ASK A MOM: Valentine inspiration, disciplining step-children, and how to discuss pornography with your teen

WBTV's Molly Grantham tackles your parenting questions in this ongoing series
Handmade Valentine's Day cards by Paige Walker

Q: What are some creative ways to make Valentines for the kids’ classmates that don’t include candy?—Shannon 

A: I swear I’m not being a smart aleck, so, please don’t laugh… but your child handmaking a card, with no candy or anything else inside, is a beautiful gesture and more than enough.

If something sincere is created with effort—however your child decides to write, draw, or create the card—it’s more likely to positively impact the student on the receiving end.

Just ask Miranda Walker. She emailed that her 5th grade daughter, 10-year-old Paige Walker, had taken weeks to draw customized, personal cards for each of her classmates at Granite Falls Elementary (Caldwell County) and was going to surprise them at her Valentine’s Day class party. She was one of 23 kids in her class.

“My daughter Paige has always been special,” Miranda says. “She’s unique, quirky, has the best sense of humor, and walks to the beat of her own drum. She is not a girl who is big on words, but has a huge heart and a talent for art.”

She also said Paige showed kindness through acts of service, and once she decided to do this, she worked on the drawings every day for a week and a half, chipping away at her goal bit-by-bit.

“She is 100% self-taught, and I loved how she paid attention to the small details,” Miranda says. “I can tell you from watching her, she worked hard to make each student’s picture special based on activities they talked about.”

Heart always wins. The picture below shows just six of the 23—she made one for herself, too (self-love!)—were all this fantastic.

And, though it wasn’t anything as elaborate, when my son was a kindergartner during COVID, he wrote a card for each of his classmates. It came about because he was bored at home and playing with construction paper. His 6-year-old self drew and colored lots of hearts on each card, and used stickers he found lying around the house. Each student got one. We never added a piece of candy to those cards, but those were the most memorable valentines we’ve ever given.

Good luck…

Q: Can a stepparent discipline a child who is not theirs? My husband travels a lot for work so I’m home with his son (12) and my son (11). His son gives me attitude a lot and says he doesn’t have to listen to me because he already has a mom. How do I parent both boys when they’re in my house?

A: I took your question to two local, licensed psychologists: Amanda McGough, Ph.D., and Michele Mannering, Ph.D.

McGough says parents of blended families need to talk with each other openly and ahead of time about their expectations around discipline.

“This isn’t just on the mom,” says McGough, whose practice is in south Charlotte. “Both the parent and the stepparent must be on the same page regarding whether the stepparent will discipline the child, and what the rules and expectations are for all children in the home. Everyone in the household—whether on a work trip or not—needs to know what discipline should look like.”

Once there is agreement, McGough says, the two adults should talk to the kids about how rules will be handled, no matter which parent is away, and which parent is in front of them.

“This presents a united front and reduces confusion or resentment from the child,” she says. “It might also curtail conflict between spouses over children.”

To find out more on Amanda McGough, who is Compassionate Bereavement Care (CBC) certified, visit

Michele Mannering, also a local licensed psychologist, says you should address two things out of the gate to the child: 1) That it’s true you’re not the child’s mother, but 2) You are in a role that requires you to ensure their safety.

“You can validate both things at once,” she says. “That you’re not their mother, but there are rules you’ll enforce while everyone is under the same roof.”

Michele agrees it should come off as a united front, but says she believes the biological parent should be the one who initially manages discipline.

“If the stepparent is doing more of the discipline, there’s a chance the child will resent her,” she says. “Basic rules should be established surrounding respect, behavior, and expectations, and those rules need to be followed whether the parent, or stepparent, are present. The two parents need to back each other up. Even if one parent is not always there, they need to remind the children they still expect the rules to be followed and will back up the parent at the home when they’re not.”

Basically, Mannering says, there can’t be separate sets of rules for biological children and stepchildren, and when issues with behavior or boundaries arise, focus your attention on your spouse first, not your stepchild. That way you can have your spouse reiterate the expectations.

“Children need structure and boundaries, especially after a divorce,” Mannering says. “This is the responsibility of the biological parent to provide, to help kids feel protected and secure. When everyone knows and understands the rules, it’s easier for both the parent and stepparent to have each other’s back if one is broken.”

Find more from Mannering at her practice here.

And don’t lose hope. The American Psychological Association (APA) suggests kids ages 10 to 14 may have the most difficult time adjusting to a stepfamily. So, you’re right in this middle of this age group. You can keep lines of communication open all you want, and it’s still going to be hard.


Q: I caught my kid watching porn on his iPad. What’s the best way to handle this with a 13-year-old?

A: Timely question. A new report from Common Sense Media just came out that says,  “A majority of U.S. teens surveyed, had seen pornography at least once by age 13—either by accident or on purpose. However less than half of teen respondents discussed pornography with a trusted adult.”

Juliet Kuehnle, a licensed clinical mental health counselor in Charlotte, says it’s normal for your child to have seen porn, or even watch it on their own.

“This new study just means now you know many kids are, and you can feel comfortable bringing it into conversation,” she says. “Don’t shame him, but use it as a segue to say something like, ‘This makes sense because you were bound to come across porn, or be curious about it, so now let’s talk about it.’”

Kuehnle—who runs Sun Counseling and Wellness—says you should also know it’s not going to be a one-off conversation. You’ll have to plant some seeds and come back as many times as necessary.

“You might not get lots from him in response,” she says. “But you’ll want to be clear about the messages and want to concisely and non-judgmentally get them across.”

She says the foundation of these conversations can center around three things:

  1. The pornography industry is a money-making business that isn’t rooted in what healthy love lives look like.
  2. Porn can often be violent, intense, and unrealistic, so don’t let it skew your ideas about what sex and intimacy really is, or what bodies look like.
  3. Some people can have big feelings about watching porn: Guilt, shame, or even feeling like it’s out of their control.

“If you feel strongly they absolutely should not be viewing any sexually explicit media, then share your expectations in the context of other house rules you also have,” Kuehnle says. “And as always, invite them into the conversation by asking open-ended and direct questions about the points you’ve brought up.

Read more from Common Sense Media report here.

With that my friends, we’re trudging through February. March is on the way: It always feels better once we get through the first two months of the year, no matter what Punxsutawney Phil predicted.

See you guys tonight at 5 p.m., 6 p.m., or 11 p.m.


MOLLY GRANTHAM is an anchor, author, and mom of three. Follow her on Facebook and Instagram, or catch her on WBTV News at 5 p.m., 6 p.m., and 11 p.m.