Marshmallow Mondays


Bond With Books
 
I’ve recently had the privilege of writing for StepMom Magazine, an online magazine featuring articles, a blog and forums that provide help, support, information and advice about stepmoms, stepfamilies, and stepchild relationships. Below is my article, which originally appeared in the June 2010 issue of StepMom Magazine.
 
Bonding with parents is essential to each and every child’s healthy growth and development. As a stepmom, it can sometimes feel challenging to find ways of connecting with your stepchild. Reading a book together is a simple way to establish a strong and nurturing bond, while providing your stepchild with valuable benefits to his or her well-being.

Designating a special reading time each day will allow your stepchild to look forward to that time with you as he or she becomes familiar with the new routine. There is an unsurpassed closeness that goes along with reading a story together. Your stepchild will feel safe and loved while nestled up against you. Sitting on the couch or lying down together at bedtime with a story book provides a physical and mental connection. Each of you can take comfort in knowing that you have the other’s undivided attention while reading the story. Kids will listen closely to your voice and rely on the words you say to make a story’s illustrations come to life.

If your stepchild is just learning to read, use story time as an opportunity to teach new words. After reading a book, go back through the pages and ask your stepchild to point out the words that he or she already knows. Children feel a huge sense of pride when they recognize words in a favorite book. In addition, you’ll share that pride just seeing your stepchild’s eyes light up as they learn to read by your side.

After reading a story together, discuss it with your stepchild. Talk about what made each of you giggle, what surprised you, and what you each liked best about the story. Draw connections between the story and experiences you’ve shared together (i.e. “Remember when we visited the beach, too?”) Creating this dialogue strengthens communication between you and your stepchild while allowing them to express an opinion about the book you read together.

As time goes on and your stepchild learns the new story time routine, certain books will become special to the two of you. Your stepchild will remember reading that favorite story with you for years to come. One of the best things about books is that they can be passed down for generations. Reading together now will create memories for not only you and your stepchild, but for future generations who will cherish those same books just knowing that they came from special people in their past.

To show your stepchild how much the quality time reading together means to you, take him or her on a special trip to the library or book store. Choosing a new book to read together is another way to further enhance the bond with your stepchild. Many libraries, coffee houses and book stores offer story times for children. This activity allows a child to appreciate story time with you in a new way. It can also be a primary opportunity to socialize with other children and to learn how to sit quietly for a group activity.

As the bond with your stepchild grows through your story time together, you’ll notice the true values of what reading can bring to a young person’s life. Outside of language development and creative expression skills, books can also ease difficult transitions like a divorce, heal personal pain, and celebrate family life.

Below are book suggestions for children of various ages that focus on adjusting to and dealing with a divorce or separation. Each of these books does an exceptional job of avoiding misunderstandings and self-blame on the part of a child trying to understand an adult process.

It’s Not Your Fault, Koko Bear: A Read-Together Book for Parents & Young Children During Divorce, by Vicki Lansky, ages 3-8

Here is a children’s book and a parenting tool rolled into one. Parents can read this picture book to their children to help them understand what divorce means, how family life will change, and reassure them that divorce is not their fault. It also helps young minds deal with a wide range of emotions, such as anger, guilt, confusion and sadness. Children will see that like Koko, they are still loved deeply and cared for by their parents, despite a divorce or separation. Helpful tips for parents are listed at the bottom of each page.

My Parents Are Divorced Too: A Book for Kids by Kids, by Melanie, Annie & Steven Ford, ages 8-12

Three youth who have weathered the difficulties of divorce speak out about their experiences. Melanie and Steven have different parents than Annie, but after both sets of parents divorce, their lives are intertwined into a “bonus” family. These three children address difficult issues such as dealing with arguing parents, feelings of guilt and anger, relocating with one parent, splitting time between two parents, accepting remarriage, adjusting to step-siblings and bonding with a new stepparent.

Divorce Is Not The End Of The World, by Zoe & Evan Stern, ages 12 & up

Zoe and Evan share their experiences of going through a divorce in this positive and practical guide for kids. Their story is an honest guide that will reassure children of divorce that, though it may seem it sometimes, it’s not the end of the world. Adolescents can read about dealing with guilt, managing belongings between two houses, planning birthdays, sharing thoughts with friends and parents, finding the bright side of a sad situation, and dealing with new family members.

Whether you and your stepchild are reading a book about adjusting to divorce or about a classic fairy tale, the quality time together will nurture a bond between the two of you that will grow even deeper with time. Reading to children stimulates their brain, strengthens their imagination, broadens their vocabulary, and makes them smile. Read a book, start a routine and bond with your stepchild. You’ll be amazed at his or her appreciation for your time.

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