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divorce

Blog, Featured Posts, Healing, Marriage

Our Family Secret

September 16, 2014

trust God

When we walk through dark or difficult places, there are always lessons to be learned. By the time we get to the other side of a trial, we have keen insights. Occasionally, we’ll be pulling from those insights, asking the question: What would you have done differently if given the chance? Today, we’re looking at how to do deal with your “family secret.” Steve and Amy’s teenage daughter was diagnosed with ADHD, OCD, Tourette’s, clinical depression, and suicidal tendencies. She attended an “alternative school” before dropping out and spent many nights and most weekends trying to find pain pills or something else to numb her reality. Life was a struggle for her and many days she felt like it wasn’t worth it. Her constant struggles impacted every aspect of the family. And while their situation may be unique, the challenges and lessons to be learned are not. I asked how they responded to the downward spiral their daughter was caught in. Here are some of the struggles that stood out:

Consumed with fear-

Would she kill herself?

Would she get pregnant?

What did they do wrong?

How could they help her and limit her damage on the rest of the family?

What was going on that they didn’t know?

Why couldn’t they help her?

What were legitimate fears and which one’s were completely irrational? Such questions and a constant barrage of “what if” scenarios plagued them.

Isolation-

They felt like people would judge them and their misguided attempts at help would only produce more pain. And the only real way to keep people from knowing what was going on was to withdraw from real relationships.

Grasping for Control-

When you feel like you’re losing control, your immediate reaction is to grasp for control, over whatever you can. They tried to control her, each other, and every aspect of their lives that would offer some much needed stability.

Failure and Despair-

They struggled with a deep sense of despair and personal failure. How could this not be their fault? They felt extremely helpless and couldn’t find a way out of the tailspin. Their struggles spiraled into every area of their lives.

Divorce Contemplation-

Normally, when one spouse is struggling, the other is able to compensate. But they were both languishing and were taking out their frustration on each other. Every small crack in their marriage was stressed almost to the breaking point.

Looking back, here’s what they say they’d do differently:

Humble themselves and reach out quicker for help-

Their main regret was their isolation from others. Amy said repeatedly, “It would have been worth the risk.” 

 Allow God to truly be Savior, Lord, and Healer-

They needed God’s healing but they were too caught up in their own pain and problem solving efforts to open their hearts to His love.

Simplify their life-

“Between everything going on with our daughter, and our individual jobs and evening activities that kept us apart 3 or 4 nights a week, our lives were on separate tracks and we weren’t deliberate about being a family.”

Release outcomes to God-

Guilt doesn’t change the past and worry doesn’t change the future.

Steve said, “I wish I had learned how to release outcomes after doing all I could do. We needed to trust her to God and remember that ultimately, God was sovereign.”

Go on a marriage retreat when they hit the wall of despair-

“We both expected our marriage to end in divorce and kept sliding further and further in a downward spiral. Neither of us knew how to get out of it yet we didn’t stop life to address it. It’s crazy to say this, but I’m not sure it felt worth it at the time. Fortunately, we pressed through, but we would have saved ourselves a lot of heartache by setting everything aside and focusing on healing our marriage.”

The plans of the enemy are not new. Isolation is the ultimate tactic. Just like the “roaring lion seeking whom he may devour” spoken of in Scripture, we become so much more vulnerable when we are broken off from the herd, so to speak. Reaching out to God and to others is vital during crisis.

Have you been through a similar situation? Have you found healing in your marriage or family? What did you learn? What would do differently?

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Featured Posts, Parenting

Parenting Post-Divorce

March 17, 2014

Parents swear, and children suffer 2

Divorce is not a single change, it’s a series of changes that parents need to guide their children through. Divorce is second only to death in the degree of stress it creates and the time required to adjust to it. Parents face a myriad of issues when it comes to co-parenting and often struggle to find a peaceful dynamic between the two homes.

Here are some proven strategies described in Putting Children First that can help children deal with the changes that a divorce sets in motion…

1- Put children first

Co-parenting is a conscious choice, made every day, where you must continually keep your child’s best interest in mind. That sounds easier than it is–parents can quickly become overwhelmed by their own emotions and needs. One thing I hear from kids is, “I feel invisible.” It’s also easy to lose sight of the long-range view when it comes to the other parent. It may be terribly difficult but fostering a good relationship with the other parent is not a favor to them, it’s a lifelong gift to your children.

Kids want both parents. So, forgive the past, accept the new normal, pick your battles carefully, set aside your personal feelings and as far as it depends on you, live at peace with your ex.

2- Contain the conflict

It’s easy to justify involving kids in marital disputes. You can easily feel a need to “set the record straight,” but involving kids in your conflict has profound negative consequences on them. I often hear, “I know they both want me on their side.” Managing your emotions and not dragging kids into the conflict helps lower the stress they face.

3- Provide safety and nurture

Parents and kids see divorce differently at first–parents view security as two pillars that are separated but still intact while kids see it as an impenetrable wall that is breached. An important message to communicate to your children when you are in the midst of separation or divorce, is the reassurance that your love for them is the kind that will last forever. When kids feel safe and they anticipate your receptivity even if they know you might not like what they have to say, they will begin to really talk about how they feel.

4- Listen for meaning

Most kids know their parents are suffering and they often hide their true feelings. Emotions can be overwhelming and confusing and it’s often easier to bury them rather than express them. You have to find developmentally appropriate ways for your children to communicate their feelings where there’s no fear of rejection. Try to acknowledge their feelings, (“I know it’s hard to have different homes”), give them smooth transitions and chances to acclimate, show love through your eyes, and express genuine interest in their feelings.

5- Take good care of yourself

When kids see their parents taking good care of themselves, physically and emotionally, it conveys security and confidence that their needs will be met.

What about discipline strategies?

 “All feelings are ok, all behaviors are not ok.” Parents will need to help kids develop an emotional vocabulary to express their feelings, or the permission to draw them if they’re young. A 10-year-old once said, “It seems like the bad feelings have to come out first before the good ones can come in.” Parents will need to be attentive to what the behaviors are communicating and remember that behavior is a form of communication. The Latin root for the word discipline means, “to teach” rather than to punish. There may need to be consequences, but punitive steps aren’t always educational.

How to create a “new normal” between two homes?

The best scenarios I see have these ingredients:

Consistency and simplicity—

Try to avoid two disconnected worlds, get together with a mediator or parenting coordinator if you need help to develop similar expectations in each home.

Adaptability and empathy–

It goes back to putting the child first.

There are many factors that make these decisions difficult, but when they’re consistenly applied, they will greatly help children deal with the changes that a divorce set into motion.

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