How to Handle Invasive In-Laws

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How to Handle Invasive In-Laws

By Drs Les and Leslie Parrott

One of the most difficult situations married couples face is dealing with invasive or controlling in-laws. Maybe they’re critical, nosy, or they monopolize your (or your spouse’s) time. Perhaps they don’t think you can take care of their “baby” as well as they did. Whatever the case, these situations can get dicey in a hurry.

In today’s blog post, we’re going to focus on how to deal with invasive in-laws who are making your life as a couple harder than it should be.

HAVE A HEART-TO-HEART…WITH YOUR SPOUSE

Is your mother-in-law rifling through your things when you’re not home? Has your father-in-law repeatedly interfered with your home repairs and handyman projects? Do your in-laws probe you both for personal information?

It’s time for a heart-to-heart talk…but not with your in-laws.

Even though you might feel tempted to address them yourself (especially if your frustration level is high), it’s best to rely on your spouse–who is their child–to be willing to draw a line in the sand. That means you need to approach your husband or wife first, and lovingly talk to them about what’s happening and how it makes you feel.

You could say something like, “I know your parents love us, but this is making it hard for me to be close to you. When they (fill in the blank), I feel (fill in the blank).”

Be patient with your spouse; it’s often difficult for a person to hear that their parents have such a negative effect on their spouse. And they may not admit it at the time, but they’re probably feeling pretty frustrated with their folks, too (maybe even more than you are).

Don’t shift the situation into an attempt to control your in-laws through your spouse; instead, say your peace, and give your spouse space to process the situation. He or she may need a little time to figure out how to approach your in-laws.

SETTING BOUNDARIES WITH YOUR INVASIVE PARENTS

If your parents are guilty of invasive or controlling behavior, it’s your responsibility to be your spouse’s advocate (and your childrens’, if you have kids). We know that approaching your parents isn’t going to be easy, but it’s essential for the health of your marriage.

Be kind when you approach your parents. You could say something to them like, “You guys are so helpful to us, and we see all the love behind what you’re doing, but we’re going to have to decide/work through this on our own.”
Let them know you understand their love for you. Acknowledge the good they do in your life, and the wonderful part they have in it. If they respond with hurt feelings, understand it’s normal for parents to mourn the loss of a large role in their adult child’s life, but remain firm.

Sometimes, we run into situations where we can’t easily set boundaries with our in-laws. For example, if you know your mother-in-law has a key to your home and has been going through your personal belongings–but you can’t prove it–you have to find a workaround, since you can’t confront her. To set a boundary around this behavior, you could lock away your personal items or send the kids to her house for babysitting, instead of having her keep them in your home.

Here are a few more quick tips for dealing with sticky in-law situations:

  • If your in-laws are monopolizing your time, ask your spouse to set aside time for you
  • If your parents and your spouse don’t get along, get out of the middle of their disagreements and let them work things out for themselves
  • If family functions are stressful, work together to maintain a sense of humor about the situation

ADVOCATE FOR YOUR SPOUSE

Remember, if your parents are the ones creating problems in your marriage, it’s up to you to change the dynamic of your relationship with your spouse for the better. A toxic relationship with in-laws can be really harmful to your marriage, so it’s up to you to be your spouse’s advocate and change your relationship with your parents on his or her behalf.

There may never be an ideal or perfect relationship, but you have the power to make your marriage the very best it can be. That includes protecting it from outside sources–parents or not–that may interfere with your peace.

We’ve included a chapter in our book, The Control Freak, that deals with invasive in-laws if you want to know more about how to navigate these tough situations.

If you would like help dealing with in-laws or other family situations, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a counselor or coach.

How to Build a Great Relationship with Stepchildren

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How to Build a Great Relationship with Stepchildren

By Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott

Whether you’re getting married for the first time to a person who has children–or getting remarried and blending a family–you’re going to be navigating some unfamiliar territory in the coming years. Like starting a marriage, becoming a stepparent has its own set of challenges and rewards, and you’ll learn how to nurture these relationships as you begin your new life as a family.

Stepping into the role of stepmom or stepdad is a daunting and delicate undertaking. Making this transition well isn’t easy, but it’s very doable. The result of treading carefully into this new territory will be building a rewarding relationship with your spouse’s children.

Today we’re sharing a few tips to help you start on the right foot as a new stepparent.

MAKE A GENTLE TRANSITION

Whatever the situation, kids tend to have mixed feelings about a stepparent entering the picture. There may be things about your presence in the family that your spouse’s kids love…and then there might be a part of them that feels resistant to the changes.

It’s natural for children to feel excited about having a stepmom or stepdad on one hand (in particular, if the child has grown up in a single-parent home and has been craving that second parent in their life). But on the other hand, they’re likely aware of the fact that they’ve made it just fine all these years without you (and at some point, you’ll probably hear about it).

While you might feel overly eager to start this relationship on the right foot, be gentle as you make the transition into being part of this family. Don’t try to establish yourself as a parent just yet, and don’t aggressively pursue a connection with the kids–instead, seek to cultivate a friendship with your stepchildren. Be patient and allow the relationship to naturally deepen over time.

SHOW GENUINE INTEREST

Let your spouse’s kids know you’re genuinely interested in them. Work to find common ground–identify shared interests, activities you both enjoy, and any relatable topics that come up between you as you’re getting to know each other. Get on their level, and actively listen when they speak to you.

Show up to support them in their activities, like ball games and dance recitals. If your stepkids are creative, show an active interest in their artwork, music, writing, and other creations. Your stepkids will come to know they have an ally in you if they know you are for them.

RESPECT THEIR TRADITIONS

It’s important for you to show respect for the traditions your stepchildren and their parent have created as a family. If you attempt to come into this family and change everything they’ve been doing together up till now–whether those are holiday celebrations or simple weekly rituals–you’ll set yourself up for failure right off the bat.

Learn about your stepkids’ traditions, and work with your spouse to preserve as many of those as possible (if you have children of your own and are blending two families, this will be tricker–but can still be done). Over time, you’ll be able to slowly create new traditions with your spouse and stepchildren, and maybe even incorporate a few of your own. But for now, be patient and willing to let your spouse and their kids take the lead, understanding that slow changes will come with time.

DON’T TRY TO REPLACE THEIR OTHER PARENT

Whether your stepchildren have lost their other biological parent to death or divorce, be respectful of their attachment to that other parent. Communicate that to your stepkids, and be direct with them.

A great place to start would be to let them know you understand the special relationship they have with their mom or dad, and that you have no desire to replace that in any way. Let them know you’re glad you’re in their life, and welcome them into yours. It’s also good to let them know that you hope to have a strong relationship with them in the future.

Once you’ve established that your stepchildren can be friends with you–and that you do not expect to replace their biological mother or father–that can pave the way for a great connection between you and them. Getting this out into the open will release them from any notion that having a good relationship with you will create a conflict of interest with their other parent.

LET YOUR SPOUSE HANDLE THE DISCIPLINE

A fundamental reality of blended families is that the biological parent has to be responsible for disciplining the children. Being a stepparent is a role governed by mutual respect and friendship, and stepping into a disciplinarian role with your stepkids could hinder that goal. Enacting discipline must be your spouse’s choice.

That said, since your unique position in the family demands mutual respect, if you’re being treated unkindly by your spouse’s child, it’s within your right to remove yourself from the interaction. Tell the child you feel disrespected and that you won’t stay in this conversation while they are being unkind. You must be clear about what is taking place, then do what you’ve said and remove yourself from the situation.

You can certainly communicate privately to your spouse about what is going on, but in the end, he or she must be the one to discipline the children for bad behavior.

If you would like help in the area of a blended family and stepchildren, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a counselor or coach.

Blended and Blessed: Keys to Stepfamily Success

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Blended and Blessed is a FREE one-day livestream by Family Life for stepfamily couples, single parents, dating couples with kids, and those who care about blended families.

Hosted by CornerStone Family Services and Delaware Christian Church on April 29, 2017 at the church facility (2280 W. William St., Delaware, OH 43015).

Childcare will be provided for $15/kid. Lunch will be a potluck to be shared.

Contact Carrie Hover LPC at 614-459-3003 ext 703 or chover@cstoneohio.org for more information

Stopping Triangulation in Relationships

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Stopping Triangulation: How to Avoid the Pitfalls of Involving a Third Person in Your Problems

By Couples Therapy Center of NJ

Most of my clients have some kind of challenge in their relationships with others. The struggle may be with a spouse, a friend, a family member, a co-worker, a child, a neighbor, or a landlord. No matter who the struggle is with, we often discuss what someone else said or did and how my client felt hurt or angry about it during our sessions. When we dig deeper, many times I find that a big part of the problem is triangulation. Triangulation is when a third person gets involved in a conflict. It might feel good temporarily, but it will hurt you in the long run.

Think of an imaginary triangle of three people. An issue may come up between two of them: maybe something one person said or did that upset the other. Triangulation occurs when one of the two individuals involved in the issue ‘invites’ a third person into the debate or argument. By ‘invite’ I mean talks to the third person about the individual they have the issue with or talks about the issue itself. The original issue has little or nothing to do with the third person! The problem here is when we use this as a way to vent our feelings.

This is what talking behind someone’s back is all about. Let’s say it starts when you take issue with what someone said. You then ‘invite’ a third person in by talking about it with them INSTEAD of talking directly to the person you had the issue with.

This feels good temporarily because it gives you a chance to vent your feelings and feel understood by someone else. And putting someone else down is a means of getting revenge.

Triangulation, however, is NOT helpful in the long run. It complicates the original problem because now another person’s thoughts and feelings are involved. More importantly, it denies us the means to solving the issue. The best way of solving an issue is talking directly to the person who hurt or angered us. So, what do you do instead?

First, realize who the issue is really with. Identify which two people the original debate or hurt or anger is between.

Second, don’t ‘invite’ a third person into the discussion (in other words, don’t triangulate). It is OK, and quite beneficial, if you do choose to talk to a very specific 3rd person: that person being your therapist. It is a therapist’s job to help you figure out your personal relationships. Talking to your therapist is different from triangulation because the therapist’s intention is to help you decide how you’re going to resolve the issue. Your therapist will offer you tools and ideas for solving the problem and your therapist will encourage you to talk directly to the person involved in order to get it worked through.

 

If you would like help in your marriage or relationships, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a counselor or coach.

Divine Words for Desperate Parents

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Divine Words for Desperate Parents

By Nancy Guthrie

I’m not exactly sure how it happens, but almost as soon as we visit the doctor to confirm we’re pregnant we start getting coupons for formula and diapers and magazines that include all kinds of articles about how to raise healthy, well-adjusted children. All of these “five steps to . . .” and “ten ways to get your child to . . . ” articles can fool us into thinking if we try hard enough and do everything right, our child will become and do what we want.

But anyone who’s been a parent for long knows parenting requires a lot more than simply following the right steps to success. To raise a child toward godliness, we need much more than the good advice parenting experts have to offer. We need what only the Scriptures have to offer.

We need the commands and expectations of Scripture to keep us from complacency, and the grace and mercy of Scripture to save us from guilt. We need Scripture to puncture the pride that rises up in us when our child is doing well and we’re tempted to take the credit. And we need Scripture to save us from the despair that threatens to sink us when our child is floundering and we’re tempted to take all the blame.

While we have influence and responsibility, we don’t have control over our child. We can teach our child the Scriptures, but we can’t be the Holy Spirit in our child’s life. We can confront sinful patterns that need to change, but we can’t generate spiritual life that leads to lasting change. Only the Spirit can do that.

What we can do is pray for and parent our child the best we know how. We can keep trusting God to do what we cannot.

But how or what do we pray? The Scriptures help us with that, too. In particular the Psalms—divine words God has given us to talk and sing to him—provide us with not only wisdom and perspective for parenting, but also with words for prayer.

In His Grip, Not Ours

From the time they’re newborns, we’re concerned about our children’s progress. We want to know what we can do—what we can feed them, what we can teach them, how we can train them—to keep them moving toward a bright future.

During the school years, our parental fear or confidence rises and falls on how well our children are progressing in school and sports, as well as physically and socially. As they emerge into young adulthood, we can’t help but set mental timelines for them to finish their education, find a mate, and establish a career. And all along the way, we often think and act and feel as if it’s up to us and our children to chart out a path for their lives—and to make it happen.

But King David knew otherwise. He recognized he wasn’t ultimately in control of where he came from or where he was headed. Nor did he want to be.

I am trusting you, O LORD, saying, “You are my God!” My future is in your hands. (Ps. 31:14–15)

Our child’s future is not in our hands. It’s not under our control. It’s not in their hands either; it’s in God’s.

Meditating on Psalm 31 helps us to pray: Lord, I find myself obsessing over many aspects of who my child will be and what he will do. But I know my child’s future is not in my hands. And deep down I don’t want it to be. The safest place to be—the place of favor and blessing—is in your hands.

In His Strength, Not Ours

As parents we tend to be pretty hard on ourselves. We’re well aware of our deficiencies and our hypocrisies. We’re determined not to raise our own children in some of the ways we were raised, yet we instinctively repeat similar patterns. We want to listen, but we’re distracted. We want to play, but we have so much work to do. We want to engage helpfully, but so much of what we throw out there doesn’t seem to stick. Even our most brilliant efforts at parenting don’t always work well.

In Psalm 103 we find good news those of us who have failed our child, good news for those of us who have been angry, impatient, or cold.

The LORD is like a father to his children,
tender and compassionate to those who fear him.
For he knows how weak we are;
he remembers we are only dust. (Ps. 103:13–14)

We have a Father who is tender and compassionate toward us. He’s not pointing fingers or putting us on trial. He is mindful of our limitations and frustrations. He knows how weak we are in faith, in discipline, in consistency, in wisdom, and in relational skills. He remembers we are dust, doing the best we can in a world we don’t control to raise kids we don’t ultimately control. We have a Father who works in and through our weaknesses to put his own power and strength on display.

Meditating on Psalm 103 helps us to pray: Father, we need your tenderness to release us from our regrets, and we need your compassion to assure us of your long-term commitment to see us through all the seasons and struggles of parenting.

By His Voice, Not Ours

When we read Psalm 29, we get the sense that David is looking up at the sky, watching the progress of a storm sweeping over Israel. But he’s not just watching it. He’s hearing what the Lord is saying to him through it.

The voice of the LORD echoes above the sea. The God of glory thunders.
The LORD thunders over the mighty sea.
The voice of the LORD is powerful; the voice of the LORD is majestic.
The voice of the LORD splits the mighty cedars; the LORD shatters the cedars of Lebanon. (Ps. 29:3–5)

The Lord’s voice is shattering. The same voice that splits the mighty cedars of Lebanon can cut through any resistance our children have toward God.

The Lord’s voice is striking. It can speak to our children like a gentle rain of gradual understanding or like a lightning strike of life-changing insight.

The Lord’s voice is shaking. It can jolt our children out of their apathy and comfort.

The Lord’s voice is stripping. Just as it leaves the forest bare, it can peel away negative attitudes and arguments from our children’s hearts and minds.

Meditating on Psalm 29 helps us to pray: Lord, we long for our child to hear you speaking. Won’t you sweep down over our home in the way David saw you sweeping through Israel? Come and let your mighty, majestic voice be heard.

In His Timing, Not Ours

How hard it can be to wait on God. When we’ve prayed for months or years and see no visible signs of change, no tangible evidence of God at work, we can begin to lose hope. We wonder not only if heaven is closed to us, but if there’s really anyone there, listening and able to act.

I am sick at heart. How long, O LORD, until you restore me? (Ps. 6:3)

When we’re sick at heart over the direction of or difficulty in our child’s life, we can be sure God will restore us to a healthy confidence that he is at work. When we’re worn out from sobbing over the pain in our child’s life, we can be sure the Lord has heard our weeping. He has heard our pleas and will answer. It may not be today or tomorrow. In fact, God may not accomplish all the healing and restoration we long for in this lifetime. But we can be sure the day will come when his work in our lives and in the lives of our children will be brought to completion. And in light of eternity, it won’t seem it took very long at all.

Meditating on Psalm 6 helps us to pray: Lord, I am impatient for you to accomplish all you intend in my child’s life. But I am not hopeless. Even when I don’t see you working, I will trust you are. Even when it seems it’s taking too long, I trust you to accomplish all you intend to accomplish, and I have faith you will complete it on time. 

 

If you would like help with your family, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a certified life coach or counselor.

10 Ways to Grow Your Marriage While Having Young Kids

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10 Ways to Grow Your Marriage While Having Young Kids

By Gavin Ortlund

My wife, Esther, and I live in a small parsonage next to our church. So does Isaiah. So does Naomi.

With biblical names like these, you’d think Isaiah and Naomi would be the ideal roommates. But we’ve noticed that Isaiah (who just turned 3) can be pretty moody, and Naomi (who just turned 1) has a powerful set of vocal chords.

I love being a parent, and we have awesome kids. They give me so much joy. But it’s not always easy. Having kids permanently changes marriage. You try to have a conversation, and you’re constantly interrupted; you plan time to connect and you’re completely exhausted; you try to plan a date night and then realize how expensive a babysitter is. You get the idea.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about something my mom once said: being a parent, for all the strains it can put on your marriage, also allows your marriage to grow deeper and richer. It’s like going into battle with someone, coming home, and then realizing what good friends you’ve become because you were in the trenches together. So I’m learning to see this challenging season as an opportunity for our marriage, not merely a phase to endure.

After my walk with Christ, nothing should take a higher priority in my life than cultivating intimacy and friendship with my wife—not even being a dad. In fact, I know I can’t be the dad God calls me to be unless my marriage is strong. Here are some strategies we’ve reflected on that might be helpful to other young parents in a similar season of life.

Ten Strategies for Growth

1. Kiss/hug/flatter your spouse intentionally throughout the day.

Let this be the first thing you do when you get home each day. I get mobbed by my kids at the front door, who want to wrestle. I want to give them attention, but I also want them to see that Esther is a priority that nothing can displace. Little daily installments of touch, affirmation, and attention go a long way.

2. Shell out the money for babysitters and vacation, as much as you can.

It’s expensive, but it’s a worthy investment. When planning a date night, I often think, Can we afford this? But when we do it, I always think, I’m glad we did this—we needed it. It’s so important to have times of laughter, recreation, and play with your spouse. The old saying is corny but true: “Families that play together stay together.”

3. Go on walks.

This has been a game-changer for us because our kids are actually quiet in the stroller. We get exercise and sustained conversation, both of which can easily get crowded out when life is busy. If walking doesn’t work, perhaps you can pursue another hobby together. For example, if your gym offers childcare and you feel comfortable with it, drop the kids off and work out together.

4. Have creative date nights. 

We’ve developed our own weekly “date night” at home that typically involves putting the kids to bed early, reading a chapter of my grandmother’s book on marriage, talking about life, and playing a board game. Having a “date night in” saves money and reduces the tyranny of constant TV in the evening.

5. Text throughout the day.

I don’t like the way technology is always distracting me from the present, but if there’s one person with whom I want to be in a continuous text dialogue, it’s my wife. It’s a little thing that helps further our friendship, jokes, and fun. It shows I’m thinking about her. It’s a way to communicate that cannot be interrupted by a crying baby.

6. Plan times to be intimate together.

Sometimes parents of young kids have difficulty finding time for intimacy. Don’t be afraid to plan this into your weekly schedule. Planned sex is better than no sex, and it’s a way to show commitment to this area of your marriage during a busy season.

7. Carve out space to read the Bible and pray together. 

Failing to do devotions together is such a missed opportunity. Your spouse probably knows you better than anyone else does, and thus is the best person to sharpen you spiritually.

8. Take interest in your spouse’s daily life.

It’s easier to drift apart when you’re disconnected from what’s occupying your spouse throughout the day. If they work, ask them lots of questions about what’s happening in the office, and be their biggest advocate and supporter. If they stay home, help them out with the chores so that you know and appreciate all they do around the house.

9. Cultivate compassion for your spouse’s greatest weakness.

Being a parent can bring to the surface your spouse’s deepest fears, sins, and failures. It’s easy to despise those things, particularly to the extent they’re different from your own struggles. Here are a few ways to fight that judgment:

  • Remember and grieve your own sin.
  • Ask the Lord for special tenderness and compassion.
  • Don’t needle your spouse with sarcasm.
  • Speak respectfully to your friends about your spouse, rather than complaining about them.
  • Exhibit tons of patience and gentleness when discussing their weaknesses (if you need to discuss them at all).

10. Pursue your spouse’s heart. 

What are they interested in these days? What’s on their Facebook wall? What are their fears about the next 18 months? What songs do they currently like? Study them. Cultivate “inside jokes” together. Keep secrets with them, not from them (that builds intimacy over the years). Make it your lifelong goal to romance them as much as you did when you were dating, in each season of marriage.

Satan and our culture bombard us with the lie that affairs are more exciting than fidelity. One aspect of our gospel witness is to incarnate the real truth—that absolute, binding commitment is the pathway to real joy. Whatever is exciting in any romantic relationship, whatever intimacy your heart craves, whatever strength you have to offer another person—the goal of marriage is to pour all of that into one person for the rest of your life. This is God’s strategy, and it’s the most fulfilling way to live. May we cultivate marriages that point to the beauty and reality of Christ in our lives.

 

If you would like help with parenting, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a coach or counselor.

How to Build Friendships With Other Families

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How to Build Friendships with Other Families

By Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott

With the crazy fast pace of the world these days, having a family of your own–plus keeping up with all life’s demands–can feel very isolating. It takes all you’ve got just to get your family through the day…so you’re not sure how to even begin building intentional friendships with other families.

The good news is, it’s possible! You can build relationships with other families, and have fun doing it. Today, we’re sharing 3 practices you can put into action right away to start getting connected with other families.

  1. GET CONNECTED

Friendships are built on having things in common–whether it’s a sense of humor, shared experiences, or similar life circumstances. Seek opportunities to connect with other couples who have similar interests and values as you have, and with whom you have a strong rapport.

Interest groups, classes, Sunday school, and small groups are all good places to start as you seek other families to befriend. Be patient in the process of getting to know them, and don’t rush into any relationships; instead, take it slow and get to know the people you’re connecting with. Having patience and peace in the process will help you as you explore which friendships are going to be healthy connections for you and your family to cultivate.

  1. SHOW OPENNESS

Be open to getting to know other families, and project that sense of openness to the new people you meet. If you appear closed off or uninterested, you won’t seem as approachable to others.

Even if you’re nervous, don’t wait to be approached. Find someone you’d like to introduce yourself to, and jump right in. Be friendly, receptive, and show your interest in getting to know them.

It can be easy, once you’ve made a few close friends, to stop making an effort to bring other families into your circle. Be aware of this, and commit to continuing to meet new families and broadening your circle over time.

  1. PRACTICE HOSPITALITY

Work together with your spouse to invite other families into your home, one at a time. Take turns having each of them over at intervals, and spend time getting to know them (and letting your children get to know one another). Do whatever you can to help them feel welcome and comfortable in your home.

Get out your calendar and work together to chart out times to invite people over you’d like to get to know. Once you’ve decided on dates for the month, determine to include someone around your table on each date, no matter what.

If you put these 3 principles into practice, you’ll be able to establish some meaningful, lasting friendships that will be mutually rewarding, both for your family and the other families you get to know. Give it time, and before long, you will have a community of friends who’ll be there through thick and thin.