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Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

God’s Broken Family

SOURCE:  Elisa Morgan

It’s tempting to freak out over the fact that our families are broken — to think that if we fix the issues of marriage, money, and faith, we’ll fix the future of our families, and voila! — all will be well. But in reality, broken families are not new. We all come from a broken family because God’s family is broken. The thing is, this isn’t the tragedy we assume. Broken is right where God wants us — and right where He can powerfully reassemble us.

In the beginning, God created man and woman. Adam and Eve were a family, a man and a woman evidencing the image of God in their beings and in their union. But before they even got around to making children, they fell and broke. The original family was a broken family — separated from the very heart of God.

The very first child was born into this broken, messy family.

In the space of the first five chapters of the Bible, man and woman became one, disobeyed God’s only prohibition, and gave birth to two sons, one of whom murdered the other. The result is that by Genesis 6, the inhabitants of the planet were those whose hearts were turned so wholly toward evil that God decided to start over again.

God’s heart broke over His broken family.

The second time around, the results were no better. God started again with one family — this time Noah’s. For forty days and forty nights they did okay together. But once the Flood ended, Noah and his sons lost their footing — and the downfall of the family continued.

  • At the request of his wife, who was impatient for a child, Father Abraham took their slave, Hagar, as his mistress and had an illegitimate heir.
    Jacob married one sister but actually loved — and also married — another.
  • David committed adultery with Bathsheba and then murdered her husband.
  • The prophet Hosea was betrayed by his unfaithful wife, Gomer, yet took her back.

In Scripture, we find families built with love and chastity and families formed from rape and sin. Children born from one father to mothers who were sisters. Children born out of adultery, through prostitution, and into polygamous marriages. Children born to people of humble means and then relinquished through adoption to rulers and royals. And because respect didn’t come naturally to His people, God had to tell them to honor their parents.

That’s just in the Old Testament. The New Testament begins with an unwed — though betrothed — pregnant teenager…

We all come from a broken family and then create another broken family, because all families are broken. Even God’s. In our brokenness, we are just where we need to be. Fractured. Messed up. Sinful. Needy. Redeemable.

Barbara Brown Taylor writes, “Pain makes theologians of us all… Pain is one of the fastest routes to a no-frills encounter with the Holy.”1

There is beauty in the broken.

Our Creator God pants to bring His children into being, and then his heart tears in pain as we run, hide, and reject His love. Our Father God christens us sons and daughters and then releases us to our own stubborn ways but stands in the road, watching and waiting for us to return to Him. Our hereafter God dreams of redemption, when we are restored to His original purposes and put in pleasant places in relationship to Him and to each other.

Humankind is a broken, messy family. And we all come from this broken family. The family broke before it was even completely made. Just as my efforts fell short of fixing the breakage of my first and second families, our efforts will also miss the mark in making families whole and healthy in our broken world.

Think of it this way: If God’s family was and is broken, why do we think ours will be any different?

Isaiah 53 prophesies that healing for the broken will arrive through an unexpected channel: a broken Messiah. In Isaiah 53:2, the coming king is seen as less than lovely. Seemingly no “beauty in the broken” there.

He had no special beauty or form to make us notice Him; there was nothing in His appearance to make us desire Him.

My pastor, Robert Gelinas, compared the beauty of Jesus to that of Fiona in Shrek. There was beauty in the princess, but it wasn’t revealed until she became an ogre, revealing to Shrek and others her beauty from within.2

The beautification of brokenness appears as God’s despised man of sorrows takes our infirmities upon himself. Isaiah 53:5 underlines God’s provision for the broken heart, the broken soul, the broken human, and yes, the broken family.

But He was wounded for the wrong we did; He was crushed for the evil we did. The punishment, which made us well, was given to Him, and we are healed because of His wounds.

The word “wounded” in this verse actually refers to bruises — black and blue marks created by broken blood vessels.And the word “healed” comes from a root meaning “mended, repaired, thoroughly made whole — spiritually forgiven.”4 By His broken blood vessels that resulted in black and blue blotches we are made thoroughly whole.

Somewhere along my journey from my first broken family to my second broken family, I began to understand that the brokenness in my first family wasn’t my fault. God led me through the layers of shame and fear to convince me: I had no control over my parents’ choices. I didn’t run my father off. I didn’t force my mother to overdrink. Gently, God led me to the words of 1 John 4:18:

Where God’s love is, there is no fear, because God’s perfect love drives out fear. It is punishment that makes a person fear, so love is not made perfect in the person who fears.

I realized that I did not need to fear because Jesus had already endured any punishment I might face. We are healed because of His wounds.

Hear me well: the brokenness inflicted on you in your first family is not your fault.

The years passed and I mothered my second family. In spite of my imperfect, broken places, gradually I faced the reality that God did not evaluate my mothering by how perfectly or imperfectly my children developed. Rather, He expected me to address how I influenced my children by how yielded to His love for me and then acted it out in life. Period. He did not ask me to control their responses, their choices, or their consequences. I could throw my body over the potholes in their path, and they might or might not heed my warnings. I could not fix my family — my first family or my second — any more than I could fix myself. I was broken. They were broken. I was to offer myself to God and to allow Him to use my best, but still flawed, mothering to shape their development.

By His wounds we are healed.

While the brokenness you experienced in your first family is not your fault — remember that — there may be elements of brokenness in your first or second family that you are responsible for. If so, say so. It is up to you to take responsibility to right the wrongs and move toward healing. I’ve had to go to each of my children and my husband and confess my overparenting, my fear, my judgment, my inadequacy. At times the list of my failings has been so long that there was no gathering it up in my arms. I dragged it about behind me like a length of toilet paper stuck to my shoe. Humiliating, but necessary to notice and shake away.

Jesus alone has the power to heal the broken. Jesus alone has the power to save the lost. It’s by His wounds that we find healing. Broken families find healing as the broken people within them admit their brokenness and yield personally to God’s healing power. Rather than praying, “Make my family whole,” we pray, “Make me whole.”

When we are broken, we are exactly where God wants us.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven. — Matthew 5:3 NIV

When we are broken we are bankrupt. When we are bankrupt we are dependent. When we are dependent we are done with ourselves and open to God.

Crazy thing here: we tend to view our fallings as grounds for disqualification from meaningful ministry, from lasting relationships, from worthy contributions to our world — when exactly the opposite is true. When we fall and then turn to God for the hope and help he alone offers us, we can actually become more qualified for fuller living. Our brokenness makes us more able to invest in the lives of those around us as we bring God’s healing of us to our relating to them.

Make your way through the pages of Scripture and you’ll see human after human used more mightily after a fall than before. Abraham. Moses. Rahab. David. Ruth. Jonah. Peter. Mark. Paul.

There’s no such thing as a perfect family. Yet hope emerges through understanding that the broken family is anything but an unredeemable reality. Compassion comes as we understand that all of us — every one of us — is birthed forth from God’s broken family. As we embrace our own need for mercy, we can extend grace to others. While vibrant and full of life, the healthy family of today is also gritty and real, a place where assembly and even reassembly is required. When we are broken, we are right where we need to be before God. And where we need to stay.

There is beauty in the broken.
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Excerpted from The Beauty of Broken by Elisa Morgan

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Parental Conflict Can Cause Lasting Emotional Damage to Kids

SOURCE:  Traci Pedersen/PsychCentral

Children who regularly witness parental conflict may be sustaining lasting harm to their emotional processing abilities, potentially becoming overvigilant, anxious and vulnerable to misreading even neutral human interactions, according to a new study published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships.

The findings are particularly strong for children who are naturally shy and sensitive.

“The message is clear: even low-level adversity like parental conflict isn’t good for kids,” said Dr. Alice Schermerhorn, an assistant professor in the University of Vermont’s Department of Psychological Sciences and the lead author of the study.

In the study, 99 children (aged 9 to 11) were divided into two groups based on their scores from psychological tests which assessed how much parental conflict they experienced and how much they felt the conflict threatened their parents’ marriage.

Next, the children looked at a series of photographs of couples engaged in happy, angry or neutral interactions and asked to choose which category the photos fit.

Most of the children from the low-conflict homes consistently scored the photos accurately. However, children from high-conflict homes were only able to accurately identify the happy and angry couples, not those in neutral poses. These children would incorrectly perceive the neutral photos as either angry or happy, or they would say they didn’t know which category they fit into.

According to the researchers. one possible reason for the inability of those in the high-conflict group to evaluate the neutral photos could be hypervigilance. “If their perception of conflict and threat leads children to be vigilant for signs of trouble, that could lead them to interpret neutral expressions as angry ones or may simply present greater processing challenges,” said Schermerhorn.

Alternatively, it could be that neutral parental interactions may be less significant for children who feel threatened by their parents’ conflict.

“They may be more tuned into angry interactions, which could be a cue for them to retreat to their room, or happy ones, which could signal that their parents are available to them,” she said. “Neutral interactions don’t offer much information, so they may not value them or learn to recognize them.”

The study also reveals the impact of shyness on the children’s ability to process and recognize emotion. The shy children in the study, who were identified via a questionnaire completed by the subjects’ mothers, were unable to correctly identify couples in neutral poses, even if they were not from high-conflict homes.

Shyness made them more vulnerable to parental conflict. Children who were both shy and who also felt threatened by their parents’ conflict were unable to perceive photos of neutral interactions as simply neutral.

“Parents of shy children need to be especially thoughtful about how they express conflict,” Schermerhorn said.

The findings have significant implications, according to Schermerhorn, because they shed light on the impact relatively low-level adversity like parental conflict can have on children’s development. Either of her interpretations for the findings —hypervigilance or not being able to read neutral interactions — could mean trouble for children down the road.

“One the one hand, being overvigilant and anxious can be destabilizing in many different ways,” she said. “On the other, correctly reading neutral interactions may not be important for children who live in high conflict homes, but that gap in their perceptual inventory could be damaging in subsequent experiences with, for example, teachers, peers, and partners in romantic relationships.”

“No one can eliminate conflict altogether,” said Schermerhorn, “but helping children get the message that, even when they argue, parents care about each other and can work things out is important.”

Source: University of Vermont

 

How a Parent’s Affection Shapes a Child’s Happiness for Life

SOURCE:  Sandi Schwartz/Gottman

How often do you hug your children?

We all live busy, stressful lives and have endless concerns as parents, but it is clear that one of the most important things we need to do is to stop and give our kids a big loving squeeze. Research over the past decade highlights the link between affection in childhood and health and happiness in the future.

According to Child Trends – the leading nonprofit research organization in the United States focused on improving the lives and prospects of children, youth, and their families – science supports the idea that warmth and affection expressed by parents to their children results in life-long positive outcomes for those children.

Higher self-esteem, improved academic performance, better parent-child communication, and fewer psychological and behavior problems have been linked to this type of affection. On the other hand, children who do not have affectionate parents tend to have lower sself-esteemand to feel more alienated, hostile, aggressive, and anti-social.

There have been a number of recent studies that highlight the relationship between parental affection and children’s happiness and success.

In 2010, researchers at Duke University Medical School found that babies with very affectionate and attentive mothers grow up to be happier, more resilient, and less anxious adults. The study involved about 500 people who were followed from when they were infants until they were in their 30s. When the babies were eight months old, psychologists observed their mothers’ interactions with them as they took several developmental tests.

The psychologists rated the mother’s affection and attention level on a five-point scale ranging from “negative” to “extravagant.” Nearly 10 percent of the mothers showed low levels of affection, 85 percent demonstrated a normal amount of affection, and about six percent showed high levels of affection.

Then 30 years later, those same individuals were interviewed about their emotional health. The adults whose mothers showed “extravagant” or “caressing” affection were much less likely than the others to feel stressed and anxious. They were also less likely to report hostility, distressing social interactions, and psychosomatic symptoms.

The researchers involved in this study concluded that the hormone oxytocin may be responsible for this effect. Oxytocin is a chemical in the brain released during times when a person feels love and connection. It has been shown to help parents bond with their children, adding a sense of trust and support between them. This bond most likely helps our brain produce and use oxytocin, causing a child to feel more positive emotions.

Next, a 2013 study from UCLA found that unconditional love and affection from a parent can make children emotionally happier and less anxious. This happens because their brain actually changes as a result of the affection. On the other hand, the negative impact of childhood abuse and lack of affection impacts children both mentally and physically. This can lead to all kinds of health and emotional problems throughout their lives. What’s really fascinating is that scientists think parental affection can actually protect individuals against the harmful effects of childhood stress.

Then in 2015, a study out of the University of Notre Dame showed that children who receive affection from their parents were happier as adults. More than 600 adults were surveyed about how they were raised, including how much physical affection they had. The adults who reported receiving more affection in childhood displayed less depression and anxiety and were more compassionate overall. Those who reported less affection struggled with mental health, tended to be more upset in social situations, and were less able to relate to other people’s perspectives.

Researchers have also studied the benefits of skin-to-skin contact for infants. This special interaction between mother and baby, in particular, helps calm babies so they cry less and sleep more. It has also been shown to boost brain development. According to an article in Scientific American, children who lived in a deprived environment like an orphanage had higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol than those who lived with their parents. Scientists believe that the lack of physical contact in the orphanages is a major factor in these physical changes.

Finally, numerous studies on the effects of massage show the positive benefits it offers to reduce anxiety in children. Massage is also a good way for parents to connect to their children, both physically and emotionally. Starting in infancy, a parent can begin to massage their child, which can create a strong bond. Studies have shown children and adults who receive massage experience less anxiety during academic stress, hospital stays, and other stressful events.
So, how can you bring more hugs into your family’s day?

From the moment you bring your baby home from the hospital, be sure to hold, touch, and rock them in your arms. Spend many precious moments caressing your baby so that their skin can touch your skin.

As they get older, be playful by doing fun activities like dancing together or creating silly games like pretending to be a hugging or kissing monster.

Set a reminder to make sure hugging is part of your daily routine. In the recent Trolls movie, the Trolls wore watches with alarm clocks that would go off every hour for hug time. If that’s what it takes, then set yourself an alarm. Or make sure to give your kids a hug during certain times of the day, such as before they leave for school, when they get home from school, and before bedtime.

Another interesting idea is to use affection while disciplining your child. As you talk to them about what they did wrong, put your hand on their shoulder and give them a hug at the end of the conversation to ensure them that, even if you are not pleased with their behavior, you still love them. If your children hit their sister or brother, hug them and explain how hugging feels better than hitting.

Finally, be careful not to go overboard and smother your kids. Respect their individual comfort level, and be aware that this will change as they go through different stages.

10 Ways Parents Embarrass Their Teens

SOURCE:  Hayley DiMarco/Family Life Ministry

How to prove to your kids that you’re not weird.

It’s sad but true—most of us will embarrass our kids at some point in our lives. Some relationships will be unaffected, as many teens just shrug off the goofy things parents do, but others will suffer because of your teen’s fear of what you’ll do next, and that’s what’s really at issue here.

If you fit into any of the following categories, please give these ideas some thought. You might want to consider some lifestyle improvements, teen style.

1. Yelling at them in public. If I were going to suggest you change any one thing you’re doing, I’d suggest you change this one. When you yell at your teenager in public, you do a great deal to damage their young hearts and minds. Your goal, I assume, is to raise a confident, successful person, and yelling at them and belittling them in public is a surefire way to create a weak, depressed, and dysfunctional adult.

You usually yell because you feel powerless, and that shows your teenager that you are out of control. So maintain your composure. If you feel like you’re going to explode, you should excuse yourself, take a break, and talk to them when you are more in control.

2. Dressing less than fashionably. This is a hard one. You’re busy; you don’t have time to keep up with all the fashions and shop till you drop. I understand, but if you are still wearing clothes you bought more than 10 years ago, you might just be causing your fashion-conscious teen to blush. It’s true that we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, and judging appearances is so superficial, but it’s how we think as human beings. Whether you realize it or not, how you dress tells people how you want them to think of you.

3. Trying to be “cool.” A lot of parents hate the fact that they are getting older, and in order to forget it or to hide it, they act like teenagers themselves. Or at least they try. Now, there’s nothing wrong with having a really cool mom or dad. But that means a parent who isn’t embarrassing and who is kind, friendly, non-invasive, and loving. It doesn’t mean a parent who dresses and talks like they’re still 22.

If you find yourself trying to entertain your kid’s friends or spending every weekend with the gang, then perhaps you’re trying too hard to be the kid and not the parent.

4. Being too loud and drawing attention to yourself and them. This is often closely related to wanting to be “cool.” Loud parents are an embarrassment because they are trying to draw all of the attention to themselves. This makes the child feel like they are being either upstaged or humiliated. When you draw attention to yourself by being loud, you are really saying to your child and the world, “It’s all about me! What about me? I need some attention.”

5. Being too affectionate in public. Adolescence is the time when kids are exploring the world. They are learning how to function as individuals, and when you are overly affectionate, you make them feel, and look to their friends, like a little baby. For teens who are learning to grow up and fend for themselves, this is a huge embarrassment. So save the affection for the privacy of your home, and help them make the giant step into adulthood by giving them their space in public.

6. Treating them like a little kid in front of their friends. When your child was a baby, you would wipe their face because they couldn’t do it themselves. But when you do that and other babying-type things now, you make them feel like they aren’t big enough to care for themselves. And as I’ve been saying, this is the time in your child’s life when they need to practice leaving the nest and flying solo. If they can’t take care of themselves now, then how will they ever do it when they are truly out on their own? So control yourself. Resist the urge to treat them like they are a kid in front of their friends.

7. Grilling their girlfriend or boyfriend—This one is totally understandable. When your teenager has a date, it’s good for you to know who they are dating. I don’t want to tell you not to do this, but it can really embarrass your teenager. Frankly, I think it’s something they’re just going to have to learn to live with, although there might be ways of doing it that are, say, more sympathetic than other ways.

8. Saying something stupid in front of their friends. This one is almost unavoidable … at least I know it is for me! Sometimes you’re going to put your foot in your mouth, no matter who you’re with. Just do your best not to be too unguarded with your word selection in front of the friends.

9. Drinking too much or doing drugs. This one seems obvious to most, but some parents feel like they have a right to keep on doing the things they’ve always done, including mood-altering substances. If this is you, I encourage you to get help. If you want successful teens, then consider the fact that if you continue to abuse drugs or alcohol, you will more than likely soon be estranged from your teen, who is at great risk of taking on the same behavior as you.

10. Not taking care of your body. No one said parenting was easy, so why would you be shocked that it might also include taking better care of yourself? Giving your child the gift of your health is priceless. If your body draws attention to your teenager, then I can almost guarantee you that they are embarrassed. Teens desperately hope to avoid situations that will make them look odd, and that includes having an odd parent.

Don’t Let Your Kids Get Away With Lying

SOURCE:  Scott Williams

 Lying, no matter how small, is a big deal.
If our children are going to develop the discipline to always embrace the truth, it will be with our help.

There have always been two schools of thought about the relationship between children and wrongdoing:

  • The “blank slate” argument holds that children are amoral at birth and are wholly shaped by their environment and by significant people in their lives
  • The “inherent sin” argument holds that children are born sinful and don’t need any corrupting influences to do wrong, just the opportunity.

I have always held to the latter argument (especially now that I have watched our seven children grow up). But in an article in New York magazine titled “Learning to Lie,” author Po Bronson has made me do some thinking. My position hasn’t changed, mind you, just become better informed. Here it is: We’re all born liars, and the more practice we have, the better we are at it.

Summarizing several studies, Bronson reported these observations:

  • Despite what many popular books advise, children don’t grow out of lying, they grow into it.
  • Lying is related to intelligence: Smarter kids make better liars.
  • Ninety-eight percent of teens believe lying is wrong, but the same percent admit lying to their parents.
  • When teens argue with parents about their wishes, it’s often a positive alternative (relatively speaking) to the frequent first choice—just going behind their parents’ backs.
  • Knowing that there are consequences motivates children not to lie less, but to not get caught.
  • An appeal to honesty is far more effective than the threat of punishment in getting children not to lie.

The whole article is fascinating. To me, the most eye-opening part of the story involved a study where subjects were asked to admit the biggest lie they ever told.

“I was fully expecting serious lies,” [researcher Bella] DePaulo remarks. “Stories of affairs kept from spouses, stories of squandering money, or being a salesperson and screwing money out of car buyers.”

And she did hear those kinds of whoppers, including theft and even one murder. But to her surprise, a lot of the stories told were about when the subject was a mere child—and they were not, at first glance, lies of any great consequence. “One told of eating the icing off a cake, then telling her parents the cake came that way. Another told of stealing some coins from a sibling.” As these stories first started trickling in, DePaulo scoffed, thinking, “C’mon, that’s the worst lie you’ve ever told?” But the stories of childhood kept coming, and DePaulo had to create a category in her analysis just for them. “I had to reframe my understanding to consider what it must have been like as a child to have told this lie,” she recalls. “For young kids, their lie challenged their self-concept that they were a good child, and that they did the right thing.”

Many subjects commented on how that momentous lie early in life established a pattern that affected them thereafter. “We had some who said, ‘I told this lie, I got caught, and I felt so badly, I vowed to never do it again.’ Others said, ‘Wow, I never realized I’d be so good at deceiving my father, I can do this all the time.’ The lies they tell early on are meaningful. The way parents react can really affect lying.”

The takeaway here is that lying, no matter how small, is a big deal. Think about it. Lying requires, first, a recognition of the truth. Faced with the prospect of not looking good against the truth, a child or adult then has to devise an alternative, usually opposite, version of the truth. Even before the lie is told, there has already been a conscious decision to reject the truth.

Parents play an important role in helping their children not to get trapped in this pattern. Here are some of the best things you can do as parents to steer your children away from lying.

Be an example. They need you to be the examples of telling the truth, and that includes avoiding white lies and socially polite (but disingenuous) remarks designed to evade conflict. Children are in a constant process of learning what is true, appropriate, and helpful in how they interact positively with others.

Lying, unfortunately, is a fact of life in a sin-crusted world. We need to be honest with ourselves and with our children. We are all tempted to lie, and each of us fails the truth test more than we care to admit. If our children are going to develop the discipline to always embrace the truth, it will be with our help. Make truth the norm in your home.

Emphasize relationship. Bronson’s article and other social research reveal that the children who lie the least are those who have a warm relationship with their parents and who have open lines of communication with them. Conversely, the children most likely to lie are those who are regularly confronted by their parents over minor offenses—like leaving a mess in the family room or forgetting to follow through on a responsibility. Rather than pointing out the wrong in these situations, simply reminding the child of the right thing to do is more likely to prevent the child from repeating the offense the next time the opportunity presents itself.

It’s important to realize that one of the reasons children lie to their parents is because they want to please them. Many times, kids fear that if they tell the truth, their parents will think less of them or not love them. Therefore, make it easier for your children to tell the truth. Acknowledge when they do make the difficult decision to tell the truth in spite of consequences. Assure them of your unconditional love, and tell them that one of the things that makes you happy is when they tell the truth.

Show them the big picture. The Apostle John reflected the heart of God when he said, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth” (3 John 1:4). In Scripture, the word “truth” is repeatedly used as an essential characteristic of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. In contrast, Satan is referred to as the “father of lies” and “the deceiver.” Most important for us to teach our children is that lying is a poor reflection of God, who created each of us in His image and who loves us in spite of our sin.

We do this by being honest and open ourselves. We need to constantly remind our children that lying is not as much deceiving others as it is being deceived ourselves. Satan is the father of lies, but God is the Author of truth. Living uprightly before God means never having to be afraid of the truth. And we can assure them that God’s forgiveness (as well as ours) in the face of sin is always there when they are willing to admit when they have fallen short of the truth.

Living in the light

“Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another,” the Apostle Paul told the believers at Ephesus (Ephesians 4:25).

Children need your loving reminder that lying undermines their reputation. But even worse, it harms a relationship. Truth is at the heart of every good relationship. Help your children understand that honesty builds those relationships, but deception undermines them. And just as we become better liars the more practice we have, we develop stronger relationships with others and with God the more we practice living in the light of truth.

Dealing with a Difficult Ex-Spouse: 10 Tips to Help You Cope

SOURCE:  Ron Deal, LMFT, LPC

Wouldn’t it be nice if adults could remember that parenting is not about them, and that it is about the children?  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the pain of the broken personal relationships of the past could be kept separate from the practical parental concerns of the present.  Wouldn’t it be nice…

Yes, it would.  But sometimes people aren’t nice.

Dealing with a difficult ex-spouse can be very discouraging and defeating.  Yet, we are called to continue trying to pursue good, to “turn the other cheek”, and “walk the extra mile.”  Hopefully, the following tips can aid you in your efforts to cope—because it’s all about the children.

 

1.      Be sure to notice your own part of the ongoing conflict.  Christian ex-spouses, for example, often feel justified in their anger toward their irresponsible ex-spouse.  It’s easy, then, to also feel justified in your efforts to change them in whatever ways you feel are morally or practically necessary.  Unfortunately, this sense of “rightness” often blinds good-hearted Christians from seeing just how their own behavior contributes to the ongoing cycle of conflict.  Any time you try to change a difficult ex-spouse—even if for understandable moral reasons—you inadvertently invite hostility or a lack of cooperation in return.  Learn to let go of what you can’t change so you don’t unknowingly keep the between home power struggles alive.

2.      Stepparents should communicate a “non-threatening posture” to the same-gender ex-spouse.  An ex-wife, for example, may continue negativity because she is threatened by the presence of the new stepmother.  It is helpful if the stepmother will communicate the following either by phone or email: “I just want you to know that I value your role with your children and I will never try to replace you.  You are their mother and I’m not.  I will support your decisions with the children, have them to your house on time, and never talk badly about you to the children.  You have my word on that.”  This helps to alleviate the need of the biological mother to bad-mouth the stepparent or the new marriage in order to keep her children’s loyalties.

3.      Keep your “business meetings” impersonal to avoid excessive conflict.  Face-to-face interaction has the most potential for conflict.  Use the phone when possible or even talk to their answering machine if personal communication erupts into arguments.  Use email or faxes when possible.  Keep children from being exposed to negative interaction when it’s within your power.

4.      Use a script to help you through negotiations.  This strategy has helped thousands of parents.  Before making a phone call, take the time to write out your thoughts including what you’ll say and not say.  Also, anticipate what the other might say that will hurt or anger you.  Stick to the business at hand and don’t get hooked into old arguments that won’t be solved with another fight.  (For more on how to do this, see the “Be Prepared by Borrowing a Script and Sticking to It” section of the free Common Steps for Co-Parents e-booklet.)

5.      Whenever possible, agree with some aspect of what you ex-spouse is suggesting.  This good business principle applies in parenting as well.  Even if you disagree with the main point, find some common ground.

6.      Manage conversations by staying on matters of parenting.  It is common for the conversations of “angry associate” co-parents to gravitate back toward negative personal matters of the past.  Actively work to keep conversations focused on the children.  If the conversation digresses to “old marital junk,” say something like, “I’d rather we discuss the schedule for this weekend.  Where would you like to meet?”   If the other continues to shift the conversation back to hurtful matters assertively say, “I’m sorry.  I’m not interested in discussing us again.  Let’s try this again later when we can focus on the weekend schedule.”  Then, politely hang up the phone or walk away.  Come back later and try again to stay on the parenting subject at hand.

7.      When children have confusing or angry feelings toward your ex, don’t capitalize on their hurt and berate the other parent.  Listen and help them explore their hurt feelings.  If you can’t make positive statements about the other parent, strive for neutral ones.  Let God’s statutes offer any necessary indictments on a parent’s behavior.

8.      Remember that for children, choosing sides stinks!   Children don’t want to compare their parents or choose one over the other.  They simply want your permission to love each of you.  This is especially important when the two of you can’t get along.

9.      Wrestle with forgiveness.  Hurt feelings from the past are the number one reason your ex—and you—overreact with one another.  Do your part by striving to forgive them for the offenses of the past (and present).  This will help you manage your emotions when dealing with them in the present.

10. Work hard to respect the other parent and his or her household.  For your kid’s sake, find ways of being respectable even if you honestly can’t respect your ex-spouses lifestyle or choices.  Do not personally criticize them, but don’t make excuses for their behavior either.

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Ron L. Deal is the author The Smart Stepfamily: Seven Steps to a Healthy Family and President of www.SmartStepfamilies.com.  He is a licensed marriage and family therapist and licensed professional counselor who specializes in stepfamily education and therapy.  He presents conferences around the country and equips churches to minister to stepfamilies.

Adultery: Where Dead Men Lie — Letter to a Would-Be Adulterer

Source:  Greg Morse/Desiring God

Dear Husband,

If you value your life, if you cherish your manliness and honor, if you love your family and your God, listen to his voice. As she whispers in your ear, as her lips yield the sweetest honey, as her speech soothes and excites, listen to his words instead. Drown her lies in wisdom.

She entices, “Come, let us take our fill of love till morning; let us delight ourselves with love” (Proverbs 7:18). She says that she can satisfy your longings. She says that no one will know. She makes you feel desired, dominant. She crowns you a king.

And she can provide some of the promised pleasure — for a time.

But mark these three words: in the end.

In the end she is bitter as wormwood.” In the end she is “sharp as a two-edged sword” (Proverbs 5:4). In the end it would have been better to sleep every night embracing a Japanese Katana or a motion sensor grenade.

In the end you will realize that what you mistook as harmless pleasure, as “true love,” as the path to lifelong satisfaction, was the coffin where your reputation, your honor, your family’s flourishing and trust and — if unrepentant — your very soul goes to die. Her chamber of secrets is a chamber of death (Proverbs 7:25–27). Her bed is a graveyard where dead men lie.

Suicide of the Senseless

She will never lead to life (Proverbs 5:5). She does not even know where to find it (Proverbs 5:6). She gives no thought to Christ, to everlasting joy, to the narrow way. If you follow her, you go as an ox to the slaughter. You will end life with an arrow protruding from your liver (Proverbs 7:22–23).

If we could exhume the tongues of her dead victims, they would warn you, as that anguished rich man in torment, to avoid their fate (Luke 16:19–31). She lied in wait for each (Proverbs 7:12), seized upon their lust with kisses, and ferried them into Sheol.

The dead would cry, Adultery is the suicide of those who lack sense (Proverbs 6:32). None who touches her will go unpunished! (Proverbs 6:29).

Place your head on her pillow, and you write your name on a headstone.

Stay Far Away

And now, O husband, listen to me! Keep your way far from her. Do not go near her bed or even near the door of her house (Proverbs 5:8). Don’t fool yourself: you’re not strong enough to harmlessly chat via email, text late at night, meet up for a friendly drink. Stay away! Can you embrace fire and not get scorched (Proverbs 6:27–28)?

In the end — oh, that dreadful end — you will realize that it was not ultimately her fault, but your own. You will groan for your lust, when your flesh and body are consumed. You will wail, “How I hated discipline, and my heart despised reproof! I did not listen to wisdom’s voice! I did not heed my best friend’s warning! I slowly muted my conscience and cast God’s word aside in my madness. And now I am at the brink of utter ruin in the rubble of a broken existence” (see Proverbs 5:11–14).

In life, you will be a shell of a man, a skeleton. The jagged pieces of shattered hearts will be your bed. If you have any conscience left, it will become an enemy. Old relations will cringe at your name. You will be a man worthy of contempt and dishonor (Proverbs 6:33).

And in death, if you have not been washed and made new in the blood of Christ, you will not enter the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9). You will forever be the adulterer. A man who, by living for himself, lit his family on fire. A man who, in the end, will himself be lit with an everlasting flame.

Your Wife, Your Choicest Wine

Rather, “drink water from your own cistern, flowing water from your own well” (Proverbs 5:15). Rekindle the passion that carried her across the threshold.

Drink deeply from her springs to refresh your love. Has your love proven feeble? Have grand promises now hushed into a whimper? Gird up the loins of your affection and play the man! You who would wrestle every challenge to the ground, and die in battle before conceding, will you now fall to fluttering eyelids? No. Rejoice in the wife of your youth!

She is a lovely deer, a graceful doe (Proverbs 5:18–19). Look at her — she sits with a thousand more reasons to love her than when you vowed to forsake all others for her. Rejoice in her! She still is that doe, that deer. Do not trade the doe for the skunk.

“Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight” (Proverbs 5:19). This includes the first time you brought her into the bedroom, the second time she bore your child, and the anniversary where you celebrated your third decade of marriage together. At all times. Be intoxicated always in her love (Proverbs 5:19). Get drunk in her passion, be inebriated with her smile, let the room spin as she walks in. She is your choicest wine.

Choose Life

Be not intoxicated with the forbidden woman.

Why? Because all your ways — no matter how dimly lit the hotel room — are before the eyes of the Lord (Proverbs 5:21). Your wife may be away, but your Lord is not. The Judge of all the earth watches. He is there with you. And there will be a reckoning for the heinous deed — either at Calvary or in the lake of fire.

He invites you even now to choose life, choose peace, choose obedience.

Be not intoxicated with the forbidden woman.

Why? Because the iniquities of the wicked ensnare the man who is, and he is held fast in the cords of his sin (Proverbs 5:22). You will get caught in your own web. Your family will be torn. Your name will be tarnished. And you will be bound by your own mischief.

Even the mighty Samson could not break such chains.

Be not intoxicated with the forbidden woman.

Why? Because you will die for lack of discipline (Proverbs 5:25). God will not be mocked. Because of your lack of discipline, your lack of earnest limb-cutting, lack of genuine repentance and faith, you will be led away into hell (Matthew 5:27–30).

Dear husband, forsake not your precious wife. Forsake not your honor and manliness. Forsake not your witness. Forsake not your God. Let Christ’s fidelity and love win your heart afresh to your wife. Be intoxicated with your bride. And with our Groom.

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