How to Build a Great Relationship with Stepchildren

Share Button

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.

Divine Words for Desperate Parents

Share Button

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

Share Button

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.

Beyond “Settle Down”: Coping Skills For Your Angry Child

Share Button

Beyond “Settle Down”: Coping Skills For Your Angry Child

By Nicole Schwarz

child-angerIt’s been a walking-on-eggshells kind of day.

“That’s my decision,” you say cautiously. “No more snacks before bed.”

You pause, waiting.

And, just as expected, your child flies into a fit of rage.

“That’s not fair!” He yells, slamming his fist on the table. “I’m still hungry!”

The yelling doesn’t stop.

“Settle down!” You yell back, “If you keep this up, you won’t have a snack tomorrow night either!”

Why is everything such a battle? Why is he so angry? What can I do to help him?

HOW TO HELP YOUR ANGRY CHILD

Anger is a tricky emotion. It will take time for your child to learn these new techniques and put them to good use.

Be proactive! Planning ahead is key to helping your child manage their angry feelings.  Teach your child a variety of skills and strategies while they are calm, in a good mood, or separated from the heated situation.

  • Explore Feelings:  Anger is a master disguise for many other harder-to-express emotions like sadness, fear, and embarrassment. Talk about a variety of feelings – what they feel like inside, what they look like in the body, and what they sound like when spoken. Use books, movies, or this feeling game for examples.
  • Write a Script:  Give your child the words to use when they are upset. Teach “I-statements,” (I feel…when you…because…I wish…) or even a simple, “I feel mad right now!” You may need to model this for them at first: “You’re upset that your sister bumped you with her scooter. You’d like her to go around you next time.”
  • Change the Self-Talk:  For some children, expressing anger is a vicious cycle. They feel bad, so they act out, they get in trouble for acting out, so they feel worse. Interrupt this cycle by encouraging the good traits in your child, remind them that it’s OK to be angry and that “mad doesn’t equal bad.”
  • Give Appropriate Alternatives:  If you don’t want your child to kick the cat, direct him to a soccer ball outside. If he’s throwing toys, offer him some balled up socks instead. Work proactively to set up a safe place to express anger or cool down. (Of course, if your child is hurting others, safety is a priority).
  • Use Art:  Sometimes, words can’t express what they are feeling or thinking. Allow your child to use paints, markers, crayons, and other art supplies as a creative outlet for pent up emotions. Here are some activities to try: managing big feelings, dealing with mixed up emotions, or art  journaling.
  • Deep Breathing: Learning to calm your body and mind is key to getting your anger down to size. Yelling “calm down” in the heat of the moment is not effective. Instead, be proactive! Take time to teach your child a variety of deep breathing exercises, then practice them in calm moments.
  • Big Muscle Movements: Some children need to relieve stress through exercise, hard work, and play.  Like deep breathing, be proactive and make time for big muscle movements, like push-ups, vacuuming, or swinging throughout the day. Teach your child a yoga routine or stretch together before bed.

BONUS TIPS FOR PARENTS:

  • Calm Yourself First:  It’s easy to get swept up in your child’s emotion. Matching anger with more anger is not helpful or productive. Instead, get yourself to a calm, rational frame of mind first.  You will be able to provide your child support, and they will feel safe knowing that you are not rattled by their big feelings.
  • Self-Care is Essential:  Parenting a child who struggles with anger can be exhausting. Do not neglect taking time and space to care for yourself. I know you’re busy, but self-care doesn’t need to take a lot of time. Find ways to fit self-care into your day so you can be available for your child.
  • Look Under the Anger:  Anger is often a go-to emotion because it keeps you from having to feel other painful or uncomfortable feelings, like sadness or disappointment. Instead of seeing your child as a “bad kid with a temper,” look at him as a “hurting child who needs help to deal with his feelings.”
  • Get Help:  Sometimes, your child’s anger is too big to manage on your own. If you feel that their anger is above and beyond what would be considered “normal” or if you just have a gut feeling that something’s not right, seek help from a mental health professional.

Stepping back, you decide to take a deep breath. (Or three)

He is still angry, but instead of seeing him as a manipulative monster, you see him as a kid who’s having trouble handling the fact that he’s not getting his way.

“I can tell that having another snack is really important to you,” you say empathetically. “You’re really disappointed.”

Instead of trying to force him to settle down, you give him space to feel this disappointment. You offer him a hug  and remain a calm presence in the room.

You know he needs to learn a better way to handle disappointment. And, it may be time to set a clear limit on after-dinner snacks. But now is not the time. You make a mental note to address these things later, when everyone is calm.

Your child can learn to manage their anger, and they need your  help to get there.

 

If you would like help with your angry child or other struggles with your child or children, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a coach or counselor.

Let Your Children Feel Their Feelings

Share Button

child

Let Your Children Feel Their Feelings

By Nichole Schwarz

There is nothing better than hearing the sound of children laughing. Seeing your son confidently climb the ladder to the tallest slide. Getting a giant bear hug from your daughter.

Ahh…the joys of parenting.

Unfortunately, with the joy, there are also the hard times. Arguments, yelling, conflict and competition. Failure, disappointment and challenges.

Many parents feel very uncomfortable when their kids experience “negative” emotions – sadness, frustration, anger. We feel a strong desire to save them from these feelings and bring them back to happiness again.

Instead of rescuing our kids, we need to empower them! We need to let our children feel their feelings!

This is not easy.  It often takes time to see that you can still be loving and supportive without giving in or rescuing a child from a difficult emotion.

HOW TO HELP YOUR CHILD FEEL THEIR FEELINGS:

  • Identify the feeling: Imagine your daughter is lying on the floor of her room sobbing.  She says that she can’t move because she is so tired. She is demanding that you pick out her clothes for the day. Take this opportunity to explain the feeling she is experiencing is called, “exhausted.”
  • Empathize with their struggle:   Feeling big feelings can be overwhelming.   Both you and your child may feel the urge to just “make it go away!” Children can learn that even strong feelings will pass.   Show your support for their struggle by saying, “Trying a new skill can be frustrating!” or “Sometimes it takes a while to feel calm again.”
  •  Brainstorm alternative solutions:  Managing big feelings can be hard work! Prepare ahead of time by making  a list of ways to manage big feelings. Create a cool-down spot, practice calming skills, or make a plan.   Talk with your child about their ideas for managing big feelings, ask for input and put it into practice.
  • Look Beyond the Behavior:  Your kids aren’t going to like feeling their big feelings. They liked being rescued! You may notice an increase in behaviors at first. You may be tempted to give in or try to get the big feelings to stop. Instead, provide comfort, encouragement, and empathy as they feel the feeling.
  • Find a new way to communicate: Whining or demanding  may have  allowed your child to avoid uncomfortable feelings in the past.  Teach your child a different way to get their needs met.  You may need to feed them  the lines at first, but eventually, you can ask your child: “Can you think of a different way to ask me for help?

Remember, if your child is experiencing frustration, disappointment or anger, it does not mean you are a horrible parent.   In fact, sometimes it means that you have set an appropriate boundary for your child.

It may take time and practice to become comfortable seeing your child experience these big feelings. If this continues to be a struggle for you, please seek help from a mental health professional. Sometimes, things in our history make it very difficult to feel comfortable with big emotions – our own, and the emotions of others.

Alternates to Telling a Child “Calm Down”

Share Button

“Telling a child to “calm down” communicates that they aren’t allowed to experience anger or other feelings. Your goal isn’t to change their emotions, but communicate that you understand and accept them.” (The Gottman Institute)

alternates to calm down

Funday Friday: Child Food Humor

Share Button

Here’s some kid food humor for your Funday Friday:

kid humor


If you would like to add some more humor into your life, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a coach or counselor.

10 Ways to Grow Your Marriage While Having Young Kids

Share Button

young family

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, It might be a good idea to add some extra spicy into the bedroom as well when scheduling sex. If you’re interested, Find everything you need for free at tubev web source to get some ideas as to how you could change things up 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 in your desire to continue to grow your marriage, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a coach or counselor.

Date Night Tip When Married with Children

Share Button

Have kids and looking for an idea for a date night?  Here is one tip from Jay and Laura Laffoon:

Table for 2

Planning a family movie night at 6pm gets your kids involved in hanging out as a family. Putting them to bed and then letting your wife pick out a romantic movie for the two of you sets the stage for one-on-one time without the kids and without breaking the bank.

What are other tips that you may have for inexpensive date nights when you are married with children?

 

If you would like help enriching your relationship or help getting through a time of struggle in your relationship, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with one of our coaches or counselors.

5 Ways to Talk to Your Children About Death

Share Button

5 Ways to Talk to Your Children About Death

By Jeff Robinson

It wasn’t the first thing to enter my mind, but it might have been the second: How am I going to tell the kids?

The doctor had just laid out the cold, hard truth: “Your friend, Ken, has passed.” Ken was a dear family friend, a man my kids adored. A longtime staff member at the church I served as pastor, he died suddenly—at the church building, in the midst of his work. A heart attack ushered him into the arms of his Savior in an instant on that overcast fall morning. I was stunned. Our staff was stunned. The congregation was stunned. My children, who “helped him” regularly at the church while I sat in meetings, counseled members, or worked on sermon prep, would be most stunned of all. I planned my talk with them carefully and broke the sad news that evening. If you or anyone you know has recently lost a loved one, it may be best to look into funeral plans to be able to give the dearly departed a good sendoff. To find out more information, click here.

Death Visits Again

Our family faced death again last week with the sudden departure of my stepfather. Like Ken, he clearly loved Jesus and sought to please him. Gratefully, we don’t grieve as those who have no hope (1 Thess. 4:13). When the news came, my wife and I were again faced with delivering the sad news to our four children who range in age from 7 to 13.

As a pastor, I always found serving as the messenger of ill tidings particularly difficult. It’s even more tricky, though, when you’re telling young hearts whose ability to grasp death and all its implications is limited. Do we soft-pedal death, referring to it in vague, non-threatening terms? Or do we speak of it straightforwardly as we might with another adult?

My wife and I have found neither approach to be helpful. Obviously, how much and precisely what you say will be much different for a younger child than for a 12-year-old. Still, there are basic biblical realities they should all know.

Here are five fundamental truths we’ve explained to our kids when death has visited closely.

1. Death and judgment are coming to us all.

Sadly, death is part of our fallen world, and the Bible doesn’t shrink back from this truth. Psalm 139 tells us God has numbered our days. Since the Word doesn’t dismiss this truth as “overly negative,” neither should we.

Our family once had friends who never spoke to their kids about negative news items, such as natural disasters or 9/11. They made it a rule never to discuss death. I believe this is unwise. By avoiding bad news, parents set up their children for unreasonable expectations and stark disappointment. This approach subtly, even if unintentionally, communicates that life on earth is ultimate. Worst of all, it fails to provide a rationale for why the gospel is such good news. Every day brings us one step closer to that final day, and our children should be aware of that fact.

There is also a judgment awaiting every one of us (Heb. 9:27). I want my children to know that, as the great Southern Baptist pulpiteer R. G. Lee (1886–1978) put it, there is coming a “payday someday” for the way we have lived on earth (2 Cor. 5:10).

2. Death is not the way it is supposed to be.

This biblical truth is what makes death particularly sad. Tell your kids that death is an intruder in this world, that the first Adam’s sin opened the door through which the curse of death entered. Cornelius Plantinga’s book Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be: A Breviary of Sin (Eerdmans, 1994) is a compelling resource (for adults) to help you put more biblical meat on the bones of this doctrine.

Further, explain to your children that this is why we are sad when someone dies. In our mourning, through our tears, we are admitting there’s really no such thing as death from natural causes.

3. Death for the Christian is to be with Jesus.

In Philippians 1, the apostle Paul toggles back and forth between whether it’s better for him to leave this world to be with Jesus or remain in it to advance the gospel. He then writes: “To live for me is Christ, to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21). In a culture that does all it can to stave off any hint that humans will grow old and die, this is a deeply countercultural truth. But for the believer, crossing the chilly river of death is the pathway to paradise and pleasures that defy the descriptive ability of human language.

4. Death will one day die.

Give your children the unfathomably good news of 1 Corinthians 15:26: “The last enemy to be destroyed is death.” When the “already” collapses into the “not yet,” death will be history, and this is cause for rejoicing. This is a choice opportunity to commend Christ to your children, to urge them to flee to the cross where death was defeated and mercy is found.

5. Death is something we must all think about.

I don’t want my kids to obsess or become paralyzed in fear over the specter of eternity. That said, 18th-century pastor and theologian Jonathan Edwards provides an excellent example of the necessity of ruminating on death, even at a young age. Granted, Edwards was much older than my young children when he wrote his famous resolutions, the seventh of which reads: “Resolved, to think much on the brevity and how short one’s life is (Ps. 90:17).” This is not something that you want your kids to think about at such a young age. But because it is inevitable, this topic is going to have to be discussed sooner rather than later. Maybe for now, leave out the complicated terms like life insurance, but as long as you know that companies like PolicyMe are out there to help plan this part of your life, that’s what matters. You kids will understand this too one day.

Edwards understood that life is a vapor, and that death should motivate us to live for another world. Tell your children that for those in Christ, our best life is later.

What About the Death of Unbelievers?

What do we say to our children about those who seem to have died in unbelief? This is even trickier but presents a key opportunity to discuss eternity, both heaven and hell. We should be no less clear about hell than was our Lord, who spoke far more in the Gospels about judgment than about paradise.

Whether I’m speaking to adults or children, I always avoid weighing in on the eternal destiny of one who appears to have died in unbelief. Of course, I make clear that anyone who would be saved must come to God through faith in Jesus. But we’ve told our children (and I’ve told family members of unbelievers) that the deceased person is in God’s hands—a righteous and just judge who always does the right thing. I don’t put it this way to avoid or minimize the reality of God’s wrath; it simply keeps me from the seat of eternal judge.

Though there’s certainly much more that could be said about death, our kids need to be prepared—in age-appropriate ways—for life in a world captive to sin and death. And they need to be shown why the good news of God’s rescue mission in Christ, and his victorious war with death on Calvary’s tree, is good news indeed.

I was speaking to a friend at church the other day and they were talking about the passing of a loved one and felt like their loved one was taken too soon. They went onto to tell me about how they sought justice through a wrongful death lawsuit. My friend urges anyone who feels that the carelessness of another has caused the passing of someone dear to them before their time, to seek legal aid. It helped her for certain.