The Week My Family Went Under Lockdown with “America’s Supernanny”
Last night on "America's Supernanny: Family Lockdown," Miss Deborah paid a visit to a blended family in trouble. Between career-obsessed dad Jay, frustrated mom Cassie, two constantly fighting soon-to-be stepbrothers and two unhappy sisters, Miss Deborah had her work cut out for her!
We caught up with Cassie Zurlinden, the mom from the episode, to find out how her week with Miss Deborah changed her and her family’s life, plus what advice she would offer to other parents in the same situation. Here’s what she had to say.
LTM: Why did you feel like it was time to call in “America’s Supernanny”?
Cassie Zurlinden: Jay was actually the one who decided to contact Miss Deborah. I had reservations about exposing my family on television, but since we had a wedding on the way, I felt like I owed it to the family to give it a shot.
There are more and more blended families out there today and many people don’t realize how challenging it can be to bring two sets of kids together under one roof. It’s hard to convey to them that while you aren’t trying to replace the other parent, you love them just the same and you expect the same amount of respect from them.
LTM: How did your friends and family react when they heard Deborah Tillman was coming to lend a hand? What did the kids think?
Cassie Zurlinden: Our friends and family were surprised! The younger boys didn’t really understand what it meant but the older girls did and they were were apprehensive about it because the episode was going to air during the school year and they felt weird about having to see their friends and peers the day after it was on television. Kiley was more in favor of it because her relationship with Jay was strained and she was anxious for him to see her side of things.
LTM: How would you describe the impact Miss Deborah’s visit had on your family?
Cassie Zurlinden: The boys are definitely getting along better. We made an effort after the visit to make them feel like they were on the same team, so we made sure to sign them up for recreational sports together – and that made a difference. Also, I think the kids now realize they aren’t betraying their natural mom by loving and respecting me at the same time. We are starting to act more like a “family” now.
LTM: What changes have you made regarding your parenting style since Miss Deborah’s visit?
1) We still try to limit the number of hours the kids spend on tech devices each day. They aren’t happy about it, but it forces us to communicate more and spend more time together.
2) I try to talk through my frustrations with Jay and the kids instead of screaming! They respond much better to me this way.
3) We don’t let the boys play violent video games anymore. It’s not THE reason they get along better, but I think it has contributed to the reduction of fighting.
LTM: Is there anything you discovered about yourself during this time?
Cassie Zurlinden: I didn’t realize HOW much of a control freak I was! Plus, I think part of the reason I was screaming so much was that I had no other outlet for my frustrations. Now that Jay is much more present, I don’t get as angry as often.
LTM: Is it hard to go back to everyday life after the cameras stop rolling and Miss Deborah is no longer there to help mediate?
Cassie Zurlinden: It is definitely harder to enforce the rules of the house without her! Also, different scenarios arise each day, and we are sometimes unsure about how to handle them. It is easier to have someone there to tell you what to do and what the right way or wrong way to address each circumstance is.
Also, at the time the episode was taped, Jay and I were only 18 days away from our wedding, so things were even more stressful than normal immediately after she left!
LTM: What advice do you have for other families who are experiencing similar issues in their homes?
Cassie Zurlinden: I think blended families sometimes require more work – you are mixing two dynamics and that takes some time to figure out. Just be patient and try to COMMUNICATE. Communication is key. Once you get the kids to realize that it is not an act of betrayal to another parent if they love you, you will see a huge difference. They need to recognize that you are on their side! Also - use your best judgment and don’t be afraid to apologize if you end up making a mistake. But move forward afterwards and don’t dwell!