As part of our Blended Family Friday series, each week we're spotlighting a different stepfamily to learn how they successfully blended their two families together. Our hope is that by telling their stories, we'll bring you closer to blended family bliss in your own life!
This week we'd like to introduce you to the Parker-Kimbrough family. Mom Andi writes about the highs and lows of blended family life on her website, Live Love Blend, so we were thrilled to have her tell her story on HuffPost Divorce. Below, she introduces us to her family, talks about a recent co-parent meeting with her husband's ex, and shares her best stepparenting advice.
Hey, Andi! Please introduce us to your family.
My husband, JD, and I have five kids between us: Austin K. (18), Kenan (15), Austin P. (14), Nolan (10), and Khloe (7). Yes, we have two Austins!
JD and I just celebrated our third wedding anniversary. We dated 10 months before getting married. Just FYI, I recommend a longer dating/engagement period than 10 months. We did attend pre-marital counseling and it is a MUST for anyone getting married after divorce.
What have been some of the biggest challenges of blended family life?
One of the biggest challenges is that no two blended families look exactly the same. There is no "normal." My husband was married three times before he found me (or "got it right"), so we have kids traveling back and forth between many different households. Some of our kids have all their parents looking out for their best interests, and some of our kids have a biological father or mother who gives them no emotional or financial support. Everyone comes from a different place, and carries different hurts. Our job as their parents is to love them through all of that, and to provide consistent boundaries no matter what.
You mentioned in an e-mail to HuffPost Divorce that your youngest daughter has oppositional defiance disorder. You and your husband recently held a co-parent meeting to discuss raising her with his ex and her husband. Want to tell us a little about that?
Yes, our daughter, Khloe, has always been a handful. When her mom told us she had been diagnosed with ODD I thought, "a-ha!" and my husband thought, "no way!" So what do you do when daddy defends his baby girl's every action (no matter how ill-tempered or mischievous)? A parent-to-parent conference! Dad and I joined her mom and step-dad for coffee and we discussed everything from her schedules to bedtimes to punishments. We compared what works and what doesn't. We may not have made any earth-shattering discoveries, but the meeting itself showed all of us, as well as all the kids, that the parents are in charge and on the same team. This spoke volumes and has helped all of us help each other, and our little girl.
What's the best thing about being part of a blended family?
The best thing is the amount of material I have to blog about! I say that jokingly, but honestly, being part of a blended family has given me a way to reach out to people, to share my experience, strength and hope doing one of the hardest things out there -- keeping a blended family together and thriving.
What makes you proudest of your family?
I'm proudest that none of our kids acted like I did when I was in their shoes. (I was a rebellious brat!) Not that any of them is perfect, but they are honest, respectful and God-fearing. Our kids know that they can come to either my husband or me for anything... and they do.
What advice do you have for other blended families who are struggling with keeping the peace in their homes?
Live one day at a time (or one moment if you have to). Love God, your spouse, yourself, your kids -- without judgement, just love 'em. Blend little by little and celebrate even the smallest breakthrough.
Click through the slideshow below the see photos of Andi and JD's family.
If you'd like your own family to be featured on a Blended Family Friday, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We're looking forward to hearing your story!
"This was taken a few months before we got married. The boy standing next to me had the toughest time embracing this new family and pouted in every other picture we took that day. He and the boy on the wheel are my 'originals,' while the oldest boys and young girl are JD's."
"We were married at the top of Crazy Woman Canyon in the Big Horn Mountains of Wyoming. Boy, was THAT a road trip to remember!"
"This is the picture I use on my blog. I love how none of the kids can look at us kissing. They had a great time posing for this picture."
"A family portrait to display our unique personality!"
"Our 2012 Christmas card. I love how Khloe looks like our ring leader!"
"I found a Texas cowboy and I'm keeping him for life!"
Meet Kate And Chad's Family
"The love is the best part. There is so much love in our family; it is breathtaking. Holding the love of a child that you did not create is an amazing thing to experience. Both of us agree we could not love each other’s biological children more. " <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/02/blended-family-friday_n_3691984.html">Read Kate and Chad's full Blended Family Friday profile </a>
Meet Pam, Mac And Tony's Family
"I'm proud that we all made a conscious effort to put our differences aside, forgive what happened in the past and commit to raising a child who feels 'whole.' It has never been about what I want or what he wants as much as what is best for our daughter." <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/25/blended-family_n_3655018.html">Read Pam, Mac and Tony's full Blended Family Friday profile </a>
Meet Matt And Nicole's Family
"It takes a lot of work but it's worth it. Every hug proves you are doing something right! Every laugh shows there is joy in the family. And every time someone wants to hold your hand or sit with you on the couch, you are building your connection to each other." <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/18/blended-family_n_3619882.html">Read Matt and Nicole's full Blended Family Friday profile </a>
Meg And Jeritt's Family
"The 'blending' will test the bounds of your compassion, but you want to come out of this feeling like you did the very best that you could. You are helping the children to write the story of their lives. You want it to be as positive as possible." <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/12/blended-family_n_3582550.html#slide=2686147">Read Meg and Jeritt's full Blended Family Friday profile </a>
Meet Clarissa, Keith And Rick's Family
"My advice would be to take a few steps back, try to think outside of the box and look at the potential for minimal drama and maximum happiness for your family, especially for the children involved. Sometimes you need to look past yourself, and be very selfless." <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/05/blended-family-friday-_n_3530952.html">Read Clarissa, Keith and Rick's full Blended Family Friday profile </a>
Meet Ivy Lifton's Family
"If you can envision two trees so close together that their trunks and branches touch one another, you will see the connection but still see two trees. Blended families are like the two trees. The outside world sees two trees while the family strives to make it one by intertwining the roots, by nurturing it." <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/20/blended-family-friday_n_3474262.html">Read Ivy Lifton's full Blended Family Friday profile </a>
Meet Michele And Barry's Family
"Make your marriage your top priority. This is a new marriage and it needs time and energy and nurturing. If you ignore it, it will fail and you have already done that once to your children and do not want to do it again." <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/20/blended-family-friday_n_3474262.html">Read Meet Michele and Barry's full Blended Family Friday profile </a>
Meet Katie And Kurt's Family
"Do your best to be respectful to the other parent and <em>always</em> keep your word or promises to the kids. They're struggling with the loss of their family and they need to build trust with you as their stepparent." <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/14/blended-family-_n_3437032.html">Read Meet Katie and Kurt's full Blended Family Friday profile </a>
Meet Kara And Richard's Family
"Give it time! We have only recently arrived at a place where we all feel secure in our role in our family but it took years, tears and lots of flexibility. It might take one family a few months to have the wrinkles ironed out or it might take years." <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/07/blended-family-friday-mee_n_3399272.html">Read Meet Kara and Richard's full Blended Family Friday profile </a>
Meet Harriet And Joe's Family
"When Joe and I first blended our family, our six kids were our number-one priority. Treating our kids like individuals and not as a 'herd,' as we called it, was a key component to making each of our kids feel special and feel like an important part of the family, which they were." <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/31/blended-family-friday-mee_5_n_3361975.html">Read Harriet and Joe's full Blended Family Friday profile </a>
Meet Chelsea And Jeremy's Family
"My husband and I refuse to treat any of the children any differently. We see them all as 'ours,' which I think is very important. We try to make sure all children feel equal and included in our family and our lives." <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/24/blended-family-friday-mee_4_n_3328763.html">Read Chelsea and Jeremy's full Blended Family Friday profile </a>
Meet Maureen And Tom's Family
"Our children have really become true siblings. They love (and hate) one another just like regular siblings. They have taken a tough situation and made it into something beautiful." <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/17/blended-family-friday-mee_3_n_3288745.html">Read Maureen and Tom's full Blended Family Friday profile </a>
Meet Stacee's Family
"Both of my dad's exes and all the kids lived under one roof. My brothers and I were raised as siblings -- not half siblings but just siblings -- and we had two moms (although Goonie and Mikey call my mom auntie). On the weekends, dad only had to make one stop to pick up all his kids!" <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/10/blended-family-friday-mee_2_n_3247059.html">Read Stacee's full Blended Family Friday profile </a>
Meet Anessa And Keith's Family
"Do not beat yourself up for making a mistake -- after all, we are human. Just love one another and be there for the kids especially when they push away -- that is when they need and want you the most." <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/03/blended-family-friday_n_3204734.html">Read Anessa and Keith's full Blended Family Friday profile </a>
Meet Wendy And Arlando's Family
"Our children are all grown and out on their own, but when we get together there is no greater feeling. Sitting around a table and watching our adult children interact with each other is the best part of having a blended family. They look out for each other; in fact, sometimes we joke that they know more about each other than we do." <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/26/blended-family-friday-mee_1_n_3158951.html">Read Wendy and Arlando's full Blended Family Friday profile </a>
Meet Samara And Jeff's Family
"My stepkids have realized over the years how blessed they are to have a family situation where there is peace between their parents, where we all live within the same community and school district and where there is genuine love for all of the kids." <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/19/blended-family-friday-mee_0_n_3113074.html">Read Samara and Jeff's full Blended Family Friday profile </a>
Meet Susan And Peter's Family
"The kids are really the ones who wanted us to get married. I think they need to feel like this is forever. Recently, Jake, Peter's son, told me he wants my son Jamie to be his best man someday. I get teary thinking about it." <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/12/blended-family-friday_n_3056616.html" target="_hplink">Read Susan and Peter's full Blended Family Friday profile</a>
Meet Amy And Eric's Family
"Think of a blended family as being made or 'cooked' in a crock pot, not a pressure cooker. Each person has to find their comfort level and will do so on their own time. Be willing to give your biological children your blessing to love their other parent and spouse." <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/05/blended-family-friday_n_3017443.html" target="_hplink">Read Amy and Eric's full Blended Family Friday profile</a>
Meet Mimi And Stu's Family
"My advice to anyone working on blending a family is to always put the child first. Never, ever, say a negative word about your ex in front of your child. Be flexible and patient. It takes time. Always remember when the kids are acting out it's because they are hurting. Take a deep breath and think of a way to lift them up." <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/29/blended-family-friday_n_2975161.html">Read Mimi and Stu's full Blended Family Friday profile </a>
Meet Valerie And Brandon's Family
"Finding time to love and pay attention to everyone as they need is the biggest challenge. Some days there isn't enough of me, but it's fun feeding, clothing and loving all these people. They make me crazy, but I like it!" <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/22/blended-family-friday-mee_n_2927660.html">Read Valerie and Brandon's full Blended Family Friday profile </a>
Meet Jen And Ryan's Family
"The best thing about being a part of a blended family is being able to show the children what a real, loving marriage and family looks like ... The lessons that they learn though the adjustment and the tough times are good ones. They see that two people who love each other can weather the storm of life and stay together." <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/15/blended-family-friday_n_2885521.html" target="_hplink">Read Jen and Ryan's full Blended Family Friday profile</a>
Meet Nicole And Nick's Family
"Let kids be kids. Don't expect too much of them. Don't push new family members on each other but work hard to find in each a common interest and build on it. Our two girls bonded over the new 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' series and spent hours collecting gear and acting out each of the characters." <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/08/blended-family-friday-_n_2832153.html" target="_hplink">Read Nicole and Nick's full Blended Family Friday profile</a>
Meet Crissy And Jimmy's Family
"We feel fortunate to show [our kids] what a healthy, loving partnership looks like. No one goes into marriage thinking they will be divorced one day. It is even more painful when there are children involved. The best thing, we believe, we could do is show our children that it is possible to be in a loving, stable relationship built on mutual trust and respect." <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/01/blended-family_n_2776391.html" target="_hplink">Read Crissy and Jimmy's full Blended Family Friday profile</a>
Meet Karen And Shawn's Family
"Every blended family has a different make-up of people and personalities and paths they have to take to arrive at the door to success. I've chosen to take one day, (and sometimes one glass of wine) at a time and here we are six years later." <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/22/blended-family-friday-mee_n_2729140.html">Read Karen and Shawn's full Blended Family Friday profile</a>
Meet Elizabeth And Donald's Family
"We are proudest of the fact that we are a family -- blended or not. When one has an event (swimming, lacrosse, dance, band) we all show up. It's not always possible to be everywhere for everything, but we show up for each other and everyone knows they are important." <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/15/blended-family-friday-mee_n_2681378.html">Read Elizabeth and Donald's full Blended Family Friday profile </a>