Blog: Other People's Children®

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Step-parentingJune 10, 2021

How to Be a Weekend Bonus Parent with Full-Time Step-siblings

Having your stepchild in your home only part-time can be a challenging situation. It can be particularly difficult when one group of children primarily lives with you, but their step-siblings are there only part of the time. How do you meld...

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Media AppearancesJune 9, 2021

Empowering Resilience Podcast

Join me and my friend Rhonda Sciortino as we talk on her podcast, Empowering Resilience, about the lessons I've learned and recounted in my new book, Raising Other People's Children...

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Step-parentingJune 8, 2021

How to Be A Weekend Bonus Parent

One common dilemma for stepparents is how to handle rules when your child lives with his/her other parent most of the time. How do you handle being only a weekend parent? My experiences as a foster parent taught me a few important...

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Foster ParentingJune 3, 2021

The Need for Foster Parents to Have Enforceable Rights

I was happy to see this article about my friend, Gaile Osborne, and her work for a foster parents' Bill of Rights in North Carolina. Relatively few states give foster parents any status in the system. Most jurisdictions treat foster parents as...

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Media AppearancesJune 2, 2021

Conversation with Foster Care Nation

Jason Palmer is fascinating and experienced, and I had a great time comparing notes with him...

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Media AppearancesJune 1, 2021

Happy to Join "Everything Always"

I had a great conversation with Summer Mulder on the Everything Always podcast about blended families and my new...

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Parenting TechniquesMay 27, 2021

Seven Tips for Less Stressful Vacations

As we head to the end of the school year, many of us start thinking about a family vacation. Our family loves to travel, and we have always taken a collection of younger relatives and friends along with us. Here are some techniques that we have learned over the...

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Media AppearancesMay 26, 2021

Podcast Visit

I had a great time talking to Dionne Sanchez with Words of Heart...

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Parenting TechniquesMay 25, 2021

Four Ways to Lessen Chaos in Your Family

This time of year is always busy, with the end of school and trying to plan for the summer. This year we have the added stress of navigating the ever-changing and contradictory advice about recovering from the pandemic lockdown...

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Foster ParentingMay 20, 2021

How to Care for Foster Parents

One of the questions that I often hear is how the community can help foster children and foster parents. My immediate answer is to consider becoming a respite care provider. Those families provide care to a foster child for only a few days

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Parenting TechniquesMay 19, 2021

Can You Make The Necessary Commitment?

The foundation of raising other people's children is being able to make a one-way commitment to a new family and to children who may or may not like you.

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Foster ParentingMay 18, 2021

A Story of Unfair Accusations Against Foster Parents

It’s every foster parent’s nightmare — being accused of abusing a foster child. I read a story this week of one happy ending after new medical evidence cleared a foster mother of breaking a 6-week-old baby’s leg. I understand her...

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ResilienceMay 13, 2021

Historical Study: Children with Stepparents Lived Longer

We have all heard the fairytale stereotypes about evil stepparents. The common expert explanation was that parents have a natural evolutionary tendency to favor their biological children over stepchildren. An interesting new study...

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Parenting TechniquesMay 11, 2021

How to Live in Peace With Your Teenager

Teenagers generally are the toughest audience for a stepparent or foster parent. Younger children are at a developmental stage where they are more likely to want a relationship with you and will accept you more readily.

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May 6, 2021

How To Navigate Mother's Day with Different Sets of Children

One common problem with Mother’s Day and Father’s Day that I don’t see discussed often is what to in complex stepfamilies where different sets of siblings have different biological parents. The usual result is that one set of...

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May 4, 2021

How To Be The Person Who Is Not Supposed To Be There

Today is National Foster Care Day, the first Tuesday in National Foster Care Month. It also is always a week or two before Mother’s Day. This year, because of the way the days landed on the calendar, the two events are only a few...

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Parenting TechniquesApril 29, 2021

What to Do When You Hate Mothers'/Fathers' Day

When raising other people’s children, it’s easy to start hating Mothers’ Day and Fathers’ Day. It’s a bit like being single on Valentine’s Day. All of the attention goes to biological parents, and foster parents or stepparents are left on their own...

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Parenting TipsApril 27, 2021

Don't Let Mothers' Day Sneak Up on You

It’s time to start planning ahead for Mothers’ Day (May 9) and Fathers’ Day (June 20). Those days are always difficult ones for those of us raising other people’s children. Even if we want to ignore both days as mere “greeting card”...

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BullyingApril 22, 2021

Family Resilience Traits May Help Prevent Bullying

In my quest to find good anti-bullying programs, I ran across a survey analysis concluding that family resilience factors may help. We know from other studies that if our children have suffered numerous Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), they also have a high...

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BullyingApril 20, 2021

Can We Find Anti-Bullying Programs that Work?

As I’ve noted before, helping our children avoid bullying is a complicated question. Sometimes, what our children face is not bullying, but just plain old conflict that our children need to learn how to face. Negative feedback is a normal part...

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Parenting TechniquesApril 14, 2021

The Importance of Sibling Connections in Foster Care

In continued honor of National Siblings Day, I want to talk for a bit about one of the biggest losses that our foster children face, which is losing track of their siblings. It is hard to find statistics, but I have seen estimates that anywhere from one-half to two-thirds of...

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Parenting TechniquesApril 13, 2021

How to Help Stepsiblings Get Along and Keep the Peace

I am late recognizing that Saturday, April 10, was National Siblings Day. It reminded me that one of the most difficult parts of blending families is helping our kids get along with each other. I didn’t have biological children when I married...

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Media AppearancesApril 12, 2021

A Conversation about "Raising Other People's Children"

I had a great conversation with Shelley Tyson on her podcast, Cultivate Legacy, and you can hear it here. We talked about the similarities between foster parenting and step-parenting, and my stories of lessons learned in my upcoming book, Raising Other People's Children.

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Parenting TechniquesApril 8, 2021

How to Handle Different Rules for Different Homes

“My mom doesn’t make me do that!” We’ve all heard it. Our child’s biological parent has different rules, and our child likes those rules better than ours. It is very easy to get into a battle of wills or to criticize their parents’ rules. Those...

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Parenting TechniquesApril 6, 2021

Embrace the Power of "And"

Being a foster parent or stepparent can be a complicated task and there are few simple and easy solutions to the challenges we face. Several years ago, however, I stumbled across a simple technique that transformed my approach...

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Podcast InterviewApril 1, 2021

Podcast Interview About My Upcoming Book

I had a great time talking to Jen Rogers on her podcast, Blended on the Bluff...

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Mental HealthMarch 31, 2021

Using the ADA to Help Our Children Cope with the Pandemic

As parents deal with the effects of various lockdowns on our children, we need to consider whether we can harness the power of the Americans with Disabilities Act to help them as they return to school, camps, and youth organizations...

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Adverse Childhood ExperiencesMarch 30, 2021

How to Respond When Our Children's Memories are Wrong

I ran across an outstanding article that describes how children can form actual, real memories of things that they never witnessed. In this article, the memories were benign and positive (activities with a deceased grandfather), but the...

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Parenting TechniquesMarch 25, 2021

"The Supreme Efficacy of Pity" and Kindness

It’s Tolkien Reading Day, set for today because in The Lord of the Rings, the heroes managed to overthrow the villain on March 25. In allowing his characters to triumph, however, Tolkien underscores another continuing theme in his books...

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Parenting TechniquesMarch 23, 2021

"This Task Is Appointed for You"

This week we celebrate Tolkien Reading Day. I have been a fan of J.R.R. Tolkien’s work since I discovered it in college. I started The Lord of the Rings, like many projects, because the guy I was infatuated with at the time liked the book...

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Parenting TechniquesMarch 18, 2021

Dealing with the Effects of Coronavirus Lockdowns

The pandemic and ill-advised school lockdowns have taken a toll on our children, and another survey adds more detail to what we know. The University of Michigan recently conducted a survey of parents nationwide, who reported significant...

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Parenting TechniquesMarch 11, 2021

Strong Commitments Require Strong Boundaries

In this series, I’ve talked about how our commitments to our children have to be strong and one-way. It is easy to conflate that truth into believing that we must unconditionally commit to our children. In reality, no emotionally healthy...

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Parenting TechniquesMarch 9, 2021

Making a Strong Commitment Requires That We Know Our Limits

In this series, we’ve talked about the importance of making strong commitments to our children, and that we have to be willing to make one-way commitments. However, one-way does not mean unlimited. Each of us has different skill sets...

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Parenting TechniquesMarch 4, 2021

Our Commitments Have to Be One-Way

I was really irritated. It had been a long day, my foster daughter had pitched a fit because I wouldn’t take her shopping, and now my dog was missing. I knew the dog was inside the house, just as I knew that I had been right in the...

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Parenting TechniquesMarch 2, 2021

Commitment is Stronger than Love

One night shortly after my marriage, I went to tell my new stepson good night. During the conversation, he asked, “Debbie, when you and Dad split up…”. I interrupted him to say that we wouldn’t be spitting up. “OK,” he resumed...

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ResilienceFebruary 25, 2021

Building Resilience by Connecting to Family Stories

I recently found an article about an intriguing study at Emory University finding that children who knew more about their family history show higher levels of well-being. I cannot locate the original 2010 study, and while I have found related...

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Parenting TechniquesFebruary 23, 2021

How To Be The Mentor Rather Than The Villain in Your Family Story, Part 2

This post is the last (for now) in a series about how we can be the mentor in our blended families’ stories rather than the evil stepparent. If we can start displaying some of these characteristics, we will have a better shot at developing a...

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Parenting TechniquesFebruary 18, 2021

How To Be The Mentor Rather Than The Villain in Your Family Story, Part 1

In my last post, I discussed how children think in narratives, and how the only slots available for us as stepparents or foster parents are either the villain or the mentor in their story. In this and my next post, I want to look at more...

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Parenting TechniquesFebruary 16, 2021

Where We Fit In The Stories Our Children Tell Themselves

One of the hardest parts of raising non-biological children is fitting into their narrative. Humans are story-telling animals. For thousands of years, we have used stories to teach, learn, and make sense of our reality. Our children have done...

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Parenting TechniquesFebruary 11, 2021

The Importance of Balancing All of Our Commitments

As we move toward Valentine’s Day, it is a good time to remember the importance of keeping all of our commitments in balance. It is easy as parents to make our children our only focus, and to forget that those commitments are not the...

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Parenting TechniquesFebruary 9, 2021

Why You Should Make Your Marriage Your Top Priority

This week before Valentine’s Day is a good time to remember why those of us with bonus children need to make our marriages our top priority -- even more of a priority than our children. As parents, we know that we need to put our...

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Adverse Childhood ExperiencesFebruary 4, 2021

Resilience and the Power of Connections

Another major factor in helping children develop resilience is helping them make connections with other people. We are social animals and are hardwired to be part of a community. Many studies have noted the importance of support...

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ResilienceFebruary 2, 2021

The Importance of Resilience and the Power of Plan B

As rates of depression and anxiety skyrocket during the pandemic, helping our children develop resilience is more important than ever. Putting external guardrails in place is important in preventing suicide, but the only long-term...

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Mental HealthJanuary 28, 2021

Student Suicides

The New York Times has published an outstanding article about the increase in student suicides during the pandemic. Although it is impossible to definitively link the increase to locked-down schools, there is a very strong correlation...

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Mental HealthJanuary 26, 2021

Swedish Study: Adults Who Spent Time in Foster Care Fared Worse than Non-Fostered Siblings

A recent study from Sweden raises serious questions about how foster care impacts children. Most studies of the foster system suffer from the problem that children placed in foster care are unlike non-placed children in so many ways that...

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Parenting TechniquesJanuary 19, 2021

How to Set Healthy Boundaries in Your Family

One of the hardest balancing acts in building a new family is setting healthy boundaries. We know that vibrant relationships require some level of self-sacrifice, but if we sacrifice too much of ourselves the relationships become...

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Foster ParentingJanuary 14, 2021

Three Things Not To Worry About This Year

According to the Internet, January 17 is “Ditch Your New Year’s Resolutions Day.” I have no idea who created the day or why. But it’s on the Internet, so it must be true. Because I like the one resolution I made this year (to be more boring)...

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Self CareJanuary 12, 2021

My Resolution for 2021: To Be More Boring

Now that our children are adults, we have the luxury of enjoying our empty house. Of course, my husband and I always will have projects. We both have jobs, and I (ahem) have a new book coming out in May (available for preorder now!)...

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Foster ParentingDecember 10, 2020

How To React When Your Children Ignore You During the Holidays

In the crush of taking care of our families during the holidays, we need to take care of ourselves as well. An important part of that is to be prepared if our kids overlook us. The first few times my foster children ignored me in the...

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Foster ParentingDecember 8, 2020

Why You Should Worry About Presents for the Other Parent

One controversy that surprised me after I married was buying presents for my stepchildren to give to their mother. As a foster parent, I never questioned that I needed to help my children strengthen whatever relationship they had with their...

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Parenting TechniquesDecember 1, 2020

How to Parent Children Of Different Faith Traditions

Those of us parenting a child who started life in another family already know the challenges of navigating the holidays this time of year. Another minefield some of us face is the many different winter holidays for different faiths. If one of...

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Parenting TipsNovember 24, 2020

Why You Shouldn’t Worry About Teaching Gratitude

This time of year, I read and hear lots of questions about how to teach children gratitude. Parenting magazines and websites are filled with suggestions and techniques, all adding yet another thing to our lists of what-we-are-supposed...

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Foster ParentingNovember 19, 2020

Surviving — And Thriving — During the Holidays With Foster Children

In my last post, I discussed some ways to meet the challenges that blended families face during the holidays. If you are a foster parent, you will face the same challenges, only more so. With step-children, they are with at least one of their...

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Step-parentingNovember 17, 2020

Surviving – And Thriving – During the Holidays

November and December can be stressful times for blended families. The Norman Rockwell holiday ideal surrounds us, and our favorite traditions inevitably clash with someone else’s. What is supposed to be a season of gratitude and...

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ResilienceOctober 20, 2020

We Cannot Let Our Children’s Trauma Define Them

In this season of COVID and demonstrations, I have been struck by the continual insistence on treating people as victims of “the system.” I first encountered this philosophy when I was in law school, where I learned about Critical Race Theory.

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ResilienceOctober 15, 2020

Overcoming the Self-Limiting Stories That Our Children Tell Themselves

Over the past few months, I have been pondering the power of personal narratives. It is inevitable that people will view events through the prism of their individual experiences. My minority friends read stories of black men killed by police...

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ResilienceOctober 13, 2020

Parenting Children with Trauma: Countering ACEs

Parenting children of divorce or other childhood traumas is daunting, but the good news is that positive experiences can help neutralize bad ones. A recently-published study looked at almost 500 children over 10 years, starting in their...

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Adverse Childhood ExperiencesSeptember 29, 2020

Parenting Children with Trauma: Effects of Adverse Experiences

One of the things that revolutionized my parenting style was discovering the studies of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). The term stems from a groundbreaking study in the late 1990s by the Centers for Disease Control and the...

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Parenting TipsSeptember 17, 2020

What to Do When You Don’t Like Your Child

“Oh, the new marriage is going well,” my friend said. “I adore my husband. The only downside . . . .” She hesitated, looked around carefully, then leaned forward and whispered, “I just don’t like his kids.”

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Parenting TechniquesSeptember 15, 2020

What To Do When Your Child Does Not Want You There

For almost every foster parent or stepparent, there comes a time when a child announces, “I don’t want to be here,” or “I don’t want YOU to be here.” Or the message may not be direct, but a series of subtle slights that add up to the same...

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Self CareSeptember 10, 2020

We Are Not Responsible for Everything

Perhaps because today is World Suicide Prevention Day, I have seen a lot of articles and blog posts this week advising parents how to take care of their children. Having parented depressed and suicidal children, I know how overwhelming...

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Mental HealthSeptember 8, 2020

What to Do When Your Child Threatens Suicide

This is National Suicide Prevention Week, and this year it comes amid reports of increased suicides and depression during the pandemic. If you are parenting a child who is struggling with anxiety and depression, you may hear your...

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Parenting TipsSeptember 3, 2020

Making It Down The Hill

One struggle we all face, but especially when parenting traumatized children, is where to find the strength to keep going. Sometimes the problems our children face can seem insurmountable. The sheer magnitude of the damage they have...

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ResilienceSeptember 1, 2020

Helping Children Cope with Anxiety and Depression During A Pandemic

I am hearing more and more stories from parents about rising anxiety and depression in our children. Most of the reports are anecdotal, but many of us seem to have children struggling with these effects of the coronavirus restrictions.

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BullyingAugust 18, 2020

Cyberbullying Risks Rise During Coronavirus

Coronavirus measures put our children at greater risk of cyberbulllying

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Youth ProtectionJuly 14, 2020

Mentoring or Grooming? What’s the Difference?

Numerous mental health studies suggest that one of the best ways to help children develop resilience and recover...

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ResilienceJuly 14, 2020

Helping Children Recover by Being a Safe Space

For those of us who have traumatized children in our care, it is difficult to know how to help them. A recent study from...

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ResilienceJuly 14, 2020

Building Family Resilience

One topic that I have been pondering lately is how families manage adversity and teach their children to be resilient...

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ResilienceJuly 14, 2020

Which Comes First, Resilience or Self-Esteem?

A pattern that shows up very often in studies of resilience is a high correlation between resilience and self-esteem...

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ResilienceJuly 14, 2020

Resilience Requires Unsupervised Time

One of the most important, and difficult, ways that we can encourage resilience in children is to allow them...

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ResilienceJuly 14, 2020

Encouraging Resilience

One of the better trends in the last decade of caring for children is the recognition that children need to develop...

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ResilienceJuly 14, 2020

Countering Adverse Childhood Experiences

In my last post, I discussed the 20+ years of research on the possible effects of adverse childhood experiences...

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Adverse Childhood ExperiencesJuly 14, 2020

Effects of Adverse Childhood Experiences

One of the most active areas of mental health studies these days is the effect of adverse childhood experience...

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BullyingJuly 14, 2020

Parents Can Help Prevent Bullying

A recent analysis of a national survey indicates that families can help children avoid bullying by developing habits of...

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BullyingJuly 14, 2020

Is It Bullying or Just Conflict?

Bullying issues get a lot of attention these days, because everyone wants to spare children the trauma of true bullying...

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Mental HealthJuly 14, 2020

Not All Stress is Traumatic

In our zeal to protect children from trauma, we risk creating more anxiety by protecting them too much...

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Mental HealthJuly 14, 2020

Reading, Writing, and . . . Mindfulness?

Two recently-published studies claim that mindfulness training can help children cope with stress in school...

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Mental HealthJuly 14, 2020

Anxiety in Kids? Treat the Adults!

An interesting study from the Yale Child Study Center that works with parents instead of their children is being hailed...

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