Q: My parents recently got divorced because my mom was having an affair. Now she's moved in with this other man and plans to marry him within a few weeks. My husband and I are struggling with this situation. Should we readily accept her new husband?
Jim: It sounds like you're caught in an understandable conflict between two opposing elements. You will always love your mom, but that doesn't mean you are bound to approve of her choices and actions, especially when they've been hurtful and damaging to the rest of the family.
Remember, your mother is the one who has created this awkward situation by choosing to disregard her marriage vows. She needs to understand that her actions and choices have real-life consequences. From our perspective, it's both insensitive and unfair of her to demand that the rest of the family embrace her new boyfriend with open arms. Your mom needs to accept responsibility for what she's done and realize that her actions have had a profoundly negative impact on the people who love her most.
I'd suggest that you draw a very definite line in the sand. Strong boundaries are healthy; "normalizing" brokenness is not. Tell your mom that you are willing to welcome her at family gatherings as long as she is willing to respect your values and standards, and to honor them when she's with your family and in your home. Remind her that she has deeply hurt everyone in the family by deciding to become involved with another man. Say something like, "I love you and care about you, but I don't approve of this relationship."
You and your husband can then decide together how to proceed going forward. As your mother's son-in-law rather than her own flesh-and-blood child, he may be able to say some things for you.
If you would like to discuss this situation further with our staff counselors, call them at 1-855-771-HELP (4357).
Q: Our second child is almost 3 years old. She doesn't respond to any of the parenting strategies that worked well with her older sister. We're stumped and stressed. What are we doing wrong?
Danny Huerta, Vice President, Parenting and Youth: This is really about adapting to the differences from person to person. Many parents think raising children is like following a recipe -- use the same ingredients every time, and the cookies always come out the same, right? We know that's not quite the case.
Children are individuals. They don't all share the same talents, aptitudes and perceptions. Just because Son No. 1 is capable of straight A's, that doesn't mean you can expect his brother to achieve the same. And one daughter may be a great athlete, while her sister might be a brilliant musician. Each child has his or her own way of viewing, interpreting and engaging in their world.
Treating each child the same way makes sense to us because we think we're being fair. It may be fair, but it's not really most effective. Core values -- honesty, respect, etc. -- should be expected of everyone in the home. But that leaves plenty of room to tailor your expectations to your child's personality. Push some kids to work harder in school, and they'll rise to the challenge. Others will struggle even more. Some children thrive under rules and discipline. Others rebel at the slightest form of discipline, and may require a more creative approach to correction.
You have to study and know each of your kids, and invest the time and energy to connect, correct and redirect them according to what motivates them as an individual. A good starting point is the helpful, research-based and reliable 7 Traits of Effective Parenting Assessment at www.focusonthefamily.com/7traits.
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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