QUESTION: My husband and I just moved to Arizona from Pennsylvania, and I haven't established a network of friends here yet. My family is back east, and I have no one but my husband to talk to about problems the kids are having. He is very busy, so all the "homework" is left to me. How can I deal with the feelings of loneliness and isolation as a mother?
DR. DOBSON: It is vital that you build relationships with other women that can help satisfy the needs for friendship and emotional support. Failure to do that places too great a strain on the marital relationship, which can lead to serious interpersonal problems. I'm not saying that your husband has no responsibility to help you get through this period of loneliness, but unless he is a very unusual man, he will not be able to "carry" you emotionally while earning a living and handling the other responsibilities of living.
Therefore, I recommend that you seek out women's groups that are designed to meet the needs you described. Many churches offer Bible study groups and classes that put women in touch with one another. Other possibilities are out there, such as Mom's Day Out. For mothers of school-age children, there is a Christian ministry called Moms In Touch International, designed to bring women together to pray for their local school, its teachers, principal, school board, etc. It "bonds" them together in a common cause.
What I'm saying is that you are not alone, even in a new city. There are other women out there who need you as much as you need them. You can find each other with a little effort. It is dangerous under the circumstances you described to sit and wait for the world to come to your front door.
QUESTION: What can I do to help my middle child figure out who she is?
DR. DOBSON: Parents should take steps to ensure the identity of all their children but especially the child in the middle. That can be accomplished by relating to each boy or girl as an individual, rather than merely as a member of the group. Let me offer two suggestions that will illustrate what I mean.
1. It is meaningful for Dad to "date" each child, one at a time, every four or five weeks. The other kids should not be told where they are going until it is revealed by the boy or girl in retrospect. They can play miniature golf, go bowling, play basketball, eat tacos or pizza, or visit a skating rink. The choice should be made by the child whose turn has arrived.
2. Ask each offspring to design his or her own flag, which can be sewn in canvas or cloth. That flag is then flown in the front yard on the child's "special" days, including birthdays, after he has received an A in school, when he scores a goal in soccer or hits a home run in baseball, and so forth.
There are other ways to accomplish the same purpose. The target, again, is to plan activities that emphasize one child's individuality apart from his identity within the group.
QUESTION: Is it possible to love someone and not feel it?