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Staying Connected With Your Children After Divorce

Focus on the Family / Jim Daly
The Cross Radio
June 3, 2022 6:00 am

Staying Connected With Your Children After Divorce

Focus on the Family / Jim Daly

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June 3, 2022 6:00 am

Lauren Reitsema experienced divorce first-hand when her parents separated after almost 20 years of marriage. Drawing from her own experience, Lauren will help parents and stepparents uncover common points of grief and loss for children after divorce. And, she’ll offer helpful advice for building a stronger blended family.

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I thought here's how I can heal.

Here's how I can mend it if I can create the world around me where I'm even better than I was before the divorce and that can manifest in celebration and my parents want to be around for an event flooring rights, she joins us based on Focus on the Family do hope you'll stay with us as we offer hope and encouragement for navigating a blended family on John Fuller and your hostess focus president and author Jim John think of this in the United States. One in six children live in the blended family that's were their biological parents are divorced, most likely remarry. But make no mistake, just because it's prevalent doesn't mean it's easy and I certainly have talked to a number of people that have been through that that are going through now and both from the parent side as well as the children side.

If your stepparent may be emerging families is harder than you envision to know you think it's going to go pretty well, and then it just doesn't and we certainly want to make sure that we emphasize do everything you can to keep your marriage intact. To me that's what we fight for her Focus on the Family. We have hope restored, which is an intensive counseling effort that we put forward with an 80% success rate. Coming back to this couple's two years later so that's the best thing you can do is work on your relationship.

Divorce is occurring in our culture. There's no doubt about that. And today we want to offer hope we have a guest who has first-hand experience and a lot of insights about how to adjust to a blended family. Lauren writes Emma is an author and speaker, and became interested in relationship skills when her own parents divorced after almost 20 years of marriage and today Lauren serves as vice president of strategy and communications at the center for relationship education in Denver Colorado a conversation today is based on the book that she's written called in their shoes, helping parents better understand and connect with children of divorce and of course we have copies of that here the ministry.

The link is in the show notes or give us a call. Lauren welcomed the Focus on the Family, thank you so much for having me, it's good to have you here and I want to get your response to some common messages children here after divorce. I don't know if I heard this when my parents divorced but there's all the clichs that you here as a child of things like your strong and resilient. You'll be okay God won't give you more than you can handle.

What's the error in trying to convey that positivity. I guess you might say I that's clichs if you well and I think ultimately the goal in sharing that type of feedback, especially from a parent's lens is to do one more layer of protection because parents want their kids to experience the pain of what they're going to experience because of divorce, and so I think in preparing for the big talk or the forward thinking or that positive, hopeful optimism. A lot of those things actually are true kids are resilient.

God does restore and redeem. There are hopeful and and positive things that can come out of exiting a toxic relationship, but the timing is important because a lot of times when those things are delivered, at least in my case it was really early as almost a justification for why it was happening and it wasn't enough for me. It felt like it rushed to my process of grief.

Let me ask you this because I hadn't thought about it this way but I think when the parent says to the child you're strong enough you're resilient enough, and if you have any kind of uneasiness with what they're talking about now you feel double jeopardy right. Not only are my parents divorcing, but I'm not the person I'm not strong enough like my mom told that was because I'm crying about it and it's interesting because I actually think your focus is fine. I grew up with Focus on the Family in the home radio programming listening and my parents are very intentional about modeling and and working on a relationship seminar case. It was a complete surprise element shocking to know that they were taking this path and I felt like it was my responsibility.

Maybe even subconsciously to guard the reputation of my family and not let anyone know that we are in a struggle or that it was hard and so that layer of strength and courage that I naturally had growing up, and in the role that I played in my family and just the experiences I just kind of a go-getter and I felt like I had to make sure that energy of optimism stayed consistent through the entire process will split and not actually is is what delayed. I think my healing because I created this persona that I wasn't to be a statistic. I wasn't gonna let anyone see that divorce was affecting me. I will unfold because I think you came to that realization later in college when that happened, but let me let me take us back to the child grief process in one of the things you say in the book is that a child needs a parent needs to recognize that a child needs to grieve the loss of their parents marriage but in that regard. Take me through the idea of helping your child grieve the divorce. I think the first thing is actually calling divorce loss. I love how you said that because a lot of times death in any circumstance is a great loss, and children who grieve a parent who has died get all of the community support now granite. This is not something I wish on anyone. I've I've walked through that process with friends and loved ones, and it is heartbreaking and I would never want for anyone to have to grieve that, but the Greek community path in death is so felt and so present in the children feel lifted up in my experience with divorce. It's almost a hidden grief and not people don't experience it or express it as a loss, they experience as a norm or they say it's just at least you have both your your family members alive. You know the NHI and bringing them out of the loss before you even process that you're losing something you're losing custody. In some cases you're losing time you're losing identity we can get into that little bit later but there's a lot of loss in divorce and I think it's so normalized that it's almost like Monday morning.

Your parents are together and today there divorce and your life goes on. And there's not that that community support to engage the child in the resources they need.

After their loss has occurred. Of course you were in junior high when your parents divorced and taking her back to that time. Your attitude and I could see it in you. This positivity protect the reputation of my family, the words you used a moment ago that was the text that you took to kind of in some ways downplay that I would think you know were still normal were still good still help them are not even wanting to say the words divorce.

We my parents separated my debit on house if I remember correctly when I was in middle school and went back and forth to counseling to really try and work on their relationship and it was final.

When I hit was a little bit later on and in high school and I think for me I had. I was watching what was happening and there were these peaks and valleys and will there conversing really well or they went on a date night or their engaging their flirtatious. There's just something about this counseling is working and I think ultimately that was where my heart rested because I believed at that point and still do in a God who can reconcile and redeem, and I was in.

I remember reading of devotional is called God loves me. Why can I get my locker open. I don't know for a middle school student and I remember going back and reading some my entries and I was really questioning if God was good because I was in the middle of this family crisis and not many of the families are around knew the Lord and so my family was supposed to be this pinnacle of faith and yet it was the one that was falling apart and that really is where that shame I think entered my story and I wasn't willing to let what I stood for for faith be taken down by my parents choice so I remember saying you know my parents are struggling or there taken some time apart.

But it it took a long time for me to actually say I live in a home where my parents are divorced, you mentioned the book that in junior high. Your response wasn't anger or to be sad but you wanted to come to put the best foot forward get into that a little more. I notice that shame factor, but had high school unfold the I member playing football and we had dad's night and there was no doubt in my life. My brother at the time of high school and I was only one of two players out of probably 4045, but did not venture right now and that was a little awkward. I wasn't jealous of the dads that were there. I thought that was great. But for me it was just that not present. Yeah I did that does daddy daughter dances that happen elementary school move on to you know dad's coming to Cherry line in the sidelines, yet you asked about performance and I actually wanted things I did in high school continue recreationally as play golf and it's not because I love the sport but my dad is a golfer he's a golfer. He I remember one of my favorite lifetime memories was sinking and Eagle from hundred and 60 stops playing golf forever just to celebrate that moment. And so I actually pressed into golf and high school and to play varsity freshman through while senior year at a really big high school, and I didn't even know that I had the capacity to succeed is certain things like that but grades that were also really important to me and my parents are both incredibly smart and driven and wanted us to be our best and so I thought. Here's how I can heal. Here's how I can mend this wound, I can create a world around me where I'm even better than I was before the divorce and that can manifest in celebration and my parents will want to be around for it and so I think that worked out how I planned it was a little bit anxiety driven and I really spend a lot of time processing and and being authentic and vulnerable, not that season, but I really was okay, at least on the outside because I was I was kicked into full full gear and coveting the attention that came from either one of my parents who were in the midst of a very heavy emotional self-care season. I just wanted attention. So if that was good to be positive attention. I tried to press and that was something that I've observed is, God's hand on the pendulum I see a lot of young people look come out of the homes of divorced parents.

That's almost as deep conviction that they want to do better than I call that the pendulum rise like the Lord allows us as children to experience things we experience and then we can compensate for that.

It's good when it's coming from a healthy place not just a performance-based place, but doing it for all the right reasons.

Let me let me tell you this up before John lets people know how they can get a hold the book but in that regard. By the time you get to college. It's kind of falling apart. The performance orientation of this it's not working college to change your emotional makeup. Regarding your parents divorced what happened and what was the outcome of the college years. Yeah, I felt like my my heart and my exterior was so hard that it was really hard for people to see the soft side for people to see my emotions for people to get that intimate part of me that relationships need to thrive and I had this one mentor who I just love this day he challenged me to really express and feel almost for the first time that I was guarding in all these hyper performance things and I feel like that started when I called this season of tears because I felt like the saline of salt in my eyes was truly bringing life to parts of my emotional capacity that I had shut off for almost a decade, but the beautiful thing and that is how God allows that orchestrates the so that it begins the healing right is set it all up and I think it was so gracious because I don't think I would've proceeded on my own. Lord, let's let's kind of talk in more general terms to help parents better understand how to communicate with their kids going through the stages of divorce when a parent starts dating. For example, and how the child might push back.

It's easy for us as the adult to try to reprimand or try to correct or what whatever hour you're taking there with your child, but it's natural for child push back when they don't want this, they don't like it they don't understand they don't know what happened to dad or what happened to mom.

So you really do need to place yourself in the position of the child and try to see it through a child's heart and a child is right and that's an important perspective and empathy always helps connect regardless of where you are and timing is really important to you because every child that I talked to and myself included. We don't desire that our parents are lonely and that they don't get a second chance at love. But there is this interesting shift of prioritization that happens right after the divorce where this get this almost cocooned intimacy with your parent just is just you and me right before greeting together and then when not season ends and some healings taken place and maybe one or both your parents are ready to start dating again. There's all the sudden this new priority of the person that's an adult and that you're not the first person they come to anymore. You're not the first person I think about get all starry eyed over some person and it's not you, and is a kid that's natural that the order of the family is are supposed to mean about your spouse first and then your children you live in this wonderful family structure, but in a divorce family structure that child comes first. After the divorce happens and then dating happens and is now an adult again. That feels first in the heart of the parent and it it's especially forget he wants to be in the spotlight. It's just feels like late to me here. All of a sudden I'm I'm's in the shadow and I was used to being in the sun right that's interested in your case both your parents remarried so you you refer to a ton of those cheering for two opposing football teams which is kind of interesting. I could not figure out how to communicate this principle in a way that people could understand until my sports fanatic. Part of the pages and I thought this is the metaphor and because if you ever tried you care about two sides of the football yet just really want both of them to win. But you realize they can't that's not how the sport works you can't have 2W's at the end of the game. There is a winner and a loser and so you kinda have to pick your loyalties and I'm a Colorado girl mind will always be with orange and blue Denver Broncos fan and I can't read against them, and I remember feeling like my gosh, my peers now have two different jerseys on and now they have two different last names on the back of those jerseys because of the remarriage, the blending experience they have two different cultural norms that go with those.

And I stuck in the middle. As a fan. He wants to be on both sides but doesn't somebody have to win and that's really divided and really stressful place that I remember being an and still and sometimes because you feel like you have to equalize everything for you and some of that came out in some humorous ways of meeting their often can be that you have to look forward but in the midst of all that pain and all this rooting for two teams interposing each other seemingly. You said the you came home from your mom's house your sophomore year in college in the house look very different. This one kinda made me go on.

But what happened.

So my mom said family is of Italian origin and she married Scotsmen and he used negative floral pillows. It was an all-female letter and task in Nina winery neutral colors and I came home and I had gone to.

I think accustomed tartan place that had taken the tartan of his family and created pillows that were now on all the couches and on the special chair in their home office and I just thought there was this little terrier walking around Scotty terrier dog and I just felt like oh my goodness there to be bagpipes playing from the radio.

I don't know what's happening next that I it's not that I love Scott lender that I like my stepdad are that I had disrespect for the culture. It just was.

It was so unorthodox in our home.

It was, not what I was used to, and said that revelation of loud something taken over here and it's it's not my family lineage was was really the entire one of the shockers but for the advice to the stepparent if you could re-weld the clock, not your stepfather and mother would've done it differently.

But what are the recommendations you have for the stepparent to connect with the child or the adult child in that case, that's a great question. I think asking about legacy tradition, heritage and sharing yours as a part of who you are, but not necessarily expecting or anticipating that they'll embrace that it's really not even I can even pretend to be Scott, I like to play golf on it and I sing in some choral music and got the ghosts and Scottish castles in high school. I have an admiration for it but were stand on on that surface level of humor for the purpose here, but sometimes it can go too far and that identity that that blended family position brings into the home really uproots the child's persona & neuron so because they want to bring you in the at some point it just can't happen. So limiting your expectations, not lowering them but limiting them to realistic and attainable goals is a helpful piece of wisdom for step. It is good. Don't try and create a family identity that is forced one of the things you mention the book is to for the stepparent stay at their post which is interesting. Good military metaphor. But I think it related to your stepmom who was a steady good influence in your life but you really didn't feel like you reciprocated at the time because of your emotional status but speak to that tension than what she was obviously trying to do, which was very positive, but you really were receiving it well yeah I refer to this is kind of position versus person and it was hard for me to see the personal grief that my stepmom carried because she really wanted us to see that she cared and she really didn't care and she worked really hard to give us space and be kind and at one point I just remember watching her countenance just become sad and I became sad because I was never my intention but the timeline wasn't right. I was in college. My parents got married my senior year of high school might my dad and stepmom so is really fresh out of the doors their stuff going on in my life that was very self focused and independent as a college bound students should be and the expectations I think that she wanted was this really warm, open, connected relationship and I was at that point isolated myself from everyone, but especially her because I felt like she didn't deserve to know me and love me and she was just came in my life and I was 18 at the core of the words that come in from that attitude that attitude comes from the pride of family lineage. In my case law and what I lost feeling like this was. It was a last ditch effort to pout, maybe in in a way that protected something that was in my past and I wasn't willing to receive what was in my present you know I think a good place in this is with your husband and when I think you were before just before marriage are already in the marriage you had some concerns, I think in and he helped you reorient your view of your blended family by saying something to those pretty powerful so first of all I want to just take this opportunity to share that I was not afraid of getting married, especially to Josh and I always and continue to have a really positive, hopeful view of marriage and so it wasn't a fear of marrying him. It was a fear of what he was marrying into because I was nervous that his legacy being intact and not having a lot of the divorce narrative would be somehow tainted by my story because two becoming one.

He would take on all of my pain and all of the things that were going on with juggling schedules and and blending families, and I felt bad about that and so I think I expressed to him with with words of despair and saying I'm just I'm worried that you know my family story as is gonna temper your expectations for what you always dreamed of, and in him family legacy because your marrying not just me but family and you know he's a similar knife watched you process this and become the woman that I love because of the divorce not in spite of the divorce and I just not even be an issue and he was so affirming in that moment that we got to be a part of the legacy breaking cycle and I'd I believe that to this day I feel like my parents aren't the only divorce story and my extended family.

I have a lot of divorce in my family and I don't think is because anyone wants to be divorced.

I think it's the patterns of relationship were never changed and I feel like that branch of Jesse with actually broke the root and started a new family tree to break the cycle and that's what I tell Josh you are my my root of Jesse break a legacy that didn't know any better, and we get to be a couple that learns what went wrong and works every day to try and set our kids up for a divorce less legacy when it's a good place to good God takes what is broken in one's fragile and makes it whole again. That's the hope we have in Christ in our hearts and our relationships intermarriages their parenting right. We just have to apply correctly and live it every day or this is been great and what a wonderful resource knife. I thank you for your courage. I know your parents are still alive and they're probably going to listen to this to. So mom in bed know that Wellborn is wonderful woman, then even in the pain of all that you've learned some incredible findings and apply them to your marriage with Josh. He sounds like an amazing man. He is like. And again I just want to encourage people to get a copy of this great book in their shoes, and you could do that and be part of ministry.

If you make a gift for any amount will send you. Orange book as our way of saying thank you for participating in ministry. It's a good way to do it.

If you need it and can afford it, just get a hold of us will trust others will cover the cost of the forms resources. If you're living through divorce and were already divorced and have children in the picture. I'm sure I'm 100% confident that Lauren's advice will help you do a better job than you're going to do on your own. So please get in touch and donate.

As you can. Your gift also makes it possible for us to have Karen Christian counselors here and if you need something more than this great book. Think of us a call and let us help you unpack some of that pain and for numbers 800 K in the work for 800-232-6459 and the link is in the show. Lauren, thanks for being with this really good content for people that have a hole in need to know how to better work with their children.

Thanks for now is my pleasure. Thanks for having me and thank you for joining us today for Focus on the Family a plan to be with us on Monday and will encourage you to discover God's purpose for your marriage. Marriage coaches meeting people, activities and exercises and things to do to help their remission ship that is going to work really truly invite God into the marriage on behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team. Thanks for joining us today for Focus on the Family I'm John Fuller inviting you back again help you and your family thrive in Christ. I am Jim Daly the Supreme Court will soon make a significant decision on abortion. How will this impact join me. Another pro like champions including Ben Shapiro can do so on June 14 for Focus on the Family's see life 2022 life. Find out how you can respond to this important pro-life moment sign up@focusonthefamily.com/see life Focus on the Family.com/see life