves their children. You do it, not because you have to, but because you want to and because they are beautiful people that you are happy to have in your life.

Being a stepparent has certain complications that regular parents do not have and that many people are unaware of. For a stepparent it is necessary to stride into a parenting role and even then realize that being a stepparent and being a Mother or Father are totally different. You should never try to take over the role of Mother or Father, EVER. Your job (and in time you will find it to be a blessing) is to find your own relationship with them, not to steal someone else’s relationship. Remember that you are an addition to their lives; you did not give them life/are not their primary caregiver. Once you can accept this fact, then you will find that in this place of acceptance you will be much happier. There will be less power struggles, less misery, and more energy focused on the positive aspects of your relationship.

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Except for their safety, getting to know them is the single most important job you will ever have. How can you be a parent to a person you don’t know? Moreover, how can you expect them to connect with you if they don’t know you? If you do not connect with them, how can you assist their parents in giving them better lives and in making them better people? See, a real parent cares about giving their children better lives and it should be no different for you. I want my stepchildren to look back on their childhood and think I made a positive impact on their lives. It is not my fault that their parents decided to split, but that maybe—just maybe—I can be a small joy that came after it. Here are five ways that allowed me to connect with my stepchildren. I have no doubt that they will work for you too.

Show them lots of love and affection

All kids need love and affection, not just from their Mom and Dad, but from everyone in their lives that is important to them. Make them feel loved. Laugh with them, compliment them, cuddle up with them while you watch movies. Even if you have other children in the picture that demand your attention, make the time to be affectionate with them. If you don’t show them that you love and respect them, you can’t expect them to show it back.

Spend time together doing activities you both love

My stepson loves video games. My stepdaughter loves art. Some of the best times I have with them are sharing in these activities. Sunday morning Mario Kart, Saturday evening roller skating, pulling out the paints and paper and painting together are all times I treasure with my stepchildren. Are you spending quality time with your stepchildren? Are you talking to them, loving them? If not, then that may be why you are not connecting easily with them.

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Make sure they know they’re family

This goes especially for stepmothers. I say this because we are the ones who typically decorate the house, cook dinner, and go grocery shopping. This is not meant to be stereotypical and it’s not always the case; however, in my household my husband and I don’t show love in the same way. I hang up pictures of my stepchildren throughout the household so when they come home they know this is just as much their house as it is ours. I try to buy them food that they like (OK, well, maybe not as much junk food as they would like…), and go out of my way to do things they specifically request the weekend before. If my stepson asks for pizza, for example, I make sure the next weekend he comes over we make pizza. They should know how important they are to you and your life. They are family, you love them, and they should never question that.

Connect and show respect for BOTH parents

I know what you’re thinking, but STOP it! It does not matter what conflicts your current spouse has had, if any, with their ex husband or wife. It does not involve you. Don’t be judgmental. You know as well as I do that there are two sides to every story and it takes two to make or break a marriage.

Now you are a stepparent and it’s your responsibility to put your stepchildren first just as it would be to put your own children first. Because you love you stepchildren it is your duty to go out of your way to respect BOTH their parents. Trust me, you will never regret this. You might even find yourself liking and working well with their other parent. It is the responsibility of all of you now to make sure your stepchildren have the best possible lives. If you put out vibes of conflict then how can you achieve that?

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Make yourself an active part of their life, but realize and accept the fact that they had a life before you

If there is one piece of advice you take away from this article, I hope it’s this. As mentioned earlier, it is important to spend time with your stepchildren doing activities that you both like. Just as important, though, is to acknowledge the fact that they had a life before you. They once had another family that was with their Mom and Dad and that did not include you. This is a time that is important to them and that they love to reminisce about. I’m not going to lie; it can be tough sometimes. You may feel like an outsider. You may feel like what they had before is better than what you have to offer them now. Stop. Turn it off. This is not about you; this is about them and their parent(s).

You should be thankful that they love you enough that they want to share these stories with you. Try enjoying in their enjoyment. Be happy that they have happy experiences with both their parents, encourage their happy memories, and ask lots of questions. Basically, take an interest in the memories that are a part of who they are. It is a blessing to them and it should be to you too.

I have come to know my stepchildren quite well. I love them, they know that I love them, and I know they love me. They go out of their way to do amazing things for me. They show me respect, kindness, and they even remember my birthday and get me Mother’s Day gifts. Their Mother likes me and respects me. Their Father loves and respects me. I have a life full of love, joy, and respect. I am blessed to have them all in my life and I know with work you can find the same gift from your relationships that I have. Trust me when I tell you, you will treasure your relationship with them forever. You will never regret it. Good luck to you and your family.

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Featured photo credit: by Visit St. Pete/Clearwater via imcreator.com

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Published on October 19, 2018

The Most Critical Do’s and Don’ts of Working Out While Pregnant

The Most Critical Do’s and Don’ts of Working Out While Pregnant

Are you scared of working out whilst pregnant? Or simply not sure how to proceed? Everything seems slightly more daunting once you’re carrying and creating a whole other person.

In this article I will give you specific advice, tips and strategies for working out while pregnant. Ensuring that you, and your baby, are safe. Not only that but you will both benefit.

Benefits of Working Out While Pregnant

It is clear that everyone, not just you but your baby, and probably your partner and other kids will benefit from you working out while pregnant. If you’re sleeping better and feel less stress, you can guarantee everyone in the household is going to feel better.

How you benefit from working out while pregnant:

  • Reduced incidence of lower back pain
  • 30% reduction in the risk of gestational diabetes
  • Reduced likelihood of unplanned cesarian
  • Lower incidence and reduce severity of depression
  • Less pregnancy weight gain
  • Lower risk of urinary incontiennce
  • Reduced pregnancy constipation
  • Less pregnancy tiredness
  • May have a shorter labour

How your baby benefits from working out while pregnant:

  • A healthier heart
  • Normal birth weight
  • Quicker neurological development
  • Reduced risk of respiratory distress syndrome (for infants of high-risk women)
  • Less maternal stress could reduce impact on immune system development

Instant Big-Rocks for Working out While Pregnant

Before we get cracking into what really will benefit, here are some instant ‘big-rocks’ when it comes to working out while pregnant.

Safety first: Check with your midwife

Each person and pregnancy is individual – and as I”m not speaking to you in person, the first pre-qualifier is that you check with your doctor that you’re ok to work out while pregnant. In certain circumstances, it is not recommended due to potential complications arising from exercise.

If you’re new to exercising or have just fallen pregnant do check with your GP or midwife before commencing or recommencing your exercise program.

Exercise Check In Second – No lying Flat or Crunches

Crunches are a whole other issue in regards to pre and post natal training that I’ll get into during another article.

For now, know that lying flat on your back puts pressure on your body, especially after 16 weeks. The weight of your bump pressing on certain blood vessels can reduce cardiac output, make you feel dizzy and affect the flow of blood that carries nutrients and oxygen to your baby.

While this means traditional stomach crunches are out, you can and should still include core and pelvic floor strengthening exercises in your routine. These I’ll get to later in the article.

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Third Intensity Check In – No High Intensity Workouts

When it comes to exercise intensity, it is best to abide by the guideline “to be able to comfortably hold a conversation” whilst working out. Unless you are an athlete and extremely used to very high heart rates whilst you workout, keeping your rate of perceived exertion to a 7 out of 10 is best practice.

Experts agree that you should avoid undertaking activities that will raise your core temperature by more than 2°C – or above 38.9°C. This is because such a temperature change may result in hyperthermia (the opposite of hypothermia). Hyperthermia during pregnancy has been linked to a twofold increase in the risk of birth defects impacting the spine or brain.

As such, it is not advisable to use hot tubs or spas during pregnancy, and hot yoga should be avoided as well as parking in only moderate intensity exercise.

Final & Fourth Point – No high contact/dangerous sports

For obvious reasons, contact sports or sports in which it’s likely you can fall or have an accident should be avoided.

For example scuba diving while pregnant should be avoided as your baby will have no protection against decompression sickness (‘the bends’) or gas embolism – bubbles in the bloodstream that can cut off blood supply or cause breathing difficulties.

Similarly, horse riding, climbing, cycling, gymnastics and other activities that require extreme balance are best avoided as your centre of gravity shifts and affects your balance.

Certainly, sports like kick boxing, jujitsu or rugby in which contact is prevalent should be avoided for bump protection.

Actual Workouts You Can Do While Pregnant

1. Let your personal trainer or group exercise instructor know that you’re pregnant

In doing so they can assist you in providing expert advice or refer you to a qualified practitioner in your area. If you’re unsure ask your GP or Midwife for a referral.

2. Use your breath to engage your core and pelvic floor throughout your workout programs

Your breath plays a big part in controlled core to assist with labour and reduce back pain. We each take thousands of breaths per day, as as your baby grows pressure is placed upon the lungs and pelvic floor.

Preparing and practicing proper breath ensures that your core remains as integrated and activated as possible throughout and after your pregnancy.

3. Find a Holistic Core Restore Coach

The reason the Holistic Core Restore® programmes are more effective than performing keels or traditional abdominal exercise alone for true core restore and pelvic floor activation. A Hollisitc Core Restore Coach will work with you to integrate your core and pelvic floor with your whole body through a series of movements and lifestyle factors.

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4. Join a Pre & Post Natal Class

Join a Pre & Post Natal Class in order to move in specific ways designed to boost your health and recovery post birth.

This not only provides you with a chance to connect with other pre & post natal women in your area to and create a community; but also provides you access to pre & post natal experts who can give you tailored advice for exercising whilst pregnant.

5. Focus on strengthening the glute muscles

Focus on strengthening the glute muscles to counteract the anterior tilt produced by your expanding bump.

Most people will simply focus on keeping the core engaged and active to help the ‘pre-mummy-tummy’ bounce back. When in actual fact the synergist muscle to the core for pelvic stability is the butt.

Really focus on strengthening the glute muscles in order to support the core, posture and back.

Hinge movements such as single leg romanian deadlifts are a brilliant way to do so. You can do this holding a Kettlebell or Dumbell but also, once the bump is big enough just using your bodyweight.

6. Enjoy swimming

Enjoy swimming, especially in your third trimester, to remove weight and boost lymphatic drainage of your feet and ankles.

It’s well known that your ankles swell during the last months of pregnancy. This is due to the changes in posture from the weight of the stomach pulling down towards the floor.

Consequently, this causes the front of the hip to become compressed. And this in turn reduces circulation of the lymphatic fluid in the lower body.

One way to improve this circulation is to get into water as the pressure from the water removes the weight of the bump whilst providing pressure to the legs improving circulation.

7. Bring layers to your workouts

Bring layers to your workouts so that you can add and remove layers as you warm up and cool down.

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As previously mentioned, changes in body temperature can be dangerous for the baby – using layers so that you can keep your temperature constant is one the the most simple and best things you can do whilst working out while pregnant.

8. Practice the 7 fundamental primal movement patterns in your workouts

Practice the 7 fundamental primal movement patterns in your workouts – squat, lunge, anti-rotate, push, carry, hinge, pull.

“We love pregnant mamas to be regularly training their squats, since a low squat is the ideal position for working through contractions and pushing during labor.”

They also improve pelvic floor strength and elasticity to help prevent tearing during the natural labor process and teach abdominal strength relative to hip mobility for an easier labor and faster postnatal recovery.

Kiberd and her team prefer front squats done with at least a 12-kilogram kettlebell held at the chest. (Choose an appropriate weight for your level.)

“The kettlebell gives great feedback to the muscles that need to engage to stand you back up and to stabilize your weight while you’re down in the squat,” she explains.

And once the bump gets big? “No weight on the front is needed,” she says. “The belly is that natural weight.”

9. Do exercise that your enjoy

Because really if you’re enjoying it so will bump and you’ll feel less stressed.

Do not making working out while pregnant a chore – if it becomes that way, seek advice from an expert in your gym or area on some new varied things that you can try.

10. Practice anti-rotation exercises

Practice anti-rotation exercises whilst focussing on the breath for core integration and activation.

The Palloff press (a core stabilizer done on a cable machine) and the bear crawls offer the same degree of effectiveness.

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“These two exercises engage the external and internal obliques, which are involved in stabilizing the torso in rotation and help stabilize the shoulders down and back.”

11. Make sure to wind down properly

Cooling down slowly after your workouts and providing a little leeway time before your next appointment will reduce your stress levels and help you feel more balanced.

It will also stop sharp changes in body temperature that are non-beneficial to your baby.

Take your time and enjoy each session for what it is.

The Bottom Line

You will have to make fitness modifications as your body changes, but deep down, you know that’s ok. Dr Dawn Harper says

“We’re now seeing evidence that exercising in pregnancy may be one of the best things you can do for your baby’s future health. Pregnancy exercise can have a huge impact on your personal experience of pregnancy, too. Provided you follow the expert guidelines, it’s safe for most women to continue and even start exercising in pregnancy. Just make sure you check with your midwife or doctor first, in case there are any specific medical reasons why you should avoid being physically active in pregnancy.”

There are certain things that are essential. The first being to check with your Dr/Midwife to be given the ‘OK’ to exercise.

There are definite ‘no-nos’ such as abstaining from contact or dangerous sports as well as performing extreme high intensity workouts that bring your heart rate and temperature very, abnormally high for you. It is also contraindicated that you perform any exercises lying on your back.

The exciting thing is that you can and should exercise. You simply have to adapt to what is possible by seeking advice of a local pre & post natal expert. If you take one sentence away let it be this:

Focus upon your breath, workout at a 7/10 level, strengthen your glutes and perform whole body integrated exercises preferentially led by a pre & post natal expert.

And finally, if in doubt, get in the pool for some weight off your feet and relax!

References

  1. Pennick V, Liddle SD. Interventions for preventing and treating pelvic and back pain in pregnancy. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2013(CD0011):1-100.
  2. Sanabria‐Martínez G et al. Effectiveness of physical activity interventions on preventing gestational diabetes mellitus and excessive maternal weight gain: a meta‐analysis. BJOG 2015;122(9):1167-74.
  3. Price BB et al. Exercise in pregnancy: effect on fitness and obstetric outcomes-a randomized trial. Med Sci Sports Exerc 2012;44(12):2263-9.
  4. Domenjoz I et al. Effect of physical activity during pregnancy on mode of delivery. Am J Obstet Gynecol 2014;211(4):401.e1-e11.
  5. Gaston A, Prapavessis H. Tired, moody and pregnant? Exercise may be the answer. Psychol Health 2013;28(12):1353-69.
  6. Robledo-Colonia AF et al. Aerobic exercise training during pregnancy reduces depressive symptoms in nulliparous women: a randomised trial. J Physiother 2012;58(1):9-15.
  7. Perales M et al. Benefits of aerobic or resistance training during pregnancy on maternal health and perinatal outcomes: A systematic review. Early Hum Dev 2016;94:43-8..
  8. Shi W et al. Epidemiology and risk factors of functional constipation in pregnant women. PloS one 2015;10(7):e0133521
  9. Gaston A, Prapavessis H. Tired, moody and pregnant? Exercise may be the answer. Psychol Health 2013;28(12):1353-69.
  10. Barakata et al. Exercise during pregnancy is associated with a shorter duration of labor. A randomized clinical trial 2018, 224 33-40
  11. May LE et al. Aerobic exercise during pregnancy influences fetal cardiac autonomic control of heart rate and heart rate variability. Early Hum Dev 2010;86(4):213-7.
  12. Bisson M et al. Physical activity volumes during pregnancy: A systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies assessing the association with infant’s birth weight. AJP Reports 2016;6(02):e170-e97.
  13. Labonte-Lemoyne E et al. Exercise during pregnancy enhances cerebral maturation in the newborn: A randomized controlled trial. J Clin Exp Neuropsychol 2016:1-8.
  14. Muktabhant B et al. Diet or exercise, or both, for preventing excessive weight gain in pregnancy. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2015 Jun 15;(6):CD007145.
  15. Marques AH, Bjorke-Monsen AL, Teixeira AL, Silverman MN. Maternal stress, nutrition and physical activity: impact on immune function, CNS development and psychopathology. Brain Research. 2015;1617:28–46

Featured photo credit: Jernej Graj via unsplash.com

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