Reflections On Family Life - February 2011

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Reflections on family life -
with Rev. Fr. Andrew Manickam - Pt 1

Divorce Considerations

No one walks down the aisle with divorce on his or her mind. Dreams of custody battles and financial frustrations don't typically accompany that uniquely romantic moment. Yet divorce comes, sometimes when you least expect it. And the heartbreak doesn't only impact the bride and groom it's the children who end up scared and uncertain as their family falls apart.
So what can you do? When divorce comes unexpectedly to your doorstep, how can you give your children the best chance to heal? How do you allow them the chance to be kids, answer their tough questions and ultimately help them move on to a future defined by hope and security?

It is no easy task, but you can help your children one step at a time.

1. Take care of yourself: As the sole parent, it's important that you have some friends you can count on, boundaries in place and priorities settled.
2. Help your children heal: Take time in prayer, listen to their fears, be honest about your own shortcomings.
3. Let your kids be kids: It can be tempting to turn to your children for comfort and strength but that forces young hearts to become adults all too soon.
4. Handle the tough questions: There will be times when your child will ask questions that tear at the very heart of you. Take a deep breath, sit with them and walk them through their feelings.
5. Believe for a future: Almost every single parent worries that their child will repeat the story C that their children will encounter divorce and hardship. Yet as you help your children heal, you will discover that history does not have to repeat itself.

Part 2 C

Take Care of Yourself

Shortly after becoming a single parent, I noticed that my daily life had changed, and peace was far from my home.

a single mother

Shortly after becoming a single parent, I noticed that my daily life had changed, and peace was far from my home. There were days that I struggled just to make it through; I was exhausted and spent.
So I cried out to God for help, and the answer was clear. I needed to seek peace until I found it. On the surface, it didn't seem possible. But, step-by-step the turbulent atmosphere in my home began to change. Peace transformed our single-parent home as I took control of key areas of my life.

Make a connection

First, I connected to a parish. Two years ago, I made a commitment to attend every Sunday Eucharist.
Second, I connected with other single parents. In my geographic area, 50 percent of all families are single-parent families. With so many others in the same situation, it was easy to find others dealing with similar issues.
If you don't know how to find other single-parent families in your area, contact your church and the churches in your community to find out if they offer a single-parent group. You may be surprised to find one already exists. If there isn't one, contact your pastor and start one yourself even an informal group that meets a few times a month. By starting a group, I found several other single parents right in my own church. We understand each other's struggles, and we support each other.

Look out for your needs

If you have traveled by airplane, you have no doubt heard the airplane's safety messages: If there is a change in cabin pressure and you are traveling with children, put on your oxygen mask first. After securing yours, you should then put a mask on the children you are traveling with.
This concept applies to single parenting. When I wasn't rested or healthy, taking care of my children was far more difficult. I had to resist the urges to tackle the world in a day and pace myself. I needed to get enough sleep, eat healthy and exercise.
Though it seemed like too much to add to our schedule, I found several ways to incorporate exercise into my routine and include my children. Taking walks together, roller-skating with them, popping in a kid's workout video. When I took care of myself, taking care of my children was less stressful, bringing greater peace.

Part 3 - Learn to say no

In a world that seems to be spinning faster, we are pulled in many directions, and so are our children. When too many demands tug on our families, stress increases and peace is harder to find. I learned I had to carefully control the number of commitments that came between my children and me.
I know many families that rush to soccer, baseball and piano lessons, and then return home exhausted. They are on the go nearly every day of the week. While none of these activities is bad, too many commitments exhaust the entire family. As I evaluated what really matters and let go of things that were less important, my family had down time to recharge.

Get on a budget

In order to gain financial peace, I put myself on a budget. Statistics show that nearly all single parents struggle with finances. My budget has enabled me to accelerate my debt payments, and in just two years I have gone from nearly 50 percent of my budget being debt to nearly no debt at all.
I also found that by giving my children a small allowance and allowing them to save for a candy bar or toy, I spend much less on small items. Additionally, I have ended check out "Mommy, please, please, please" stand-offs that used to occur regularly. From their allowance my children save 10 percent for their church tithe, 40 percent for short-term items such as candy and 50 percent for longer-term savings. They are not allowed to touch the long-term savings unless they have saved for something over an extended period.

Establish family time

No doubt, single parents spend time with their children. But if you are like me, much of that time is spent getting done only what needs to get done. Your children spend most of their time on chores, housework, shopping, etc.
One way that we have scheduled special family time is by implementing family game night. Each Thursday we spend the evening after dinner playing games. In warmer weather we opt to go to the park for family time. Make time just for fun together. Making time for fun together has strengthened my relationship with my children.

Forgive their father/ mother

I have saved the hardest item for last. I realized, if I truly wanted peace to abound in my home, I had to forgive my children's father. Anger and unforgiveness was eating away the peace I needed to be a successful single parent. I read the book I Should Forgive, But . . . by Dr. Chuck Lynch, and it helped me understand forgiveness. As I asked God for help, and as I forgave my ex, I realized that forgiveness brings the purest form of peace I can ever find here on earth.
Are you struggling with daily life as a single parent and feeling robbed of peace? Evaluate your priorities, routines and practices to find where you can make changes. Start small. Make adjustments as needed. And never forget that with God, all things are possible.
Would you like to start a support group in SFA?
Contact the parish pastors or do come and speak to them.
Fr Valentine 016 3610423
Fr Andrew 012- 4311020

Helping Children Heal After Divorce

"Children are resilient. They'll bounce back."
If you are in the midst of a divorce, you've likely heard these words. And as hurting parents, we hope it's true. We pray that our children will walk through the pain with few scars and little emotional pain. But while children do learn to adapt in even the toughest circumstances, divorce brings painful wounds, and they need our help to find healing.
Because of divorce, children will grieve a number of losses. One parent has moved out, and depending on the financial situation, the children may have to move to a new home, losing familiar surroundings. Friendships sometimes change, siblings grieve, money may be tight and their custodial parent may be hurt and angry as well.
So what can a parent do? For many of us, the divorce was a shock to our system. How can we begin to heal ourselves, much less help our child? Through this series of articles, you'll find practical help on getting healing for yourself, keeping your family functional, comforting your children and letting them remain kids in the midst of a grown-up loss.

Part 1

Tips for you and your child on healing after divorce.
Healing after divorce is a lengthy process, and it begins with you. Children can emotionally survive divorce with fewer scars if you stabilize yourself, then your child. Here are some suggestions on how the healing process can unfold for both of you:

1)Find a support group. The best way for your child to heal is for you to get healthy and strong first. The group should offer encouragement, tools and coping skills.

2)Communicate the truth. Make it clear that your child had nothing to do with the divorce. Explain that this is between you and your former spouse and not his fault.
In an age-appropriate manner, tell him the truth. If you don't discuss things openly, you will create anxiety for your child and cause him to question your honesty about other issues. If your wife has left the home for another relationship, say something like, "Your mom has decided she doesn't want to live with me anymore. She wants to be with another man, but she still loves you very much."
Most important, communicate that God is your family's protector and provider. Let your child know that God hates divorce and understands his pain.

3)Make changes slowly. Give your child a chance to adjust to your new family structure. It's difficult enough for a child to be separated from a parent, but if she loses family members, familiar sights and sounds of home, school, friends, church and neighbors, it's even more traumatic. Some of these adjustments might be necessary, but try to prevent as many as possible.

4)Discipline consistently. Don't let any self-imposed guilt related to your child's loss hinder you from being a diligent parent. Remember, trials and perseverance build character. Consistent discipline, healthy boundaries and chores make a child feel safe.

5)Let kids be kids. Keep conversations about finances, visitation schedules, family disputes and other difficult issues away from your child. Do not use him to relay information or put him in the center of disputes. Preserve and protect his innocence.
Divorce deals a devastating blow to a child, no matter what the world may say about it. Remain sensitive to your child and make her healing a priority.
Remember, God is sufficient to heal and restore hope to every heart even your child's. Your job is to provide a safe, stable and godly home. The rest is up to Him.

Part 2

According to Dr. Archibald Hart, author of Helping Children Survive Divorce, the specific effects of divorce on children vary according to age. Young elementary age children (about ages 5 to 8) regress in their behavior, acting younger than they are. They feel some sense of responsibility for the split ("Did Daddy get mad at me?") or have irrational fears of abandonment.

Hart is particularly concerned about younger children. "Some authorities believe that this age when they are old enough to know what's going on but not old enough to have adequate skills for dealing with it is the most critical age for children to experience divorce."

What do Children need to do?

In her influential work, Second Chances: Men, Women and Children, a Decade After Divorce, Wallerstein identified several "psychological tasks" for children in the aftermath of divorce. She insisted they must:

Understand the divorce. Children should comprehend the immediate changes, separating reality from fantasies and fears. Then, when they get older, they must "evaluate their parents' actions and draw useful lessons."

Withdraw strategically. Children need encouragement from their parents to remain children.

Deal with losses. Children must not only deal with the loss of a parent from daily life; they must also come to grips with the loss of an intact family.

Deal with anger. Children of divorce love their parents, but they can feel deep anger toward one or both parents for deciding to end the marriage.

Deal with guilt feelings. Despite the assurances of parents, many children wonder if they're to blame for the family breakup. Other children feel guilty when their efforts to reconcile their parents fail.

Accept the finality of the divorce. Wallerstein found in her study that some children held on to fantasies of reconciliation five or even 10 years after the divorce. She believes children find divorce more difficult to accept than death.

Take a chance on love. Children must realize that they can love and be loved. For children of divorce, particularly adolescents and young adults, this is especially difficult. Wallerstein says that this task is critical for children, and for society.

Part 3

What can parents do to help?

Despite the marital challenges, divorcing parents still have a responsibility to assist their children in both short- and long-term processing. Parents should offer a clear, age-appropriate explanation for what is going on and why. As much as possible, tell them what lies ahead and assure them they'll be told about all major developments.

Encourage two-way communication. Theresa, married eight years and the mother of two preschool daughters, thinks being honest with children and letting them be honest is one of the crucial elements of shepherding them through a divorce. "Even very young children are intuitive when it comes to the family, and they can tell when someone's lying," she said.

Permit grieving. Grief can take many forms, including anger. The anger is a legitimate emotion. It is healing to allow yourself time to grieve over it.

Give them two loving parents. According to Wallerstein, the relationship between the parents is a critical component to a child's proper development. The need for a father continues and even increases during adolescence. Wallerstein said, "The nature of the father-child relationship, and not the frequency of visiting, is what most influences the child's psychological development."

Encourage caring relationships. Relatives can provide support, offering everything from rides to a shoulder to cry on. Children will also benefit from relationships formed through church, youth organizations, extracurricular groups at school and others.

Letting God Heal Broken Hearts
Single moms and dads need to be aware of the burdens children carry as a result of the loss or neglect of a parent.

The pain of separation and divorce can be overwhelming for those left behind to pick up the pieces of a broken family. Children at a young age had to grapple with feelings of rejection and abandonment.

Children suffer in myriad ways when a mother or father is missing from the home. They are suddenly and wrongfully deprived of the physical affection and emotional security essential to their development. Single moms and dads need to be aware of the burdens children carry as a result of the loss or neglect of a parent.
If we are too caught up in our own loneliness and hurts, we fail to see their pain. The consequences can be grave if we do not help our children give their burdens over to the Lord. So we must do the following:
1)Meet their needs. We need to abide in Christ daily so He can love and care for them through us. When we care for our children, we also minister to the heart of God.
2)Teach them. We need to show and teach our children how to trust God and pray so they too may lay their burdens at the feet of Jesus, who said, "I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you" (John 14:18).
During this time, I taught my children about God's special promise, and it was a tremendous comfort to them. They know He is their Daddy who listens and is always available to talk.
3) Let God work. He will faithfully heal our wounds and renew our hope if we trust Him to meet our deepest needs. With Him, brokenness turns to blessing. And the hurts of a family are healed through Jesus Christ.
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