As parents we know how difficult it is to instill Godly values in our children. You work hard to spend time teaching them God’s word. You send them to Sunday school. You strive to be a good example of how a Christian should live. And still, sometimes they turn the other way and go prodigal on you.
If it’s this difficult in “intact” families, imagine the challenges in divorced and blended families. Add in a dose of opposition from the biological parent and you can feel like you are fighting an uphill battle.
Our children are bombarded with influence on a daily basis. Send your children to school and listen to dinner conversation and you will get a glimpse of what they are exposed to daily. Now factor in the media they entertain themselves with (with or without your knowledge) and the temptation to be like those in this world increases tremendously. It makes whatever time we spend with them in their spiritual development seem nowhere near enough to combat the forces they face during the normal course of their daily lives.
Having a blended family complicates matters tremendously. Many blended Christian families have to deal with a non-believing biological parent plus all of the other relatives that come along with that package. All of these influences can confuse a child who lives in a blended family environment.
So what do you do when you have minimal time and minimal impact but want to grow your children into God fearing, God honoring human beings fulfilling their purpose in life?
Here are a few suggestions to help lay the foundation and bring you some peace.
- Never speak ill of the biological parents. I know, I know, this is a challenge. How do you stand for what you believe in if the biological parents are teaching your stepchildren something that is in opposition to your beliefs? Contradicting the biological parent is the fastest way to cause your children to distrust you and defend him or her, regardless of whether or not you speak the truth. If you must (and yes, sometimes we must), take opportunities to teach against immoral practices, such as parents who lie, cheat or expose their children to ungodly ways of living, but always proceed with caution and focus more on the action, not on the parent. Remember: “But you belong to God, my dear children. You have already won a victory over those people, because the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world” 1 John 4:4 NLT. You have no reason to fight dirty, the Lord will fight your battles for you.
- Be patient. In her seminal study of the moral strivings of children from divorced homes, Elizabeth Marquardt reported in her book, Between Two Worlds: The Inner Lives of Children of Divorce, that kids are forced into becoming what she called “early moral forgers.” Meaning, kids today are torn between wanting to please each f their parents and wanting to find their own way. You may need to prepare yourself for a period of prodigal living before they value your teachings and find their way back to the Lord.
- Live it. You remember the saying “Do as I say, not as I do,” yes? Children listen far more to your actions than to your words. Live the way you are teaching and your behavior will speak volumes. Be honest and ethical in all you do and most of all be quick to admit your mistakes and ask for forgiveness.
Children of divorce are dealing with so much confusion and. Your influence may be the one and only experience of who God truly is—a loving, patient, kind and merciful Father.