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Divorce

Advice On Dealing With Multiple Changes In Life—Including A Recent Divorce

Dear Dr. Bill,

I’ve read that men can make a move for a job and find it exciting, while women tend to view this kind of change as unsettling and scary.  My personal experience supports this, as I’ve been going through one of the most stressful times of my life — because of a divorce, a move, and a new job.

Many of my friends don’t understand why I’m not “excited” about these new changes and opportunities.  They can’t believe that I’m feeling depressed and experiencing anxiety right now.  What should I do?

–Laura

Dear Laura,

Given the significant changes in your life, it’s not unusual that you’d be feeling somewhat depressed and anxious.

Research has shown that going through a divorce is one of the most stressful life events in a person’s life.  Add to that the stress of a new job, and it’s no wonder you’re struggling.

If your friends are unable to offer you encouragement and support in the face of these changes, perhaps you need to find some new friends.

The bible tells us a lot about what healthy relationships should look like.  We thrive best when we surround ourselves with people who will accept our faults, encourage us, pray for us, and are willing to bear our burdens.

If you’re not involved in a local church, find one.  I’d also recommend that you read the book “Safe People,” by psychologists Henry Cloud and John Townsend.

It will teach you how to find relationships that are good for you and to become the sort of person that God wants you to be.  It will also help you identify the characteristics of a healthy church, where you can find the support and encouragement you need.

Thanks for writing, Laura.  If you have a question for me about family issues or Christian living, click the “Questions” tab on the Family Expert page.

Listen to today’s audio here.

 
Blended Family

Help—Our Blended Family Is Falling Apart!

Dear Dr. Bill,

I am the father of 4 boys, ranging in age from 21 months to 13 years.  All are my biological children, but the eldest two came from my first marriage.  At first, my 2nd wife seemed to accept these older boys as her own, and treated all four of our sons equally.  But over time that has changed, and I often find her attitude overbearing and overcritical — especially with the older boys.

She demands that I back her form of discipline, but that’s hard to do when I think my kids are being treated unfairly.  Every day it seems our household is in conflict.  And if something doesn’t change soon, I fear my family will fragment to the point that I’ll have to choose between my older boys and my wife.  What do you think I should do?

–Andy

Dear Andy,

Unfortunately what you’re describing is fairly common in blended families.   Many step-families deal with divided loyalties and conflicts over disciplinary issues.  It’s natural for a biological parent to feel protective of their offspring when they feel that their new spouse is being unreasonable or harsh.

Unfortunately, it sounds like things have reached the breaking point in your family.   You and your wife should seek professional help from a therapist who is skilled in working with stepfamilies.  Your kids are already facing challenges in life because of your first divorce—the last thing you want to do is subject them to another fractured relationship.

One of the goals in therapy will be to strengthen the relationship between you and your wife, as that is obviously suffering.  Your counselor will assist you to get your “couple” relationship back on track, and show you how to clarify all the many roles and expectations in your blended family of six.

Also, let me recommend an excellent book that will provide you with some practical help immediately.  It’s called “The Smart Stepfamily,” and is written by my friend Ron Deal, a family therapist and step-family expert.

Thanks for writing Andy.  If you have a question for me about family issues or Christian living, click the “Questions” link on the Family Expert page.

 
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Divorce Kids

The Impact Of Divorce On Teens

More and more American teens are experiencing divorce in their family.

According to a new report that appeared in the Chicago Tribune, more than half of all 17-year-olds now live in homes that have suffered from divorce or separation.

Dr. Elizabeth Marquardt is a professor at the Marriage & Religion Research Institute at Lake Forest College.

She points out that while some of these kids still live in a household with a mother and a father, just 45% live with their biological mom and dad.

Children who come from broken homes are statistically less likely to graduate from high school, more likely to suffer from depression as adults, and more likely to have their own children out of wedlock.

In addition, a new analysis of the divorce research shows that it negatively impacts a person’s religious faith.  Children raised in families where their parents remain happily married are twice as likely to attend worship at a church than those whose parents divorce.

Dr. Marquardt says “Children of divorce are on the leading edge of the well-documented spiritual-but-not-religious movement.”

I did a report on that cultural trend a few weeks ago, and mentioned that people who identify as “spiritual but not religious” are more likely to experience symptoms of mental illness and abuse drugs and alcohol.

So how should we respond to news like this?  If you know a teen who has experienced divorce, consider if God may be calling you reach out to them as a friend or mentor.

To read more about the new findings on divorce, go to ChicagoTribune.com and enter “divorce research” in the search engine.

I’m Bill Maier for Shine.FM

 
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Reconciliation

Reconciliation

Dear Dr. Bill,

My ex-husband and I were divorced several years ago because he was not committed to spending time with our son.  He was not a Christian at the time.  But since then, he found the Lord and has changed dramatically.  As a result, we are thinking about getting remarried.  We both feel like our past issues have been sorted out, but we’re a little unsure of how long we should wait before making this new commitment.  What do you suggest?

–Lexi

Dear Lexi,

First of all, let me tell you how encouraged I was to read your e-mail.  In a day when divorce is so rampant and reconciliation is so rare, it was truly a blessing to hear your story.

Regarding your question, it’s hard to give you a specific timeline for remarriage.  You say that your “past issues have been sorted out,” but other than the parenting problem, I’m wondering what other issues you’ve worked through.

Also, you mention that your husband has dramatically changed since his conversion, but you’re a bit unsure about remarriage.  That leads me to believe you may still have some lingering concerns.

Jesus tells us that a “good tree produces good fruit.”  Given your past, it’s important to see the “good fruit” of your husband’s conversion manifested over time before you jump back into marriage.  Your son has already been impacted by your divorce, and you certainly don’t want to make matters worse by remarrying and then splitting up again if things don’t work out.

My advice would be to meet with a family therapist who can help you determine the best course of action.  He or she can help you fully explore whether you are truly ready for remarriage.

Thanks for writing Lexi.  If you have a question for me about family issues or Christian living, click the “Questions” tab on the Family Expert page.

 
 for the audio version of this article.

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Grandmother Asks For Advice About Her Grandson

Dear Dr. Bill,

My son and his wife have been separated for 3 years.  They have joint-custody of their 4-year-old son and I help care for my grandson when he’s with my son.

But now conflict has erupted between me and my former daughter-in-law.  That’s because whenever my grandson visits me, he resists going back home to his mother.  He kicks and screams, and tries to run away with his arms outstretched for me.

I’ve been accused of treating the boy like a king and being lax with discipline.  His grandfather and I do give him a lot of attention — playing games and taking him fishing.  But I can’t imagine why he doesn’t want to return home to his mom.  What should I do?

–Linda

[divider]

Dear Linda,

Since many divorces involve a great deal of animosity between the ex-spouses, and that anger can spill over into relationships with grandparents.

I’d sit down with your former daughter-in-law and discuss the situation.  Tell her that you know it’s been difficult for her, and that you never intended to do anything that would interfere with her relationship with her son.

Also, ask yourself if she may have a point.  Do you give in to your grandson when he tantrums or demands his way, or do you set appropriate limits on his behavior?  If you allow him to always get his way when he’s with you, you are definitely making his mother’s job harder.

That being said, I’m concerned about the way he violently protests when returning home.  Could there be a possibility that he is being abused or neglected?

If your daughter-in-law is parenting appropriately and your grandson is acting out simply because he doesn’t want to leave grandma and grandpa’s “fun house,” you’ll need to work together to find a compromise.

Thanks for writing Linda.  If you have a question for me about family issues or Christian living, just click the “Questions” link on the Family Expert page.

CLICK HERE for the Audio Version of this post.

A Mom Facing Divorce Struggles with Some Tough Choices

Dear Dr. Bill,

In the middle of marital struggles with my husband, we became pregnant. Despite this, my husband announced that he wants a divorce. Since I am originally from Europe, I’m considering a move back home rather than staying in this country where I have friends but no family. But I wonder if this is the best decision for my child.

–Heide


Dear Heide,

My heart goes out to you in this very difficult situation. But I would encourage you not to give up hope. Because you are under such a great deal of stress, now is not the time to making major decisions. Give yourself some time and space to think through all of the alternatives available to you.

The research on divorce shows that if couples will slow down the process and seek outside professional help, many marriages can be saved. Although it may feel to you or your husband that divorce is the only option, in reality it’s not.

The fact is that children do better on every measure of well-being if they grow up in a home with a married mother and father. Even if a marriage is less than perfect, staying together is always better for your kids than getting a divorce.

If your husband has no desire to reconcile but is willing to take an active role in your child’s life, I would encourage not to you not to move back to Europe. Fatherlessness has profoundly negative impacts on children, and your son needs his dad.

On the other hand, your husband refuses to take responsibility for parenting his son, moving back to Europe to live with your extended family may be the best option. A loving grandfather or uncle can’t replace your son’s father, but they can certainly give him the male attention and affirmation he so desperately needs.

Thanks for writing Heide. If you have a question for me about family issues or Christian living, click the “Questions” link on the Family Expert page.

CLICK HERE for the audio version of this post.

Disciplining & Parenting Amidst A Divorce

Dear Dr. Bill,

My son is 4-years-old and I have him approximately 5 months out of the year due to a divorce.  My biggest struggle is getting him to follow the rules. He can be very stubborn and defiant, and I respond with either a timeout or spanking if he refuses to obey. But here’s the problem — his mother is extremely passive and when he’s with her, she doesn’t enforce anything.

So far I’ve been unable to get my ex-wife to understand why we need a consistent set of rules and discipline for our son. What should I do?

–Tim


Dear Tim,

You wouldn’t believe the number of divorced parents who have contacted me about this issue. It is a true dilemma, and unfortunately there are no easy answers.

Your first strategy should be to try again to discuss this issue with your ex-wife in a kind but assertive way. DON’T try to talk to her about this in the midst of conflict or in front of your son.

Approach her gently and tell her you know how much she loves your son and that you’re sure she wants the best for him. But let her know that you are concerned about his behavior and that you feel it’s critical for both of you to be on the same page when it comes to discipline and parenting style.

Rather than insisting that your way is the right way, ask her if she would be willing to find a structured parenting program that you both can agree on, and then go through the program either together (or separately, if you live in different cities).

If you make it clear that your motivation is the best interest of your son, not proving that you’re the better parent, she may be open to this. If she denies there’s a problem, chances are she’ll receive a very clear message about his behavior when he enters pre-school or kindergarten. Hopefully at that point she’ll be more open to making changes.

Thanks for writing Tim! If you have a question for me about family issues or Christian living, click the “Questions” tab on the Family Expert page.

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