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My wife of six months and I leave for three weeks in the Philippines next week.  I've met her mother, one brother, and two sisters; now I will meet her father, another brother, and her five children -- my stepchildren.  In my life until now, I have only been an uncle -- to, depending on how you consider my relationship to my double cousins, four or twelve.  (I claim all twelve.)

With my wife's two adult children, I expect to be fine.  They're married, starting families, and need my support much more than any guidance.  Her daughter from elementary school effectively never had a father; filling those empty shoes should not be too terrible a task, and at any rate I have years to screw her up fix any mistakes I make.

Between the aforementioned are two middle-teenagers -- both bright, lovely, and spirited girls with whom I have had a decent stepfatherly relationship on the phone and in e-mail thus far, though one that is of course limited by our not yet having met.  And I want some advice, especially from the women here.  Not advice with any problem in particular; none so far exist.  But advice in general, from their virtual aunts, uncles, and cousins here.

This diary not associated with any candidate or campaign, and the campaign will be just fine in my absence, by the way.

Just as I will be moving suddenly into fatherhood, they will soon be moving suddenly into American residency.  Having grown up here, I don't even know how to tell them what the transition will be like.  Whether they are in high school or community college, it will a different and much less traditional culture.  Kids grow up earlier here; communal ties are weaker in our variegated culture; they will have to deal with ethnic and racial minority status for the first time; being attractive and "exotic"-looking, they will suddenly have to deal with much more aggressive boys than in their previous experience.  (I'm not prudish about things; my wife and my main concern is their not getting hurt too badly, unusually, or permanently.)

I want them both to survive and to thrive.  My very open-ended question for those of you who were once mid-teenage girls, or who have raised them or grown up with them: what worked for you?  What do you wish had been done differently?  If any of you have come to the U.S. in similar circumstances, what words of wisdom do you have?  If you're a long-time resident American woman, what advice can you offer that I (being male) and my wife (being so new to this country) cannot?

I'm not sure what to envision out of this diary (except that I expect that it may turn into a wonderful conversation.  I've thought about cross-posting to MotherTalkers, but not being a participant there I'd feel a bit like an interloper.)  What I'd like, I suppose, is something that I can print out for them once I arrive in their home and say: these are my people, and these are the things they have to say to you as you prepare to come to the U.S.

If being part of that appeals to you, then please jump right in.

Update: 45 minutes into this diary everything that I've seen written looks as wonderful as I could have expected.  I'm not going to reply to each comment because that will start to look awkward and get boring, but please know that what thanks I give a few people below could apply to all of you who have written.

Originally posted to Major Danby on Wed Dec 05, 2007 at 06:25 PM PST.

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Are you a step-parent?

3%2 votes
35%20 votes
29%17 votes
1%1 votes
0%0 votes
1%1 votes
0%0 votes
5%3 votes
5%3 votes
8%5 votes
5%3 votes
3%2 votes

| 57 votes | Vote | Results

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Comment Preferences

  •  And because I know someone will give this advice (39+ / 0-)

    to them as new Americans, I'll say it first so you don't have to:

    IMPEACH!

    Thanks in advance for whatever you're inspired to write.

    If somebody writes a book and doesn't care for [its] survival, he's an imbecile. U. Eco. (P.S.: my opinions are mine, not my employer's.)

    by Major Danby on Wed Dec 05, 2007 at 06:26:11 PM PST

    •  Well, that is a nice start... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Major Danby, marykk
      Teach your new stepdaughters that Bush & Cheney are criminals that need to be held accountable. OK, OK, enough of that. But really, Major, you have a unique opportunity to show them what American Democracy is really like. When they ask what you do, don't hesitate to tell them about Ron Shepston and his campaign. Ya see, this way you can educate them all about the way campaigns are done here and what Congress is supposed to do. With your help, they'll ace US Government.

      Oh, and btw, feel free to tell them that Hillary Clinton will be a great President that will show everyone what "girl power" is all about! ;-)

      Don't blame us... We're turning "The OC" (Yes, that one!) blue at The Liberal OC! : )

      by atdnext on Wed Dec 05, 2007 at 06:38:21 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Ha ha -- thanks, atd (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        atdnext, 4Freedom, YoyogiBear

        Even though I'm not in her camp, one of the huge consolations of a Hillary Presidency, should it happen, for me and others is that it will help little girls picture themselves as potential future Presidents -- ideally without first marrying one.

        I hope (and frankly expect) that they'll be interested in politics, but it's more important to me that they'll be interested in something they find rewarding, whatever it is.

        If somebody writes a book and doesn't care for [its] survival, he's an imbecile. U. Eco. (P.S.: my opinions are mine, not my employer's.)

        by Major Danby on Wed Dec 05, 2007 at 06:42:02 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  If they're from the Philippines (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        SallyCat, atdnext, 4Freedom, marykk

        impeachment talk might not fly.  I lived in the Philippines for a year 20 years ago and found them to be socially conservative (abortion & divorce are illegal) and a good number of them are also politically conservative, mostly because of the heavy conservative Catholic influence in the Philippines.  Evangelical protestant churches are making inroads to the Philippines and I suspect more than a few of them think GW is a good Christian - like conservative Christian Americans think.

        The kids probably won't say much one way or the other, but I wouldn't expect them to be hardcore leftists (unless you're lucky).

        Trivia:  Michelle Malkin is Filipino-American.  If her parents didn't give birth to her here, she'd probably be one of many people in the Philippines who still sing the praises of Marcos.

        American overseas? Register to vote at www.VoteFromAbroad.org

        by YoyogiBear on Wed Dec 05, 2007 at 06:47:44 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  You left out some options on your poll (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      4Freedom

      Foster parenting and guardianship Those two options are very similar to step- parenting.

      We have no future because our present is too volatile. We only have risk management. The spinning of the given moments scenario. Pattern Recognition. ~W. Gibson

      by Silent Lurker on Wed Dec 05, 2007 at 08:27:47 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Teach them stuff. (23+ / 0-)

    Best gift I ever got from my dad was a toolbox, and knowledge of how to use the tools.  I love it.  Still use it to this day.  You can never get a man interested in hanging the curtains or the art where you want it.  

    Seriously, though, I mean give them knowledge, appropriate tools, and this creates confidence and independence.  

    Confidence + independence = great women.

    Oh, and earrings are my other favorite gift.  

  •  Major, I have been lucky enough to have my (12+ / 0-)

    step-daughter live with me for 11 years (since she was five). I have found the teen years to be the most challenging but by far the most rewarding. I can't imagine that you will have any trouble at all.

    They will love you for the rest of their lives for being a Dad to them. The biggest issue I have ever had was with the computer and I had to learn to limit her access.

  •  I'll tell you what to do.... (26+ / 0-)

    Tell them they can do anything they want in the world- the door is open for them to succeed.  My mom told me that all the time when I was a teen girl and I came to believe it.  I have done great stuff, have a happy family and enjoy myself as long as I don't think about George Bush as the illegally installed and incompetant president of the USA.

    And never tell them they are too fat or too thin.  Complement their hair when they cut it or perm it or dye it or style it.  Girls like to have things they do or have chosen admired and approved of(schoolwork, art, hair, purses, shoes)- but not body shape commented on.  They are self-conscious.  

    Go for it!

    You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you mad. Aldous Huxley

    by murrayewv on Wed Dec 05, 2007 at 06:36:00 PM PST

  •  I dated a man who had a 5 yr. old when we started (23+ / 0-)

    She is now 14 and she and I are still in contact though I kicked him to the curb a long time ago.  The best thing you can give anybody is attention.  Listen.  Don't assume you are the only one who can teach .  This has worked for me with young people.  For that matter it helps when you're dealing with old folks too.

    The best way to predict the future is to invent it. Alan Kay

    by Robinswing on Wed Dec 05, 2007 at 06:36:55 PM PST

  •  The best advice you give is the life you live (14+ / 0-)

    Giving advice to teenagers is delicate and often backfires. I recommend listening and understanding first before saying too much.

    It cats could blog, they wouldn't.

    by crystal eyes on Wed Dec 05, 2007 at 06:37:03 PM PST

  •  Advice for teen girls (13+ / 0-)

    Teach them how to become financially independent.

    Once they "own themselves" they'll be in much better shape to make longer term decisions about career and marriage.

    I am not afraid of the pen, or the scaffold, or the sword. I will tell the truth whenever I please.--Mother Jones

    by bluebrain on Wed Dec 05, 2007 at 06:38:09 PM PST

    •  Great advice, thanks (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      SallyCat, KiaRioGrl79, 4Freedom

      Both have their eyes on careers.  One wants to be a journalist and I may suggest she register an account here and try her hand at writing.  (Or is there a group blog for kids like DKos?  That would be a really great idea, actually.)

      If somebody writes a book and doesn't care for [its] survival, he's an imbecile. U. Eco. (P.S.: my opinions are mine, not my employer's.)

      by Major Danby on Wed Dec 05, 2007 at 06:58:54 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  This can't be stressed enough. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      4Freedom

      One thing that is sadly lacking in education is the knowledge of how to live within a budget. It's such a basic skill that many people don't realize that not everyone knows how.

      Teach them how to balance their bank account. They'll thank you for it someday.

      Sure, he comes across quiet and avuncular. Until he gets mad ... then he sounds like God on a bad day. ~ Dallasdoc on Senator Patrick Leahy

      by KiaRioGrl79 on Wed Dec 05, 2007 at 08:26:12 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Listen to them... (18+ / 0-)

    ALWAYS-- you won't always agree with them, but you should always listen.

    Our country can survive war, disease, and poverty... what it cannot do without is justice.

    by mommyof3 on Wed Dec 05, 2007 at 06:38:13 PM PST

  •  MD, (15+ / 0-)

    my best advice is to be a good listener and really listen - sometimes teenage girls refer back.  Be ready if a question comes up.  Also, never minimize their feelings.  While they're young and some things may seem nonsensical, their feelings are real to them.  

    Best wishes to all.

    "Ancora Imparo." ("I am still learning.") - Michelangelo, Age 87

    by Dreaming of Better Days on Wed Dec 05, 2007 at 06:38:18 PM PST

  •  are they athletic or interested in sports? (7+ / 0-)

    softball was very good for my daughter's health & self esteem. it gives you something to do every weekend, in fact it can take over your life. i'm sure same thing with other sports. best of luck.

    Anyone who advocates, supports, defends, rationalizes, or excuses torture has pus for brains and a case of scurvy for a conscience. - James Wolcott

    by rasbobbo on Wed Dec 05, 2007 at 06:39:02 PM PST

  •  As a newly-married mom myself (11+ / 0-)

    Here's my advice to your step-kids:

    Be patient with your step-dad.  He's new at this parenthood thingie.  And while you're at it, be patient with your mom, too.  

    Good luck, Major.  It's great.  It's hell, but it's great.  

  •  Sounds like you need advice, (8+ / 0-)

    not your wonderful new stepdaughters.

    There's no such thing as instant fatherhood with full bonding; fatherhood has been marginalized in this country as far as I can tell even under the best of circumstances.

    Dialogue. Be honest. About your hopes and expectations and theirs. About your cultural differences. Listen. Learn from them as you teach them. Give them time.

    And assure them that you are there to support whatever they need, want and choose to be.

    Good luck, Major Danby. And thanks for a non-candidate diary.

  •  Talk to them like adults. (8+ / 0-)

    And in the same off-hand tone of voice you use to adult friends and acquaintances. Don't be overly solicitous.  I am not a parent, but I teach young people, and I have four nieces, two grown up, and two in their teens. And I was a young person once.

    The tone of voice is very important. Most adults "talk down" to you when you're a child and even into your teens, and they often use a different tone of voice, which suggests that they don't think you are too bright or know anything. It always means they don't take you seriously. Kids hate being condescended to in this way, and they always know when people are doing this.

    Restore constitutional government in America. Impeach Bush and Cheney.

    by revbludge on Wed Dec 05, 2007 at 06:40:46 PM PST

  •  Hmmm... (7+ / 0-)

    I haven't any kids, and I was a difficult teen.  There will be adjustments, of course, coming from so different a place.  The best thing you can do when they run up against the inevitable culture clashes and the bullies and the homesickness is to listen to them, hug them, and reassure them that there is nothing wrong with them.  Always, always make sure they don't have to cry alone.  That's a sure-fire way to wind up feeling like no-one cares at all.

    "Fighting Fascism is Always Cool." -- Amsterdam Weekly, volume three, issue 18 (-8.50, -7.23)

    by Noor B on Wed Dec 05, 2007 at 06:41:41 PM PST

  •  First of all: Congratulations! (13+ / 0-)

    Also, first of all: take it slow! I went from being single to having four stepchildren (including two teenage girls) overnight.  

    Second: Just be yourself.  

    Third: Ask lots of questions.  You'll learn a lot, and teenage girls love to talk about themselves.  Mirror what they say.  Repeat back what they said to you, they'll know you're listening and they'll talk more.

    Fourth: Don't be upset by teenage girl moods.  Teenage girls are notoriously moody.  Go with the flow.  If they want to talk about what's causing the moods, just listen.  Be comforting.  Their concerns might seem so trivial (their hair, an argument with a girlfriend, feeling that they don't fit in), but to them, they are everything.  One thing I adored about my Dad was that he always listened.Which didn't mean he didn't offer advice (he did), but be short with the advice and long with the comfort.

    Fifth: Listen to their mother and take your cues from her.  She was smart enough to marry you!

    Sixth: A little bit of spoiling early on is OK, but don't go overboard.

    Love and luck, Major Danby!!

    1-20-09 The Darkness Ends "Where cruelty exists, law does not." ~ Alberto Mora

    by noweasels on Wed Dec 05, 2007 at 06:42:05 PM PST

  •  Congrats (11+ / 0-)

    on your new wife and all the new kids!  You have such a good attitude I think you will do just fine.  But, of course, I will give you advice.  I am a step parent and a teacher so I have background here.  It will be much easier for them to make friends, adjust and enjoy their new life if they get involved in an activity that they love.  A sport, music, acting, what ever.  It could be a church group, a job or any number of things.  
        In your personal relationship I advise you to make sure you stress the positive.  Let them know they are doing well and are a joy to you along with the inevitable parenting that must happen. All will be well.  

    "Do you want to tumble? Let's tumble." Stephen Colbert

    by tobendaro on Wed Dec 05, 2007 at 06:44:03 PM PST

  •  Being smart is more an attitude, try some (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    revbludge, Major Danby, 4Freedom

    Fresh article from SciAm suggesting that how kids think about intelligence is a major factor in life performance.  Not the final word, but definite food for thought...

    http://www.sciam.com/...

  •  What Every Teen Girl Needs (9+ / 0-)

    (though she may not know it nor admit it).

    1. A father, not a pal;
    1. Lessons in how to change a tire on a rainy day;
    1. Guidance on preparing for a career that will enable her to support herself;
    1. To hear, "No," when her decisions are not good ones;
    1. Consequences for disobedience, not idle threats; rewards for obedience and displays of independent wisdom, not empty promises;
    1. Recognition for accomplishments;
    1. Hugs, regularly and often;
    1. More engaged attention from you when she's done nothing wrong than vice versa;
    1. Occasional one-on-one time, treats, and "make her feel special" occasions;
    1. A little walkin' around money. ;>)

    They burn our children in their wars and grow rich beyond the dreams of avarice.

    by Limelite on Wed Dec 05, 2007 at 06:47:06 PM PST

  •  Actually MD (5+ / 0-)

    I am not a step-parent, but was a step-daughter to my step-dad. He was a great guy, and was really down to earth with me and we could always have great conversations and he really made my later-youth years great. He was actually much easier to talk to than my own mom, so I always looked forward to "together" time between the two of us because I finally got to talk to a parent-figure with him much more than my own mom. I guess I would just say to you, listen to your new step-daughters, without judgement, and give your opinion/advice when it is asked for. Otherwise, just be yourself and let them get to know you as a person!

    Good luck!

    Georgie Porgie Puddin Pie
    All he could ever do was lie.
    When the kids came out to play
    Georgie had planted landmines.

    by jetskreemr on Wed Dec 05, 2007 at 06:51:04 PM PST

  •  Best of luck! (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    SallyCat, Major Danby, 4Freedom

    I raised two of my own, then just as they left the nest I remarried and my stepdaughter and stepson became "mine" at 11 and 13.  

    Listen. Joke around a lot. Be an adult figure who expects respect, but don't really try to be their dad, because you are not.  You can overdo it trying to convince a teenager who is not "yours" that you love them (even if you do), and come across as  fake. But you can never go wrong convincing them that you think they are a really neat, fascinating person worth listening to.

    As long as war is regarded as wicked, it will always have its fascination. When it is looked upon as vulgar, it will cease to be popular. - Oscar Wilde

    by SaneSoutherner on Wed Dec 05, 2007 at 06:52:05 PM PST

  •  Kids were 14 and 16 when I married their dad (10+ / 0-)

    and he had sole custody.

    Rule #1 (for all parents): don't discuss / argue with your wife in front of the kids about how to raise the kids. Take it elsewhere...with an "I'll get back to you" for the kids. Girl was 14!

    Rule #2: be yourself and don't try to be Dad. Be firm, be a parent with rules, but don't expect fatherhood (or motherhood in my case).

    Rule #3: Set reasonable rules during the adjustment period, especially about privacy...theirs and yours. It's really important that closed doors and private spaces are respected.

    After that...just love them and they'll get through the rest of it. I'll second a lot of that advice upthread on teaching them to be self-confident and independent, etc. 24 years later my step-daughter and I get along extremely well despite a tough 4 years during high school.

    Congratulations...I have no kids of my own but have a beautiful family because of the one that I married into. I wish the same for you!

    Memo to Congress: Put up or shut up ~ all talk and no action pisses me off.

    by SallyCat on Wed Dec 05, 2007 at 06:52:29 PM PST

  •  Toni Morrison said something about what kids (9+ / 0-)

    need, and I never forgot it:  in a lecture I heard her give once, she said "the only thing your children really want from you is to see your eyes light up when they walk in the room."

    I try to remember this every day as we raise our son.  And I was blessed to have parents who wanted to be with us and genuinely liked doing things with their kids.  They gave us that greatest gift-- being happy to be around us and wanting to welcome us into their time.

    I think that even as kids grow older and enter the prickly teenage years, they don't stop looking for that (even when they reject it).  They need that light to be steady.

  •  My Advice on Advice (5+ / 0-)

    It should be available on request only.

    The Republican Party: Your Bridge to the 11th Century.

    by Ex Con on Wed Dec 05, 2007 at 06:53:07 PM PST

  •  Tell them not to read the candidate diaries (8+ / 0-)

    ... unless it's for a congressional or senate race....

    Cars. Do not ever get into another car with the driver being drunk or on bad drugs.
    Cars, 2.  Do not brake hard going into a sharp curve. Brake before the curve. Otherwise you lose control.  Or take your foot off the gas if you feel you entered the curve too quickly.  Don't drive a taller profile vehicle fast in rain or the thing will hydroplane. Don't drive into moving water, it takes only 6" to float a small car. We have flash floods here. Respect the power of moving water.
    DON'T TEXT MESSAGE WHILE DRIVING.
    Drugs and alcohol... the pressure to consume before they are old enough will sometimes be great.... good way to kill brain cells or wrap vehicle around a tree.
    Peer pressure: American children are targeted by the media which is fed by the advertising industry to want and consume things.  American teenage females are driven by this to look and act more mature than they should be and to constantly want stuff and to obsess over their physical attractiveness... it will seem very strange to them. A lot of American children substitute "stuff" for needed "attention" or "needed tasks".  Some teenage females can also be very mean, this doesn't mean there is anything wrong with them, it just means these other girls don't have good family attention or they were not brought up with respect for themselves or others. I think there's a great deal of pressure on females in school not to act "too smart" because it's not cool... remember, long term, the nerds win by having better adult lives....
    Finances. Cash not credit cards.  Never buy anything over the phone from a solicitor.
    Walk confidently with your head up.

  •  Don't worry too much (6+ / 0-)

    You have some legitimate concerns, of course, with these girls coming from another culture. It'll be difficult. But it's a burden they themselves will have to bear. I think your role should be letting them know that you're available and more than willing to help, and then let them come to you when they're ready to do so. Don't try to solve all their problems for them. Just offer support and guidance and they'll let you know when they need it.

    And forget about them being stepdaughters. They're your daughters, you're their dad. And if you get one-tenth the joy from them that I get from my daughter, who has none of my DNA, you'll be a very happy man.

    The Bush Family: 0 for 4 in Wisconsin

    by Korkenzieher on Wed Dec 05, 2007 at 07:15:42 PM PST

  •  I am a Step-Daughter (7+ / 0-)

    I wish I'd had you as a Stepfather. You are showing such an openness to learn how to relate to these girls. They are very lucky.

    Speaking from the position I was in as a teen, I agree with what other posters have said about communication. It's SO important. My Stepdad never listened to me, and I don't mean that figuratively or as a drama queen. Of course, he had a son one year older than I so you can imagine how it went.

    One bit of advice; (not sure you really need it as you don't sound the type, but...) never condescend to them. Never treat them as if their opinions, ideas, emotions are of no concern.

    I'm sure you will do fine. :)

    It is important that people know what you stand for. It's equally important that they know what you won't stand for. ~~ Mary Waldrop

    by Purple Priestess on Wed Dec 05, 2007 at 07:26:08 PM PST

  •  Women in American society are very complex (4+ / 0-)

    even to themselves--why Oprah is so popular is asking and openly discussing all the things that are almost taboo.  Watching one now and again with them might be good.  I don't know if you can access old shows but one that comes to mind and Oprah is good about allowing her shocked feelings to show is teenage girls giving oral sex but never being kissed.  A good discussion on itimacy versus hanging out.

    I actually teach with film so you can get these on netflex.  I even recommend them in order.  I use films because they deal with issues while distancing the emotional impact and allow a fun way of discussing.  All of these are comedies, so while there is a lot of material it is all handled lightly.

    The life of an American woman:

    1. 13 going on Thirty
    1. Clueless
    1. Working Girl with Melanie Griffith
    1. Pretty Women
    1. The Mirror Has Two Faces with Barbra Streisand
    1. Something's Gotta Give with Diane Keaton

    If more men saw these so called chick flicks in order they would have some idea of walking in the other moccasins.

  •  Be compassionate and (5+ / 0-)

    understand that being a teenage girl (even without dealing with new stepdad) is one of the most awkward and challenging times and practically everything is melodramatic.  Also be aware that American teenage culture, seen from the eyes of Asians, can be shocking, both in terms of social pressures and materialism.

    Most of all congratulations and celebrate being a family.  

  •  Keep them involved in Phillipino Culture (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    SallyCat, KiaRioGrl79, 4Freedom

    If you lived in Hawaii it would be easy. Do what you can to make sure they don't loose track of their roots.

    "It's the planet, stupid."

    by FishOutofWater on Wed Dec 05, 2007 at 07:55:59 PM PST

  •  don't be afraid to talk about Birth Control (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    KiaRioGrl79

    If it's too icky for you discuss it with your wife and ask her to talk to them, if she already hasn't.

    We have no future because our present is too volatile. We only have risk management. The spinning of the given moments scenario. Pattern Recognition. ~W. Gibson

    by Silent Lurker on Wed Dec 05, 2007 at 08:36:42 PM PST

  •  Heh. Pinoy girls. (0+ / 0-)

    Good luck, Major.

    "Put your Doc Martens back on." - Rude Pundit

    by opendna on Wed Dec 05, 2007 at 09:02:45 PM PST

  •  First thing I'll say is welcome! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    4Freedom

    I'm sure it will be both exciting and scary to adjust to a new country and a new home.

    I may not be a teenage girl anymore (I'm 28), but it wasn't thaaaat long ago. Let me try to pass on a few things to keep in mind while you're settling in - and after that, too.

    1. If you think your mom and step-dad are picking on you (always wanting to know where you're going, who you're with, and when you're going to be home), well, they're not really trying to be a pain in the butt - they just care about you and want to be sure you're safe. Make things easier on everyone and just humour them - tell them where you're going and what friends you're going to be with.
    1. Some of the kids in school might be waaaay too interested in who has the coolest clothes, or the newest tech gadget, or the nicest car. These are all cool things, don't get me wrong, but I drove a crappy car in high school, had hand-me-down clothes, and never had any gadgets - and I still had great friends, went to wicked parties, and if people are too concerned about the cool stuff it just means they're insecure and trying to overcompensate for it.
    1. Even if you think the guy you start dating is the best in the world, don't let it be an excuse to let your grades slip. If he doesn't respect your brains, he's just not worth it. And your grades (which will help you pick the future YOU want for yourself) are more important than one date that can be rescheduled.
    1. If there's something you have a passion for (writing, for one of you?) or even have an interest in... give it a shot. Whether it's writing, or auto mechanics, or math, or art... I won't say it can't hurt to try (it can hurt if you try and it doesn't work out the way you want), but if you don't try then you'll always wonder. That particular thing might not be your thing, but then you'll know and you can try something else. Most definitely, don't ever - ever - believe anyone who might tell you that you're not good enough. They're wrong.
    1. Don't drink and drive. Don't get into a car where the driver has been drinking.
    1. Pay attention to environmental issues. Your awareness of this could, in the end, make a big difference in your life.
    1. Whatever career or job you pick, make sure you live within your means - make sure you don't buy things you can't pay for, even if it looks like it will be easy to pay off on your credit card (trust me, it will happen some day). Just because you might have a credit card doesn't mean you should use it.
    1. Be honest with yourself. Don't put yourself down. Don't take yourself too seriously either (we all make mistakes, but it's easier if you can laugh about it).
    1. If something, someone, or some situation makes you feel uncomfortable, get yourself out of there. It's a lot better to wonder afterward if you were making something out of nothing, than to find yourself in a scary situation that's out of your control. Trust your gut.

    Last but not least:

    1. Have fun, and enjoy meeting new people!

    Wishing you all the best in your new home, with your new blended family!

    Sure, he comes across quiet and avuncular. Until he gets mad ... then he sounds like God on a bad day. ~ Dallasdoc on Senator Patrick Leahy

    by KiaRioGrl79 on Wed Dec 05, 2007 at 09:10:19 PM PST

  •  Lots of great advice! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    4Freedom

    Without repeating others, (I hope) besides congratulations, here's my advice.
    Take it for what it's worth, I didn't have a great relationship with my dad in teenage years and he remarried (I never called her stepmother or even ever met her son). But I have 3 semigrown kids.

    Anyway.

    If one of your kids has a problem don't rush in to tell them what to do, even if you know the exact right course of action.  Ask what they think they should do.  Many times girls and women (this is great advice for males too however) are asking you to be a sounding board, not a problem solver when they share their problems. Let them figure it out and offer guidance where appropriate, especially wrt culture clashes. They'll have to know how to solve their own problems soon enough.

    Let them know and commit to the reality that regardless of whatever may happen with your relationship with their mother, they are permanently in your life as your children.  Your children are different from your nieces and nephews.  Your children have rights, expectations and responsibilities that differ from nieces and nephews. Let them build and grow their relationships with you secure and independent of that which you have with your wife.

    Keep an eagle eye out to catch them doing the right thing rather than the wrong thing. A quiet word letting them know you noticed is amazingly valued.

    If they gain weight after moving to America (certainly a possibility) develop a plan of action with your wife that gets healthy food in the house and keeps junk out (yes, even if you can manage junk in moderation, do it offsite).  Encourage the whole family to move more together. Instead of driving so much, walk etc.

    Never mention the word diet.  If your home has no junk and they just keep moving, their weight will adjust in time.

    Realize that despite yours and your wife's best efforts you will have times when you will wonder WTF did you get yourself into.  They will be ungrateful, unthinking little so and soes.  That's normal teenagerdom.  Don't take it personally. It does get better. Find good ways to deal with the stress.

    If you make a mistake, don't be afraid to admit it and apologize.  If your children makes mistakes, accept their apologies, assess appropriate amendment and move on.
    For myself I never thought I would like to be grounded, for instance, ie punished long after an event occurred and been apologized for, so I don't ground my kids, but I also think it's fair to pay for something you break.  I also taught my kids to accept apologies from others too, but I started that when they were infants. YMMV

    In essence, I'm saying treat them the way you want to be treated.  That about sums up my parenting, really.

    The Next Agenda "For Progressive Canadian Politics"

    by Bionic on Wed Dec 05, 2007 at 10:24:44 PM PST

  •  Children don't come with owner's manuals (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    4Freedom

    partly because they can't be owned, and partly because each is different - if every car (not just every model, but every vehicle) were different, there'd be no owner's manuals.

    So....
    Some advice:

    Make sure they know they are loved, no matter what.

    Never argue with your wife about child-rearing in front of the kids.  If she does something you thing wrong-headed (and she almost certainly will) go along and ask her later, when you're alone.

    Plan for your kids to get into moderate trouble, and they will be less likely to get into big trouble

    Let your kids see you angry; let your kids see you drink (but not drunk) (that's if you  drink!  Don't take it up just for this).  Kids who see anger, and see it sensibly resolved, learn that anger happens, and doesn't mean hate.  

    Hugs are good, but hugs between a step-dad and teenage girls can be problematic.  Go slow, trust them (and yourself).

    My own kids are 11 and 5, not teens, so here's some advice from my sister, who raised two boys in Chicago, both of whom are magnificent young men:

    Tell them (and mean it) that, if they get into trouble somehow (e.g. at a party they don't like, stuck in a spot with no car fare or bus fare, whatever) that they can call you, and you  will come get them, and not get mad.  But!!!! If they get into such a situation, and do NOT call you, you will be furious.

  •  Oh and don't give pointless praise (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    4Freedom

    not everything they do will be wonderful, just as not everything you or I do is wonderful.  They know this.

    The key is picking what to praise.  Watch carefully, talk to your wife, and praise big progress in things they are good at, and tiny progress in things they are bad at.  

  •  MB - you have been given some very good (0+ / 0-)

    advice here. I think the girls are landing with a jump start because you care so much that they succeed in life.

    All I can add is the importance of love and acceptance to young women as they build their personal identities. Boundaries and life guidelines, yes, but girls need the self-confidence to embrace right ideas and activities and deny those that lead to self-destructive thoughts and behaviors. Love and good guidance will help them build and maintain that self-confidence, because without it, they won't achieve their full potential.

    I remember all too well the effort it took to overcome 17 years of negative conditioning after I left home. And I remember which of my female friends came from supportive backgrounds and which didn't. The difference in their life outcomes has been dramatic.

    With you and your wife parenting them, I think those girls are very, very fortunate, as are you to have this wonderful opportunity to parent great kids.

    A final thought is the importance of positive group affiliations. As we move from a "me first" society towards one that is more cooperative, the more links we have among our social, political, religious and other positive groups, the deeper and richer our lives become, and the less estranged we feel from our less than perfect America.

    There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest. - Elie Wiesel

    by 4Freedom on Thu Dec 06, 2007 at 07:48:32 AM PST

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