Q: I recently went through a divorce that I didn't want, but my ex has moved on, and there's no going back. I'm starting to look forward myself. How soon is too soon to get married again after divorce?
Jim: There's no one-size-fits-all answer to "how soon is too soon." But this is a question that our counselors at Focus on the Family hear on a regular basis. They have a number of suggestions that anyone in this situation should consider.
One recommendation is that you spend adequate time as a single before remarrying. That season of independence gives you a chance to heal from your previous marriage. Is there unresolved anger -- or something else -- that you still need to work through? Are you finding it difficult to trust again? Resolve all of those tripping points before they complicate your next relationship.
Another key is to be certain of what you're looking for in marriage. Do you want to meet someone with integrity or a stable career? Is a good father or mother for your children at the top of your list? Think through what you really want -- and don't want -- and give yourself some time to search and evaluate. Don't rush into something too fast.
Virtually all relational experts agree that couples counseling is a wise choice. It's been said that: "Marrying someone who refuses to go to therapy is like buying a new car and welding the hood shut; you need to be able to open and repair it."
I would also encourage people of faith to consult with their pastor or spiritual leader before taking the plunge once again. Honestly address issues in your own heart first. Don't just look for the right person; become the right person yourself.
Moving on after a divorce can be tough. But if you're open to learning, you can dramatically increase the chances that your next relationship will thrive.
Q: As a fairly new parent, I'm scared to death of having to discipline my child. Do you have any practical advice?
Danny Huerta, Vice President, Parenting and Youth: In many ways, being a parent is the most natural thing in the world. But there's a lot to learn, as well. The word "discipline" comes from the Latin word for "disciple," "pupil" or "learner." Discipline is about teaching -- and all of us have the skills to teach.
First, make sure your child understands the rules before you discipline him. If Junior hasn't been told ahead of time a particular behavior is wrong, he shouldn't be punished for it. And remember: There's a difference between defiance and mistakes. So, if your child acts out because of immaturity or clumsiness, there's no reason to punish him at all. Just come alongside him and help him learn and grow from the experience.
Second, when your child breaks a rule, be sure your discipline fits the offense. Don't put out a match with a fire hose. In other words, don't overreact. A small act of defiance should receive an equally small form of correction. Again, you're teaching.
Most importantly, stay in control. Never discipline in anger. Unless your child is facing immediate danger, you don't have to address a problem the moment it happens. Instead, step back from the situation until your emotions are under control. Discipline isn't about tearing a child down. It's about teaching your child right and wrong and helping him to learn and grow.
In a nutshell, parenting is about balancing love with clear and consistent limits. If and when you need help, visit our website at FocusOnTheFamily.com or call us at 800-A-FAMILY (800-232-6459).
Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at www.jimdalyblog.com or at www.facebook.com/DalyFocus.
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