Learning How to Talk … Again

Words have the power to offer others around us love and security or bitterness and anxiety. Wounded people have a difficult time with relationships and communication. If we are honest, most of us are wounded. It has been said, “Hurt people hurt people” and it is likely that we respond to others as we have been taught from either experience or how we have been parented.

It takes time, determination, and re-training to break the cycle of how we relate to others. Around the age of two we learned the language spoken in our home. We may not have realized that the words we learned as a child represented many unspoken family rules. As an adult we expect others to know those same family rules and can be shocked when our “rules” are challenged. This results in judgment and assumptions based on irrational thinking which in turn impacts our relationships.

Each of us has been raised in a family of origin with specific rules of communication that have been passed down through generations. They may include ideas such as:

  • children should be seen and not heard
  • children are to obey adults without question
  • anger is bad
  • certain topics are off limits
  • do not cry
  • do not show emotion
  • don’t ask questions
  • don’t bother people

This transgenerational set of rules and styles of communication was likely passed to you by parents who were good people and trying their best. They did not realize they were also passing along their own unresolved conflicts. It is important to understand this as a starting place in therapy.

We can look at our past for insight and make choices to heal and break the transgenerational patterns of communication that have been unhealthy. We can also look at the good things that were communicated to us and see the kind, loving interactions which have sustained us and those we wish to keep promoting.

Why is so much of our past and childhood mentioned in a discussion on communication? Our core identity or personality is formed during childhood. Although we take on a false self in order to cope with our situations, our spoken words come out of our true self. If we are wounded, we will ultimately wound others. If we cannot see the worthiness in ourselves, we cannot communicate worthiness to others. If we cannot see beauty, we will reflect what we do see. We become the object of our focus. Through a process of discovery, we can experience the healing power of God’s love and learn to love others. Our words can become words of healing and we can be encouragers. Even if we have been shamed in the past, we can become a shame lifter for others.

Styles of communication can be analyzed through theories such as transactional analysis. In this model there are three ego states: parent, adult, and child. A healthy growing person is a mixture of all three with the adult ego state in the driver’s seat. Certain life circumstances may attempt to activate a response from the child or parent ego state. This response will almost certainly be a hurtful exchange. Once the individual understands why and how they are communicating, they are able to make changes without explicit directives at their own pace and impact their circle of family and friends.

Perhaps the best positive change we can implement immediately is to begin using “I statements” to improve communications. An I statement typically consists of few words: “I feel ______when you ______.” By starting with the word “I” rather than “You,” the possibility of a defensive response is diminished. “I feel ignored when you read right up till bedtime.”

This is a direct communication that is not as threatening as, “You always read the whole night!” The latter statement communicated anger and judgment. An expected response would be, “I do not!” The person who felt ignored could take the next step to say what they would like. “I would like it if you _______.” They might insert: play a game with me, take a walk with me, talk to me for awhile, read a chapter aloud to me.

An angry confrontation can be avoided by this type of direct communication. This does take practice and understanding yourself enough to know what you are feeling and what you want. Interestingly enough, many people start a conversation without understanding what they are actually feeling and what they want from their exchange.

Mind reading and making assumptions are culprits of many hurtful exchanges. Unkind words often come from not taking time to know the reality of the other person. Asking questions can avoid many conflictive conversations. Questions that are open ended are best and show we are really interested in their answer…if of course, we really listen.

Listening is another communication skill that takes practice. Sometimes listening is enough. The problem may not need to be fixed and the person may already know the solution, but they just need to verbally process the critical event. A simple, “OK, I see,” or “Is there anything I can do for you?” might be the best response. Listening might be the most important part of communication and the part we are most likely to mess up!

Learning how to talk in a new way is life changing. It may feel uncomfortable at first but it will get easier. Sometimes we have to make ourselves uncomfortable and do things that feel strangely different to make important discoveries. We need to think about what we really want to communicate instead of parroting phrases we have heard from others. At that point we will be revealing our true self and will be opening ourselves to intimacy on a level we have not experienced before.

Written by Rita Peterson

If you would like to meet with a Christian counselor to discuss how improved communications could help you enjoy the abundant life and relationships the Lord wants you to have, please call 972-960-9981 to make an appointment at CounselingWorks or fill out our contact form and one of our counseling coordinators will be in touch with you shortly.


man dealing with anger

8 Ways to Cope with Anger

Anger is simply not liking how things are or wishing a life situation was different. It is an emotional state that varies in intensity from mild irritation to intense fury or rage.

Anger causes your heart rate and blood pressure to go up and the body to produce more energy hormones like adrenaline and noradrenaline. Over a period of time anger can cause serious health problems.

Anger can either be a direct primary emotion (resulting from external events) or a secondary emotion (produced by internal events, how you perceive or think about events or the feelings you experience).

Anger is a natural, adaptive response to threats and is usually associated with aggression that makes the person experiencing it feel out of control. But people feeling anger do not have to be out of control emotionally and can choose how they deal with it. Anger can be expressed in an assertive, positive and constructive manner.

Coping with Anger: 8 Practical Suggestions

  1. Identify the reason(s) for your anger
  2. If there is something you can do to address or resolve the reason(s) for your anger, devise an action plan and follow through. If the situation is something that cannot be addressed or resolved, try reframing how you see the situation or become reconciled to it.

  3. Relax
  4. Take time out. Take deep breaths. Try counting to ten before making a decision or taking any action.

  5. Know your anger “triggers”
  6. Being aware of your pet peeves or what pushes your emotional buttons can be helpful. Try to avoid or to escape situations and people that you know can be troubling to you. If you can’t avoid or escape them, take a deep breath and try to stay calm.

  7. Go into a problem-solving mode
  8. Express your emotional energy created by the anger in a way that is positive and brings results favorable to everyone involved.

  9. Use good communications skills
  10. Be assertive, not aggressive in expressing your feelings. If one or both parties involved is experiencing extreme anger, delay communications until the emotions cool a bit. Anger can cause walls that block communications in a discussion.

  11. Use humor
  12. Don’t take yourself or the situation too seriously. Use humor that gets across your point without resorting to sarcasm or cynicism.

  13. Change your environment
  14. Separate yourself from the situation for a while to think over calmly and logically what steps you will take next.

  15. Don’t be afraid to ask for help

When anger starts negatively affecting your life and relationships, don’t be afraid to seek advice or help from others. Pray for wisdom and discernment in making decisions and taking action.

Written by Larry M. Barber, LPC-S, CT

To set an appointment and discuss with a Christian counselor how anger is hurting your life and relationships, call CounselingWorks at 972-960-9981 or fill out our contact form.

Spousal Abuse

Spousal abuse is a difficult behavior to define because it includes a set of symptoms that can involve both physical and emotional abuse. When it takes the form of emotional abuse, it is characterized by verbal ridicule or putdowns and patterns of neglect. Physical abuse involves the threat of physical violence and may include slapping, shoving, and deliberate physical assault.

Spousal abuse is a pattern of behavior that may be the result of a number of different factors. It may be a learned behavior that a child observes occurring between parents and later repeats in his or her adult relationships. Studies show that abusers are often motivated by feelings of powerlessness and insecurity. Spouse abuse inflates the ego and provides a false sense of control. It may be the result of a misguided sense of love that results in unhealthy possessiveness or jealousy.

Society is now becoming more aware of spouse abuse than it has been in the past. Previously, even if gross abuse was reported to the authorities, the law was reluctant to get involved. It was assumed that the man was ruler in his own home and the authorities had no business there. At best it was viewed as a misdemeanor. That view has changed. If a man or woman feels abused, there are now many organizations ready to help.

Spouse Abuse – What does the Bible say?

Nowhere in scripture do we find God sanctioning any form of spousal abuse. In Colossians 3:18-19 men are instructed to pattern their love for their wives after Jesus’ love for His church.

18 Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.

19 Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.

This is described as a sacrificial kind of love; the kind of love that seeks the very best for the one who is loved. Emotional and physical forms of abuse are diametrically opposed to the concept of sacrifice; such behaviors are selfish and self-seeking.

1 Corinthians 13 teaches what genuine love is all about and has much to say about what love is not.

13 If I speak in the tongues[a] of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,[b] but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues,they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror;then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

According to this passage, love is not self-seeking, is not easily stirred up, and does not behave hatefully. Clearly, abuse is not a demonstration of genuine love.

Misinterpretation of Ephesians 5:22 has led some to believe that the role of submission by wives permits their husbands to abuse the of power of their position in the relationship leading to the mistreatment of their spouse.

22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord.

The true meaning of this passage is a demonstration of a husband’s role as initiator of unconditional love, which results in the wife’s role as responder, willingly placing herself under his spiritual leadership. Actually, when husbands abuse their wives, they have given up their role as spiritual leader of the home as exemplified in the life of Jesus Christ who is a spiritual leader who sacrifices for the needs of his bride, the Church. Submission is not something to be taken, but rather something to be given.

Spouse Abuse – Just How Serious is it?

Spouse abuse is a very serious form of exploitation that will escalate when left untreated. There is a cycle of violence that often begins with a pattern of verbal denigration and emotional abuse and intensifies until it manifests itself as a form of physical abuse. Verbal abuse is possibly more sinister than overt physical abuse. Long after the black and blue bruises and broken bones from physical abuse heal, verbal abuse continues to silently erode its victim’s self-worth.

The classic abuser conveys a message to his victim that she is responsible for his negative behaviors, that she is a failure in most or all of the roles she is fulfilling, and that apart from him she is helpless. Victims of abuse eventually come to believe that they are powerless and objects of shame. Statistically, reports of women being abused are more common than those of men.

Often the most effective solution to making the relationship healthy and safe again is bringing in an objective third party, such as a Christian counselor, to intervene and mediate with the wife and her husband.

Written by Heather Resneder, MA, MFT-A

If you are in a relationship in which you are being abused, verbally or physically, now is the time to take action to make your life and relationships healthier and safer. To set an appointment with a Christian counselor, call at 972-960-9981 or fill out our contact form.


  • New Beginning Center
    Individual and group counseling for adult and child victims of domestic violence. Emergency shelter for victims of domestic violence and their children.
    972-276-0057 (24 hr)
  • Genesis Women’s Shelter
    Provides emergency shelter, in-house food and clothing for battered women and their children
    214-942-2998 (24 hr)
  • The Family Place
    Provides counseling and support groups for abused women
    214-941-1991 (24 hr)
  • Brighter Tomorrows
    Provides services to survivors of domestic and sexual violence. Shelter locations in Grand Prairie, DeSoto, and Irving.
    972-262-8383 (24 hr)
  • Hope’s Door
    Provides shelter and counseling services to individuals and families affected by domestic violence.
    972-422-7233 (24 hr)
  • Turning Point
    Provides telephone crisis intervention, counseling and support to victims of sexual assault, their families and friends
    800-886-RAPE (24 hr)

Clear and Effective Communication

In many ways parenting living separately is similar to parenting living together. The ability of parents to communicate effectively is a vital element for successful parenting. This is especially important for parents who live in separate households.

Communication Guidelines

  1. Direct, open communication between parents regarding the children is best.
    • Be respectful, courteous and responsive.
    • Focus on the present and future, not the past.
    • Address one issue at a time.
    • Make requests not demands.
    • Avoid becoming polarized over who is “right” and who is “wrong”.
    • Listen to, acknowledge and try to understand the other person’s perspective.
  2. If you have a concern, issue or decision to discuss, call the other parent. If the parent is not able to talk at that time, schedule a specific time to talk.
  3. If either parent leaves a voice mail message or sends an e-mail to the other, they need to clearly state the issue that needs to be discussed and the time frame within which a response is needed.
  4. When one parent makes a request of the other, the other parent should make every effort to accommodate that request. If you do, you are more likely to get a favorable response when you make a request.
  5. It is important to acknowledge each other for listening to one’s needs and concerns and for responding favorably to any requests. Be polite and thankful.
  6. If the children raise an issue with one parent about the other, encouraged them to talk directly with that other parent. When appropriate, keep each other informed of any such issues. Be careful not to become emotionally involved.
  7. If the children make statements that raise concerns for either parent, address this with the other parent, being careful not to respond as though what the children said is accurate.
  8. Keep each other informed about significant events in one’s life (job, relationship, house, etc.). It is reassuring to children to know that their parents are communicating with each other.

By Heather Resneder, MA, MFT-A

KidWorks is an eight-week support program for children and teens of divorce. For more information, call 972-960-9981.

Don’t Put Your Kids in the Middle

Research and common sense have come to the same conclusion; Ongoing parental conflict is harmful to children. The impact is even greater when children are caught in the middle of their parents’ battles. Here are some simple things you can do to help keep your children out of the middle.

  • Do discuss child-related issues directly with the other parent and when children are not present and out of earshot.
  • Don’t discuss any issues pertaining to the children in front of them or if they are within hearing distance of either parent.
  • Don’t ask them to carry or relay messages, verbal or written.
  • Do talk directly to one another, without using the children to relay messages.
  • Don’t ask them to play “detective.” Don’t use them as a source of information about the other parent’s personal life.
  • Do obtain information about one another from sources other than the children.
  • Don’t ask them to keep secrets from the other parent.
  • Do encourage children to speak freely to both parents.
  • Don’t respond to their reports of disparaging remarks about you by the other parent to any extent. The less you say, the less you participate in putting them in the middle.
  • Do resist the urge to respond to their reports of disparaging remarks that the other parent has made about you. Less is more. The less you say the more you help them stay out of the middle.
  • Don’t discuss any financial or legal matters related to your divorce with the children nor have them read any related documents.
  • Do keep all discussions of financial and legal matters between adults.

Remember communication is more than words. Your facial expressions, attitudes and actions convey messages stronger than anything else.

Written by Heather Resneder, MA, MFT-A

KidWorks is a free support group program for children ages five to eighteen that are experiencing the divorce of their parents. At KidWorks we believe that children need special help to overcome the losses and changes in their life due to a divorce and that honoring that healing process is a necessary component to maintaining healthy relationships in the future.

Recognizing Anger, Anxiety, Depression and Traumatic Stress in Your Child

When a child experiences the divorce of their parents, they have to acknowledge and accept the loss of that relationship. They may even feel as if they are loosing one of their parents. Sadness, anger and anxiety are normal responses to loss.

Providing your children with love, reassurance and support will help them heal, but sometimes factors beyond your control can overwhelm children and create long term problems.

Why is my child having such a hard time moving forward?

Many children go through their parents’ divorce with relatively few problems, and others have a very difficult time. Significant changes in a child’s life can trigger the body’s fight-or-flight response – anger or fear – and if a child cannot adequately express or mentally process those emotions, the child may feel extremely powerless and “freeze.” This reaction is the basis of traumatic stress.


Your kids may express their anger, rage, and resentment with you and your spouse for destroying their sense of normalcy. Angry outbursts that continue or become violent may be signs that they need help coping with their feelings.


It is natural for children to feel anxious when faced with big changes in their lives. If they seem to be worrying endlessly about minor and major situations, or if their anxiety is causing eating and sleeping problems, they may need more support.


Sadness about the family’s new situation is normal. But sadness coupled with a sense of hopelessness and helplessness is likely to become depression. When children feel depressed they may withdraw from their parents or loved ones, neglect their homework, dissociate from friends and discontinue pleasurable activities. Their eating habits may change or they may engage in some form of self-destructive behavior or act out.

Traumatic stress or shock

Trauma is determined by the child’s experience of the event, not simply the event itself. Different children in the same family may have dramatically different reactions to divorce. Trauma may cause depression and anxiety at the time of the separation or years later. It may also reoccur during weekends, holidays or times when the child misses the complete family unit.

Warning signs of more serious problems

If a child gets stuck in certain emotions, they may have a hard time getting ‘unstuck.’ Fear and uncertainty affect kids in a variety of ways. Your availability, willingness to listen and reassurance should help them, but sometimes outside help is necessary as well.

Red flags

Recognize that it will take some time for your kids to work through their issues about the separation or divorce, but you should see gradual improvement over time. If things get worse rather than better after several months, that may be a sign that your child is stuck in depression, anxiety or anger and could use some additional support. Professional intervention may be necessary.

Warning signs of divorce-related depression or anxiety

  • Sleep problems
  • Poor concentration, chronic forgetfulness, declining grades
  • Drug or alcohol abuse
  • Sexual promiscuity
  • Self-injury, cutting

Written by Heather Resneder, MA, MFT-A

KidWorks is a free support group program for children ages five to eighteen that are experiencing the divorce of their parents. At KidWorks we believe that children need special help to overcome the losses and changes in their life due to a divorce and that honoring that healing process is a necessary component to maintaining healthy relationships in the future.

Divorced with Children Pt. 2

Read Divorced with Children Pt. 1 on the blog.

For Divorced Parents and Those Ministering to Divorced Parents & Their Families

By: Larry M. Barber, LPC-S, CT

Being the Best Divorced Parent You Can Be:

Realize you cannot do it all:

  • Remember that you are one person. You cannot possibly do everything that both parents in a family do. If your former spouse is uninvolved or absent from the lives of the children, find family members and friends who can be role models of the opposite sex for your child. You cannot be both mother and father to your children.
  • Solicit and accept help from others. As you do accept help, you are helping to build a support system for your family. Find people who have skills and knowledge that you lack.
  • Take advantage of community and church resources.
  • Eliminate unnecessary tasks or activities from you and your children’s schedules. Limit your children’s activities to those which they love most. This includes extracurricular activities for your children such as karate, ballet, art classes, little league, soccer, etc.
  • Live within the limitations of your income. Economize and only use credit cards for real emergencies. Pay off as many of your outstanding debts as you can.
  • Give your children responsibilities around the house that are appropriate for their ages and their abilities. This will help relieve you and give you more time to spend with your children.
  • Learn to say “no” to requests from others at work, at church or in organizations that will take away your time with your children.
  • Lower your expectations. Remember a healthy, Christian family is more important than an immaculately clean house, a shiny car, the best lawn in the neighborhood, etc.
  • Make time for fun with your children.
  • Make time for yourself away from the children. If you are with your children 24/7 with no alone time for yourself, you may begin to resent your children and what you “have to do” for them.
  • Unless your former spouse is endangering the children in some way, make the time they spend with their other parent a positive and accepted part of their child. They need both parents, whether you get along or not. Don’t speak badly about your ex in front of the children or use them as spies to find out “dirt” on your ex.

Place a high priority on meeting your children’s needs:

  • Children need security. Assure your children that you (and your involved ex) plan to be with them for many years to come. Also let them know that there are others who will always be present for them and you.
  • Children want to know their needs will be addressed. Let them know they will be cared for. They will always get what they need.
  • Children need to feel needed. Explain to them that they are an important part of the family.
  • Children sometimes feel guilty. Make sure they know that they are not responsible for the divorce or the changes that continue to follow for your family. When you take out your anger or frustrations on your children, they may feel they are responsible for whatever is going wrong.
  • Children need to trust their parent. Always keep your word.
  • Children like order and predictably. Establish a schedule and try to stick to it. There is security in knowing that there is a schedule, there is order and the rules of the house still apply.
  • Children need to feel they are an important part of the family. Give them chores to do.
  • Children need rituals and routines. Establish family traditions not just on holidays and special occasions, but during the rest of the year. Make a big deal of birthdays and family activities. But don’t end up giving them “things” because of your guilt, your need to show your love, or the need to have their approval.
  • Children need to express themselves and know that they have been heard. Set up scheduled times for communicating with them. Family meals at the dining room table can be a stabilizing factor for your family.
  • When it is appropriate, ask for their opinions and suggestions on family decisions.
  • Set up a family communications center (cork board or dry erase marker board).
  • Children need role models. Being strong for the children is not as important as providing them with role models of how Christian adults deal with life situations (good and bad).


  • Accept the responsibilities and challenges of single parenting without being overwhelmed by its challenges. They seek solutions rather than complain.
  • Are committed to their families. They try to be the best parent they can be by placing the needs of their children first.
  • Foster open communications with their children. Their children feel safe to talk about any topic or emotion without the fear of being judged or ridiculed.
  • Strive to be as organized and dependable as they can be for their children.
  • Take time to take care of themselves. They understand that they need to be healthy physically, mentally, emotionally, socially, and spiritually in order to be good single parents.
  • Maintain the family traditions as best as they can. They understand that traditions give their children security and meaning in tough times.
  • Have a positive attitude toward parenting and life in general.

KIDWorks is a free support group program for children ages five to eighteen that are experiencing the divorce of their parents. At KIDWorks we believe that children need special help to overcome the losses and changes in their life due to a divorce and that honoring that healing process is a necessary component to maintaining healthy relationships in the future.

Divorced with Children Pt.1

For Divorced Parents and Those Ministering to Divorced Parents & Their Families

By: Larry M. Barber, LPC-S, CT

Divorced Parents in a Two-Parent World

The two-parent world is quickly becoming a single parent world:

  • The number of single parent families in the United States has doubled in the last 25 years.
  • Currently over 16 million children in the U.S. live in single parent homes.
  • The Census Bureau estimates that 59% of U.S. children will spend time in a single parent home during their minor years

The world and the church still often treat single parents as if they are incomplete in some way:

  • “Just one?” This simple greeting from the waitress as you go out to enact alone is an example of the your new reality: Suddenly you are one without a partner in a couples-oriented world.
  • Most activities are still couple or two-parent family oriented (classes, seminars, small groups, sermon series, social activities).
  • Single parents are expected to fit in easily with singles’ activities. People who find themselves single parents have different situations and needs. Divorced or abandoned singles, widowed singles, abandoned or single adoptees do not have a lot in common with never married singles.
  • Society and the church community apply pressure on the single parent to find their soul mate. “Didn’t God say it was not good for a single person to be alone?” (Genesis 2:18)
  • Society and the church community sometimes perpetuate the stigma of the divorced parent as a failure or, at worst, the product of what some still treat as the unforgivable sin.

God has a place and a plan for single parents and their children:

  • God shows his care for a single parent and her son. (Genesis 21:9-21 The story of the handmaiden Hagar and her son Ishmael).
  • God is Father to the fatherless, Nurturer to the motherless and Companion/Comforter/Counselor to the lonely.
  • When God is in lives and in the home, single parent families can be “complete.”

Myths about Children of Divorce:

MYTH: Children who grow up in a household following divorce are more likely to struggle in school, get into trouble with the law, develop serious social problems, and have failed relationship after failed relationship.

FACT: The majority of single parent families have raised well-rounded, successful children. Many negative predictions for children raised by a single divorced parent have more to do with economic hardship than the lack of an intact family and household. With hard work, unconditional love, positive discipline, good parenting skills, faith and a lot of prayer, single parents of divorce can raise capable, content, successful Christian children.

MYTH: Children of divorce will never have healthy relationships themselves.

FACT: Children raised by loving and involved divorced parents seem to put more energy into maintaining their relationships.

MYTH: Children of divorce have lower self-esteem.

FACT: Children of divorce raised in home where they are loved and taught Christian value have a better chance of feeling good about themselves and life in general. The greater incidence of low self esteem in children happens in two-parent and single-parent homes where emotional chaos and/or abuse exist and family members rarely express love for one another.

Be aware of symptoms of dangerous situations for your children:

Self destructive behavior

  • Threats or attempts to commit suicide; cutting themselves (usually requires hospitalization)
  •  Eating disorders (counseling)
  • Shoplifting (counseling)
  • Fast driving and incredible risk-taking (counseling)
  • Physical and violent encounters (counseling, removal from dangerous situations)

Behavior to medicate their pain

  • Drug and alcohol misuse (hospitalization, 12 step program)
  • Promiscuous sexual behavior (counseling)

Clinical depression (may require medication, counseling and/or hospitalization) 

  • Isolation
  • Exhaustion
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of interest in normal activities or achievement (at home or school)
  • Despondency
  • Anxiety and an inability to relax

Read Divorced With Children Pt. 2 on the blog.

KIDWorks is a free support group program for children ages five to eighteen that are experiencing the divorce of their parents. At KIDWorks we believe that children need special help to overcome the losses and changes in their life due to a divorce and that honoring that healing process is a necessary component to maintaining healthy relationships in the future.

Rights of Children in Divorce

The right to be treated as interested and affected persons, not as pawns or possessions.

The right to love each parent, without feeling guilt, pressure or rejection.

The right to love, care, discipline and protection from both parents.

The right not to be asked to choose sides or decide where they want to live.

The right to express their feelings about the divorce, such as anger, sadness or fear.

The right to a positive and constructive on-going relationship with each parent.

The right not to have to make adult decisions.

The right to remain children, without being asked to take on parental responsibilities or to be adult companions or friends to their parents.

The right to the most adequate level of economic support that can be provided by the best efforts of both parents.

The right not to be drawn into the painful games parents play to hurt each other.

The right not to be put in the middle of parents’ battles.

The right to learn appropriate behavior from their parents’ examples.

The right to make friends and participate in school and community activities.

The right to succeed in school and prepare themselves for independence.

The right to know their origins and to form a personal identity based on their experiences.

Adapted from a decision of the Wisconsin Supreme Court expanded by Judy Branch, M.S.C.F.C.S. and Lawrence G. Shelton, PhD

Learn more about KidWorks and how you can help Kids In Divorce.

When Life Gets Messy: Parenting After Divorce

By Laura Petherbridge

Life as a single parent can be exhausting, frustrating, and fearful. However, it is possible to survive and even thrive when parenting alone. It takes work, a willingness to change destructive patterns, and a teachable spirit.

After a divorce a child typically becomes as emotionally stable as the parent. This is true even if only one parent is working on the process. Therefore, the first step towards creating an established, productive and peaceful single parent home is for at least one parent to obtain information on how to successfully move forward. This will require a willingness to recognize and heal from anger, vengeance, grief, and past wounds.

Attending an event where he or she can obtain tools, resources, and the support of other single parents is one of the wisest and most beneficial ways to succeed.

Q: My 11-year-old son came home from soccer practice the other night and cried all evening. After much prodding he finally told me that he was sad and angry that his dad doesn’t come to his games or participate like the other dads. I’ve begged my ex-husband to attend but he won’t make the effort.

A: Unfortunately you can’t control the poor choices of your ex-husband. What you can do is validate your son’s feelings of rejection using words such as, “I’m so sorry you are hurting, I know this is hard for you. I feel very badly that your dad didn’t show up.” Don’t minimize the painful loss he is experiencing.

In addition you should avoid the strong temptation to criticize his father. It might temporarily make you feel better, but it won’t help your son. Address the behavior not the person, “I know it hurts when your dad isn’t there.”

Ask the pastor or leaders at your church if they know of someone who might be interested in mentoring your son. Many men would be willing to give their time if they knew of the need. If the man is married make certain his wife agrees with the situation.  It would be wise to remain distant from the relationship between your son and his mentor; it’s enticing to become attracted to someone who is treating your son with kindness.

Q: To discredit me, my ex wife tells our son terrible lies. She says I was physically abusive to her, I don’t pay child support and that I don’t really love him. I see my son weekly, as my visitation allows, but I’m distraught that my child may believe her deception.  

Kids see truth. They aren’t as gullible, dense or naïve as we often think. And although they will protect a parent, even in bad circumstances, they have radar that tells them “something isn’t right”.  They tuck all these inconsistencies in their brain for future reference.

You cannot change or control your ex wife, but you can show him by example your true character. Resist the temptation to criticize her, instead focus on your son’s pain. Depending on his age you could look at him and say,  “ I’m so sorry your mom told you that I don’t love you. That must really hurt to hear those words. I truly do love you____ (name). You are more precious to me than anything. And ___(name) you need to know that I never hit your mommy, and I do pay child support to help her raise you. If it would make you feel better to see the check, always know that you can ask me at any time and I’ll show them to you.”

Use the child’s name often. People love to be called by their name. Then reminisce about a special time such as his birth and how you felt when you first saw him or held him; or when he first started to walk or talk and how proud you were of him. Make it real to him.

The absolute proof of your affection is revealed in making time for your son. Children spell love in one word…T-I-M-E. Even when you don’t see results continue to remain the godly, stable parent and don’t give up.

My stepson Todd, now an adult, shared how he remembers when his dad would drive hours to attend his middle school basketball games, even though Todd spent the majority of the time on the bench! The fact that his dad cared enough to give his most precious possession — time —communicated love to his son.

I know of a dad whose daughter shunned him for many years because of the mother’s lies. It wasn’t easy, and it took time for the child to see who was telling the truth, but they have a great relationship now. Eventually truth will win over the lies.

“So don’t get tired of doing what is good. Don’t get discouraged and give up, for we will reap a harvest of blessing at the appropriate time.”  Galatians 6:9(NLT)

Q: My ex-wife wastes the child support payments that I send on frivolous stuff for herself while my kids are eating macaroni and cheese every night for dinner, and wearing worn out clothes to school. I’m considering stopping the payments and using that money to buy my children the things they need.  Doesn’t this seem like the wise thing to do?

This might seem like a logical solution, however unless it’s written that way in your divorce agreement, it’s not a legal option. Let me ask you these questions: Is she paying for their housing? Is she providing the utilities like electricity, and water for their home? Does she supply the basic toiletries such as toothpaste, band-aids, cough medicine, etc? A possible solution is for you to add up the things she does provide, and view your support going towards those items.

This doesn’t imply she shouldn’t be serving nutritious food, or meeting the children’s basic needs. The reality is you must review what things you can control and what you can’t. Letting go of the things over which you have no control, even those that are hurting your children, is one of the challenging issues in divorce.

I know many men who have paid for things that were not addressed in the divorce agreement (dental braces, piano lessons, baseball camp, speech therapy) because they felt it was an essential benefit to their kids. Whenever possible paying those things directly to the provider can help avoid conflict.

Q: I’ve been out of the work force for 15 years as a stay-at-home mom. Since my husband left I’ve begun looking for work. I’m shocked at how low the wages are and I sense my skills are outdated. What am I to do? 

A: First, don’t panic there are solutions. If your technology or computer skills are void or limited research a local community college for courses that will give you the basics. Today almost any job will require some computer knowledge. This will help you to feel more equipped for the new endeavor, and assist you with the computer “lingo” that can be intimidating.

Second, be prepared to take a lower paying job to get your “foot in the door”. An excellent work ethic, showing up on time, character and honesty, and being a team player often mean more to a supervisor than experience. Once they see your positive outlook and your willingness to learn new skills, you will become a valuable employee.

When I was an office manager the biggest problems I dealt with were employees who constantly called in sick, stirred up trouble and had a miserable attitude.