Q: Now that I'm divorced, how can I stay involved with my kids and have a positive influence on them? Legally, I'm only allowed to have them a few days out of each month and my ex-wife is very strict in her interpretation of the court order.
Jim: You're in a tough spot, and my heart goes out to you. So what can you do? You might begin by praying the "Serenity Prayer":
God grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference.
The application for you is obvious. You're determined to have an influence in the lives of your children despite the breakup of your family. That requires courage. It means finding the strength and fortitude to seize and maximize every opportunity that comes your way. Meanwhile, you have no choice but to accept your limitations and make the most of your circumstances.
When you do have time with your kids, make an intentional effort to put it to the best use. This doesn't mean that you need to be a "Disneyland Dad." In fact, it's best to make your days and hours with them as "normal" (and as upbeat) as possible.
How do you do this? Here are a few suggestions: Resist the temptation to badmouth your ex-spouse or complain about the "system." Don't play the "blame game." Don't try to compensate for the pain, loss and confusion of divorce by acting like Superman. All the exciting, expensive and exotic outings in the world can never take the place of a loving dad who is simply there for his children when they need him. So be there, whether that means sitting and talking with them, helping them with their homework or taking them out for ice cream.
Finally, you might find additional help and encouragement by joining a DivorceCare support group. For more information check out their website at www.divorcecare.org.
Q: Our adult son is unemployed, living in our basement and drawing heavily on our financial resources. My husband and I can't agree on the best way to handle this situation, and it's becoming a real strain on our relationship. What should we do?
Leon Wirth, executive director of Parenting and Youth: Millions of American families have adult children living at home, and the trend continues to grow. Sociologists call them "boomerang kids," and they have the potential to present challenges in a marriage. Tension often arises when one parent takes a more authoritative approach while the other is more permissive. Before doing anything else, you and your husband need to get on the same page. In fact, marital counseling may represent the first and most important step toward solving these parenting difficulties.
Once you're able to present a united front, I suggest that you hold a family meeting. Tell your son that he is welcome to remain in your home, but that as an adult he will need to start assuming more responsibility. This includes responsibility for personal expenses, laundry, cleaning, transportation, utilities, groceries and rent.
Your statement that your son is "drawing heavily on your financial resources" leads us to believe that he may be irresponsible with money or assuming too much from your generosity. If you and your husband continue to pick up the slack, your son will learn to expect it and never grow up. The key is balancing love and limits, and this applies to young adult children as well as toddlers and elementary school kids. For help in understanding and applying this principle, feel free to contact our counseling staff at (855) 771-HELP (4357).
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.