Parenting Roles and Guidelines in Divorce~ Setting Rules/Common Ground

Step Parents’ Role

I have suggested that, in my experience, step parents need to be a strong support to the biological parent in regards to discipline.  They can set the rules of the home together and the biological parent carries out the consequences.  If the biological parent is not present, it is understood by all the family members that the other parent is in charge and can administer positive or negative consequences for behavior.  The biological parent then backs up the step parent in regards to those consequences.  It works best when BOTH biological parents and step parent(s) agree on the rules for behavior.  That way the child is getting a consistent message and is learning that manipulative and dishonest behavior is not tolerated in either home.

The step-parent(s) are to be the firm and loving back up for the biological parent.  They are not responsible for making the rules by themselves or carrying them out by themselves.  They are there to support the biological parent and reinforce the rules set for the household.

Biological Parents’ Role

Ideally, it is the biological parents’ role to set common ground goals and back each other up in regards to acceptable behavior from their children. This is not complicated.  Find common ground, set common goals, and rules for behavior, and agree to support the other in this endeavor.  There is no need for complicated conversations.  Just have the other parent’s back.  

Remember:  When the two parents are not working together for common goals and rules for behavior to reach those goals, there are behavioral issues that manifest in the children and reach a peak in the teen years.  


Adults’ Role

Furthermore, each adult in the child’s life has gifts and talents that he/she can share with the child.  Some are better at playing, some are better at teaching, some are better at listening, etc…  Each adult in the child’s life should be able to use those gifts and talents to ENHANCE the child’s experience.  It doesn’t matter if it’s a parent, step parent, teacher, grandparent, etc…  Use your gifts with your children.  

Children’s Rights
  • The right to be loved unconditionally by their parents ~”I love you no matter what and that will never change.”
  • The right to active attention by the parents
  • The right to have boundaries for their safety and growth
  • The right to be a child
  • The right to a safe place to live
  • The right to appropriate clothing
  • The right to nourishing food and access to physical play
  • The right to an education and training for a career so that he/she may be independent as an adult
Acceptable behavior, laws, rules, right and wrong and consequences for behavior are a natural part of the world.  Learning about those consequences will occur in a family that has all the conditions listed above in place.  Why?  Because the parents are ENGAGED.  They are aware of their children’s gifts AND weaknesses and are helping the child to become self aware and self regulated.  They are NOT giving their children “things” to make them happy.  They are giving THEMSELVES.


We all know instances where these conditions are not being met for many children in our nation and the world.  These are fundamental necessities for a child to grow up with self worth.  Thus, we have many issues in children today.

All other “things” that children have are privileges.  If you think of the market system in today’s world, you can set up a work for pay system where the child EARNS the privileges.


Suggested Rules for Behavior:

  • Treat each family member and others with respect
  • Be honest
  • Complete all homework and school assignments; prepare for exams; BECAUSE SCHOOL IS THEIR JOB!
  • Privileges need to be earned by completing school tasks and home tasks and by exhibiting signs of respect and concern for other family members and others in general
Best Case Scenario for Positive and Negative Consequences:
  • Consequences that are set by both biological parents and the step-parent(s) and are carried out consistently in both households
  • Family meetings to address concerns and modify consequences as the children grow and mature
  • Biological parents discussing behavior at both homes and each one addressing the behaviors and supporting the other parent when he/she is trying to be consistent in regards to negative and positive consequences
  • Telling the children in a joint meeting that all behavior is going to be addressed at BOTH homes and respect for family members respect is the most important code of behavior.
  • When there is a difference of opinion regarding consequences, the adults discuss this away from the children and come to common ground.  Children will take advantage of discord and strife among the adults.  
*When children understand that all the important adults in their lives are on the “same page”, the manipulative and dishonest behavior diminishes.  This issue arises in all kinds of family situations, not just blended families.



  • Adventures WITH the parents
  • Exclusive TIME WITH one or more parent
  • Time with friends (or play dates)
  • Shopping excursions
  • Electronics and gaming

Our society places far too much emphasis on gaming and electronics.  They are an easy baby sitter so that parents can DO what they need to do.  They are enjoyable and entertaining for children/teens.  Sometimes they are even educational.

However, they are placed LAST on the list of privileges because they do not enhance RELATIONSHIPS.  RELATIONSHIPS are what give us support and make our lives meaningful.  Online relationships CANNOT replace the joy and involvement that real life experiences with other human beings gives us.  We need them desperately to have a sense of belonging.


So that brings us to the crux of the matter.  Our children need loving relationships with as many other human beings as possible.  “The more the merrier.”  Being present with our children and actively listening to them and their concerns is crucial in helping them feel like they belong and matter.  Playing WITH our children will enhance that relationship and make it grow and matter in those difficult teen years.  They will BE present for the parents as they age.  They will value the relationship.

What does all of this mean?  It means that if your goals for the children are the same, then you have common ground.  Build from there.  Respect each other and your differences, but work TOGETHER to help the children understand that you are a force to be reckoned with regarding BEHAVIOR and expectations.
Write down what the goals and rules for behavior are and have them posted in each household.  What are the goals?  Refer to Rules for Behavior.  


We write them down and post them because it’s easy to forget and go back to what we have always done.  If what we have always done works, then there is no reason to change.  However, if what you have always done is not getting the results that will reach the goals, then the behavior needs to change.  “If you keep doing what you have always done, you will keep getting what you have always gotten.”

May these words uplift you and help you make the changes that need to be made, accepting that change begins with US.  God bless you and your precious children! 

~ Linda Mappin, LPC/RPT


12 Steps with Christ ~ An Intensive Individualized 12 Step Study For Teens and Women

If you have found that your life has become unmanageable through choices you have made, there is help and hope.

Celebrate Recovery in Gruene

In addition to attending a group such a Celebrate Recovery, I guide an in-depth 12 step study with individuals who are looking to dive deeper into recovery from codependency and addiction (anything you are doing that is hurting your relationship with God and others).

Schedule an Appointment




Confidentiality in Counseling

Confidential word cloud

Technology is so important in my counseling.  It helps me stay on top of managing my clients’ files and notes, the billing, scheduling, and communicating in a timely manner. What you should know as a potential counseling client is that your information should remain confidential and secure.  Some technology can put that at risk.

Examples of Insecure Transmissions:

  • Cell Phone Conversations
  • VoIP Phone Conversations
  • Texting
  • Non Encrypted Emails
  • FaceTime
  • Skype
  • Google Talk

Here are some questions regarding confidentiality to ask in your search for a therapist/counselor:

  • Where are my files kept?
  • Do you use encrypted email?
  • May I text you regarding appt. information or request for more information?
  • Do you conduct eCounseling over a secure site?

Did you know you also have the right to waive your HIPAA confidentiality when it comes to phone calls and emails?  Your therapist can have you sign a waiver if you are interested in doing so.  I would not recommend it.  Your information is very personal and uniquely yours.  In my practice I try my best to keep it that way.

~Blessings on your journey to wellness~


Grief and Loss

Spirit of Joy-FINAL-04Life is Hard.  Did anyone ever say that to you?  It is the truth.  People we love leave us…sometimes through broken relationships and other times through death. This is part of life.  Loss is painful and can cripple us.  How are earth do we deal with loss? How can we move through the pain and continue living?

I heard some years ago that when life deals a blow, we have two choices. We can choose to be bitter or BETTER.  How do we go down the path of better when it HURTS so much?

The bitter path is easy.  It comes natural to us.  We rage at others, blame, deny, escape, hide, close up, wall up, lash out, numb the pain with other things, and on and on and on.

Let’s say that we do NOT want to choose bitter.  Let’s say that we make a decision to choose BETTER.  OK.  Now what?  Here’s where we have to WORK.  It isn’t easy to walk down the path of better.   We have to choose to leap off the cliff of FAITH and believe that there is something BIGGER than us out there that is ready to help us feel better, to recover, to become a survivor and NOT a victim.  We have to make an effort to believe and to seek out help from others who have gotten better instead of bitter.  We have to trust that we are not alone in this pain and that there is help in this walk towards healing.

If we are people of faith, we pray.  We ask our Father in Heaven to please guide and comfort us, to teach us how we are to live without that person in our lives.

The miracle is that He does.  One step at a time. He says, “Get up and get out of yourself for a few minutes today.  Go help someone or something.” Or He says, “Today I want you to rest.”  What I am trying to tell you is that He will guide and lead us to the next thing and the next thing after that until we are walking out of the darkness back into the light…His light…which is glorious and healing and comforting and forever.

I choose BETTER.  I hope and pray that you choose BETTER, too!

What is ONLINE Counseling?


Technology has moved forward to the point now where Facetime, Skype, GoogleTalk, etc….are all common methods of communicating. It’s a beneficial way to keep in touch with family and friends.  Not only do you hear their voices, but you can see their expressions!

Telemedicine is being used more and more in Emergency Departments (formerly known as Emergency Rooms).  The nurse or physician’s assistant is in the room with the patient and the Dr. evaluates over teleconference with a secure and HIPAA compliant video website. Behavioral health therapists can now provide private and secure counseling sessions online through HIPAA compliant websites.

Benefits of Online Counseling

  • No travel time ~ a great choice for those who live in rural areas or if your therapist practices in a different city
  • Privacy ~ the client picks where the session occurs and most often is in their own home
  • Accessibility for Physical Limitations
  • Affordability ~ Online Sessions are usually less expensive
  • Assists in those times when you don’t want to miss an appointment, but just cannot get there
  • Extremely appropriate for Life Coaching and Career Guidance and Mild to Moderate Mental or Behavioral issues (Adjustment)

Disadvantages of Online Counseling

  • There is technology required: High Speed Internet, Laptop or Desktop, Appropriate Browsers
  • Technology Issues
  • Possibility of Hacking ~ the sites are secure to the highest standards, but hackers are always trying to be one step ahead
  • Lack of human contact
  • Inappropriate for severe mental health treatment ~ Issues such as severe depression, suicidal ideation, active drug addiction, as well as most DSM V diagnoses other than Adjustment

Spirit of Joy Counseling Services, PLLC Online Counseling Practices

Our office uses which meets HIPAA standards and criteria for privacy and security.  The initial visit is always done in person.  This is the assessment/evaluation appointment and requires face to face interaction for a thorough understanding of the concerns the person is having. Furthermore, all of our clients must reside in Texas.

After the diagnosis and treatment plan are determined, a timeline for therapy is provided. Appointments can be made at that time for face to face or online counseling sessions.  If you think online counseling might be a good fit for your adjustment issues, please contact the office or email to schedule your free online consultation or first face to face appointment.


Adult Children of Addictive or Codependent Parents


Is there someone who you grew up with or around that had a problem with drinking or some other kind of addiction?  Perhaps one of your parents was incapable of unconditional love because one of his/her parents was an addict/alcoholic. We now know that codependent and addictive behaviors can be passed on without there being an actual drug or alcohol “problem”.  It all boils down to the home environment and UNCONDITIONAL love from all who live there.  If one or more of the people you grew up with were codependent or addictive in their behavior, then you may have learned some behaviors that are interfering with your current relationships.

When we grew up in an environment where there was, what psychologists term, DYSFUNCTION, then we developed tools in our invisible tool box to cope with others’ behavior towards us that was intrusive, unkind, hateful, critical, untrustworthy, abusive, etc….  These tools served us well in THAT relationship, but won’t work when we try to have a normal and constructive relationship.  So what do we do?

First we admit that we have a problem.  Here’s a “Laundry List” of traits that may be part of who you are and are not working well in your life as it is now.

  • Judge yourself without mercy
  • Constantly seek approval and affirmation
  • Overreact to changes over which you have no control
  • Feel you are different from others
  • Have difficulty having fun or have to use a substance to relax
  • Have difficulty with intimate relationships
  • Are either super responsible or super irresponsible
  • Are extremely loyal, even when presented with evidence that the loyalty is undeserved
  • Take yourself very seriously
  • Have to guess what normal looks like

If you believe that you may be having any of these characteristics, don’t be worried.  There is help and hope!  The FIRST thing is recognizing that you might have a problem and that is HUGE. Start researching what codependency is and what kind of help is out there. There are 12 step programs for every kind of addiction and codependency.

Learning to have healthy relationships and change is a real possibility. It takes work and recognition that it is a process.  If you are willing to work the steps to healing, you WILL heal.

Contact our office if you would like more information and assistance.  🙂