Stepkids and Screen Time - here's what we do - Jamie Scrimgeour

I’m going to switch things up a bit for this post and answer a question that was sent to me earlier this month!

QUESTION:

Hey Jamie. I’d love a post on your teenage stepkids. Like how often do they go out on weekends (that doesn’t include hockey stuff, I’m talking about socializing). Do you require family time? Do they fight against family time? Do you have rules on screen time? What do you guys do for fun with the teenagers and little one on the weekend?

Thanks girl!! Have a great rest of your week.


ANSWER:

This is such a good topic - like I’ve said before, step-parenting teenagers is a whole new ball game.

Something tells me that the way we respond to this question, may not be what you expect. But this is what WE do. This is what works for US..

To keep things simple, I am going to divide this topic into different sections.

Let’s dive in!

HOW OFTEN DO MY STEPKIDS GO OUT ON WEEKENDS?
As I write this post my stepchildren are 16, 14 and 11 years old. At this stage in their lives, their friends are their world. Sure, family is important but their friends are definitely up there!

We respect that. We also don’t fight it.

There are many weekends when my stepdaughter is with her friends for the majority of the weekend. Same goes for my stepsons. Obviously the older ones have more leeway than the youngest, but we really try to accommodate their desire to be with friends.. We strongly believe that having healthy friendships and independence is important for them, but short and long term.

I will say, they all have great friends. In the past we have steered them away from peers who weren't the best example, but this really hasn’t been an issue for us.

If they were constantly spending time with friends who were making bad choices, this would be an be an entirely different conversation.

But we whole heartedly trust the kids, because they have never given us a reason not to. They also know that the second they make a choice that breaks this trust, their freedom will be gone, and life will look very different.

We also have very high expectations for academics and sports - if their academics and performance are suffering, they won’t have as much freedom. In our home, you don’t need to be the best, but you absolutely need to TRY your best. The kids are very aware of this expectation.

CURFEW
I’ll address curfew here too, because something tells me it will come up. We also don’t have a set curfew for the kids. It changes every day based on what’s going on. When they ask what time they should be home, we often respond, “what time do you think?”

9 times out of 10 they suggest an earlier time than we would have said - so it’s a pretty golden parenting strategy (I hope they don’t read this post. it will ruin everything! haha)

Teenagers want to feel like they have independence and freedom to make decisions. They thrive off it. Even if we don’t go for their suggested time, it opens up a dialogue and makes them feel like they are heard.

DO WE REQUIRE FAMILY TIME?
We don’t require family time every weekend per say – we have a really busy household with lots of moving parts. On any given weekend we may have 5-6 hockey games/practices, plus other social commitments.

If we are having a big family dinner or an event, they absolutely need to be there. But for example, we wouldn’t say that everyone has to stay home on a Friday for a designated family night.

Sure, I miss the days when our weekends were kid centred and we would all cuddle up and watch movies together, but now those days are few and far between. We never want the kids to resent spending time with us. We feel like excessively forcing family time on them would result in that.

We find the best family time, are those impromptu nights when we’re all standing in the kitchen, laughing about something silly. The best moments can’t be planned.

DO THEY FIGHT AGAINST FAMILY TIME?
It’s never really been an issue. Sure my stepdaughter doesn’t love to be up at the cottage with us for an entire week – in fact, I think it’s pretty much torture for her to be with her family non-stop for an entire 7 days and have no wifi (she maxes out at about 3 days). But we don’t take it personally.

We respect where she’s at in life, and always try and remember what it was like for us when we were teens.

We want the kids to WANT to hang out with us. I’m not sure if you’ve ever hung out with a teenager who is begrudgingly spending time with you, but it’s not very much fun … and definitely not quality time! 

So no, they don’t fight against family time, because we don’t fight against them!

WHAT DO YOU GUYS DO WITH THE LITTLE ONE AND TEENAGERS ON THE WEEKEND?
It’s very difficult to find activities that a 4-year-old and a 16-year-old both enjoy doing, for long periods of time at least. They are at very different stages and we accept that is the reality for our family. Some activities are teenager centred, and others are kid centred!

In the winter for example, we go skiing as a family. But Reese can’t ski like the rest of us, so she goes to the daycare for the day and we spend time with the older ones.

In the summer, Reese will hang out on the beach with us all day, while the older ones invite friends over and hang out a few spots down. We have no problem with them going off and doing their thing!

Stepkids and Screentime - Jamie Scrimgeour - Stepmom Help


DO YOU HAVE RULES ON SCREENTIME?
We don’t have SET rules on screen time, but the kids know that if they are on their screens for too long, we will say something. We’ve basically told them that at this point we are confident in their ability to regulate themselves.

We’ve found that that when we give them the freedom to regulate it themselves, they are often more strict than we would be if we were to implement the boundaries.

We basically have said “don’t make us have to monitor this”

That being said, there have been many times when we have had to step in. For example, from time to time we’ve had to implement rules around Xbox (damn you fortnite) and often don’t allow screen time before school for two youngest (who need to catch a bus). But lately, it’s been pretty good!

I do want to add one thing – I firmly believe that kids social lives shouldn’t have to suffer because their parents are divorced. I’ve worked with a few families who prevent their kids/stepkids from spending time with friends or taking babysitting jobs during “their time”… I strongly disagree with this approach and don’t think it’s fair to the kids.

They should never be prevented from doing something, that they would have been able to do if their parents were together. It’s about the kids and doing what’s best for them - not about “getting your time in”.

It’s so important to remember, kids are people not timeshares. They shouldn’t have to suffer because their parents aren’t together. Straight up, if this is your approach, there is a really good chance that your kids/stepkids will soon resent coming to your place - if they don’t already!

 
Stepkids and Screen Time - Stepmom Support - Jamie Scrimgeour
 

I guess to sum it up, we don’t force family time. We believe the less you force it, the more you get it! We have great chats with the kids in the car and have the best chats during dinner.

Sure we miss the kids like crazy and wish we had more time with them, but we respect where they are at in life

Plus, we know that one day, they will realize just how cool their dad and stepmom are and will WANT to come back and hang out with us!

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