Because of the highly publicized scandals of some of our nation's most prominent Christians, it is important for us as parents and leaders to talk to our kids about standing for God in the midst of moral failure in the church. read more
All Stories in Family & Parenting
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Joey's school grades are dropping. What's going on? And why are so many kids having behavioral problems? Parents want to know. Is life tougher for our kids than it was for us?
The search for answers may lead us to uncomfortable spots—our homes and our workplaces. Since 1969, research tells us, parents' time with children has diminished an alarming 22 hours per week. And according to Harvard researcher S. Jody Heyman, parental involvement matters. When parents are unable to deal with school difficulties, educational achievement falls, and behavioral problems increase.
The increasing demands of work are taking a toll on American families. Compared with a decade ago, people work 10 hours more per week. How to balance work and family is a hot discussion topic.
When work intrudes on family time, children suffer. "Quality time" is a misnomer. Children need quantity when it comes to parent involvement. The amount of time invested is directly related to the degree of psychological adjustment.
We invited a panel of teens into our adult Sunday school class to discuss the topic "How the media influence our families." Tom (not his real name) was the darling of every mom in the group. His love and respect for his father brought tears to our eyes.
"My dad is always there. He listens, guides and helps me make decisions about what to watch and listen to. It's not so much that he's telling me what to do but that he knows what's happening in my life. I know he cares. And when I screw up, he always prays with me."
Tom makes it sound simple. But the opposite of his experience—the lack of parental supervision—is directly linked to our kids' involvement in drugs, alcohol, delinquency and sex. And it's not coincidental that more children get into major trouble at home between the hours of 3 p.m. and 6 p.m—the time of day most likely to be unsupervised by working parents.
Parents from all socioeconomic strata are distressed. Unfortunately, the response by some parents is to lose interest in their kids. A study by a Temple University psychologist found that almost a third of high school students' parents simply disengage from their kids.
The solution far too often in the white suburban church is to chide working mothers. But studies show that children do better academically when mothers have good jobs but also have the flexibility to take time off to meet their needs. And for the working poor and single parents, having a job is not a matter of choice but of survival.
So what can be done to ease the tension between work and family time commitments? Make whatever changes you can to spend time with your children and be involved in their lives. Here are some suggestions:
- Turn off media and minimize adult distractions.
- Be less selfish about your own pursuits. Focus instead on improving your relationship with your child.
- Find employment that will allow for flexible time schedules, jobs close to home, telecommuting, home business or schedules that accommodate the needs of your children. This may mean a pay cut or lack of promotion, but the trade-offs are worth it.
- Change shifts.
- Schedule parent-teacher conferences in the evenings, during your lunch hour or on breaks.
- Network with your children's friends' parents. Don't allow children to be unsupervised after school hours. Arrange a rotating supervision schedule or a time at a local YMCA or community program.
- Become emotionally involved with your children. Don't allow work to drain you to the point of exhaustion.
- Stay spiritually strong as a family. This requires praying together, reading the Word and intimately walking with your Father.
Though you may feel overwhelmed by work and family demands, simple changes such as turning off the TV every night can produce powerful effects. Ask God to speak to you if changes are needed, particularly in the area of work. Then trust Him to help you find ways to make those changes. read more
Dr Judith Wallerstein is a respected psychologist known for her research on the long-term effects of divorce. Her book, The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce: A 25-Year Landmark Study, has created a media stir. Divorce, she confirms, is not an event children quickly get over. In fact, the effects of divorce on children are profound and cumulative.
In her study, Wallerstein followed 130 children from 60 middle-class families in northern California for 25 years. Her findings are depressing when it comes to how children of divorce fare. These now adult children tend to have lower-paying jobs and fewer years of college than their parents; unstable father-child relationships; a history of vulnerability to drugs and alcohol in adolescence; fears about commitment and divorce; and negative memories of the legal system that forced custody and visitation.
But the most distressing finding was that children of divorce do not get better with time. Instead they develop problems that tend to peak when they are in their 20s and 30s. Wallerstein and co-authors Julie Lewis and Sandra Blakeslee report that because, as children, they lacked healthy models for marriage, they often have problems with commitment and intimacy as adults.
Children, it appears, have very different experiences with divorce than their divorcing parents. While the latter go through periods of high conflict and emotional pain, they tend to heal within three years of the experience. Unfortunately, the effects of divorce on children linger for life.
Many Christians have applauded the results of Wallerstein's longitudinal study, feeling it supports the need for a lifelong marital covenant. However, not everyone in the body of Christ is rejoicing. In fact, one group of believers feels more weighed down than ever.
When the divorce findings were released, I took a summary copy to a Christian divorce-support group I was facilitating. The group members' reactions bordered on hostile.
I heard comments such as: "I don't want to hear the research findings. It's like hammering another nail in the coffin." "How many times do we have to be told divorce hurts children? The church already does a great job reminding us of that!" "I know divorce has negative consequences. I live with them every day."
The groups' message was, "Stop telling us how bad divorce is." They were tired of being judged or seen as failures. What they wanted was hope.
So here was my suggestion to them. Don't ignore the findings because you feel judged by them. Be informed of the possible ramifications in order to know how to pray.
Do this: List out the possible consequences of divorce from the research. Then take each one and pray over the related part of your child's life.
For example, take the finding that says children of divorce have difficulty with love and commitment later in life. Pray specifically about this. Ask God to break that pattern in your child's life.
Strengthen your relationship with Him so that your child sees a healthy model of love and commitment to a heavenly Father. Trust God to do as He promised--restore what was stolen.
Children don't have to repeat negative family patterns if you identify them early and begin to make changes. Here is a simple way to pray:
"Lord, I break dysfunction (mention the specific difficulty) over my child now. The enemy is under my feet, and I'm telling him to take his hands off my child.
"Lead this child into the knowledge of Your love. Help him or her experience it in such a way that there will never be doubt about the power of love.
"Help me be obedient in my covenant with You that I may be blessed. Let the intimate relationship I have with You as my Savior be the one that impresses and molds my child."
If you feel hopeless about the divorce research, take heart. God can take what's probable, according to the research, and render it impossible.
But you must know what you are up against in order to fight back with prayer. Use the findings to specifically target intercession for your children--and watch God's transforming power restore them to wholeness.read more
Today's parents must work harder than ever at building satisfying and affirming relationships with their kids. When I was younger, parents didn't have to depend as much on communication and closeness to keep their children in line. They could control and protect them, more or less, by the imposition of rules and the isolation of their circumstances.
My folks understood that system. They had a million rules. There were regulations and prohibitions for almost every imaginable situation. Coming from a minister's home in a very conservative church, I was not allowed to go to the movies (which were remarkably tame), or to dances, or even to use mild slang.
I remember being reprimanded once for saying, “Hot dog!” when I got excited about something. I'm still not sure what danger those words conveyed to my dad, but he warned me not to say them again. read more
The Old Testament prophet and miracle-worker Elisha lay sick in his bed. The king of Israel heard of his grave condition, rushed to his side and cried: "'O my father, my father'" (2 Kin. 13:14, NKJV).
Clifford L. Frazier and his wife, Pamela, co-pastor City of Life Christian Church in St. Louis. The Fraziers are the founders of The Battle for the Family marriage and family seminars, which they conduct both nationally and internationally. read more