In the past years I have watched as friends’ children have been going through a divorce. One interesting fact I learned not too long ago, was that it usually takes at least six years for a marriage to fall apart. Well, it seems these children were divorcing at year 1-5. There is also the stat that most divorces happen between year 5-11. Right now our culture is saying it’s no big deal and we should stay out of it!! So what can we do as parents when our children’s marriages fall apart.
When I watched my parents go through the three divorces of myself and siblings I saw how it aged them. Divorce does not affect just the couple, it affects the entire family. My heart in everything I do is to prevent that heartache if at all possible. But we as parents are so afraid to say anything and sometimes we can do damage and not really know it.
One of the best examples I have seen of how parents’ can help is in the movie “Fireproof” In this story the father of the husband actually confronts his son in such a loving way. He did not tell him that he should leave his wife. He did not tell him how awful she was. He just encouraged him to love her. He was a very insightful father, he knew when to be firm and speak and when to back off.
That’s the challenge isn’t it? When do we speak and when do we back off? When I think about this I have come to a conclusion in how I need to approach my own children. I must also preface this with, I am no expert, just an older experienced, made a lot of mistakes mother. But here is what I’ve decided I would do. I need to CREEP!!! I tend to do Ready, Fire, Aim. But in these cases, you must slow everything down and CREEP!!
1. Choose your battles. That’s so important!! Do you really want to confront about your daughter-in-law keeping a messy house? Maybe there are some financial issues. Or is it really important that you say something about a controlling or mean spirited attitude of your child? Choose what’s really important. It might be a messy house, maybe your son needs to help more. Or maybe your child needs to realize their selfish attitude when it comes to spending or sharing. Many times we as parents don’t want to see the flaws in our children because those flaws are more likely some of our own flaws, or some we created.
2. Respectfully feel the situation out. Saying something like, “It seems like things are a little tense in your house lately, is everything ok?” But when you and if you do this, it must be done in a non-threatening loving tone and way. I have found it helpful to talk the situation over with my husband before I say anything in this regard. If there is some tension and there are problems, and they don’t feel condemned or like a failure they will have a greater chance of sharing with you.
3. Encourage the Marriage. Don’t put the spouse down in ANY WAY, from the time they marry and onward! I love how my friend Mary Ortwein has taught me to “Find the Good in them!” Help your child see the good points and write those good points down. Don’t be tempted to agree with the negative points. Unless there is substance abuse or physical abuse and possibly an affair ( and I say possibly) encourage them to stay in the home and keep working on the relationship. Encourage them to journal. I love the “Love Dare” challenge that the Father gave to his son in Fire Proof. It actually gave him tasks to do but also encouraged journaling.
4. Empathize with both your child and their spouse. They don’t need you taking a side. You need to encourage the marriage. Encourage your child to make changes. Let them know that they cannot change the other person just themselves and respectfully ask questions. “Do you think you might have some things you could change?” If you can give them examples of how you and your spouse struggled at some time and help them see how you worked your struggles through. Remember both parties are probably guilty and innocent.
5. Pray. I am a HUGE believer in prayer. God does change. He’s waiting for us to ask for help. God hates divorce so we know he wants to work in this area. But He also does it in HIS time nt ours. Be patient as you CREEP along in helping your children. Remember, it must all be surrounded in LOVE and Respect!! Let God be God!! But it’s ok to be a parent still.
I hope this helps!! Let me know what you think of my acronym CREEP! Maybe you can hlep come up with some other ideas to help other parents out there.